As a way to help you set your NBA-watching calendar, this space will get you ready for the best games that aren’t on ABC, ESPN, TNT or NBATV each week. We’ll provide a little insight about why you should check out each matchup and a few nuggets about the teams involved.
76ers at Raptors
The Raptors are off to a pretty good title defense, despite Kawhi Leonard leaving over the summer and losing Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka to injuries early this season. Toronto has stuck with some of the most-consistent rotations in the league, as Nick Nurse knows exactly who his seven or eight guys are each night. The injuries have tested the Raps depth, but they’ve hung in there. Right now they are seventh in offense and eighth in defense, both of those being keyed by Pascal Siakam making yet another leap and OG Anunoby coming into his own.
Philadelphia isn’t off to the dominating start some had hoped for, but they seem to be figuring it out. They’ve won four straight entering this game and the defense is really melding into a terrific unit. The offense remains a work in progress, as the three-point shooting has been touch-and-go all season. Also, for a team with size at every position, the Sixers rank just 23rd in the league in free throw attempts. That’s an area where Philly needs to take more advantage of their unique roster construction.
Wizards at Nuggets
Only two games are on the NBA schedule on Tuesday with the Clippers at Mavericks is on NBATV, so Wizards at Nuggets it is! Denver is second in the Western Conference and really coming on now with five straight wins entering the week. The Nuggets are defending sixth best in the league, which is keeping the team winning games while the offense scuffles along in the middle of the pack. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray seem to be heating up a bit though, so expect that offensive ranking to rise.
One thing that will surely help the Denver offense is a visit by Washington. The Wizards are an all-offense bunch. They rank second in the NBA in Offensive Rating and 29th in Defensive Rating. Washington is also sixth in pace. Put it all together and you end up with high-scoring, entertaining games. Bradley Beal continues to perform at an All-Star level. The Wizards are also getting good offensive play from their bigs in starters Thomas Bryant and rookie Rui Hachimura, and backups Mo Wagner and Davis Bertans.
Heat at Rockets
Two of the better teams in the league will meet in a Thanksgiving Eve special on a 14-game night (only the Mavericks and Nuggets have the night off), as Miami visits Houston.
The Heat have used their third ranked defense to key them to an 11-4 record entering the week. Miami hasn’t had their full squad available all season, but have gotten big minutes from players like Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson, who have both started for a lot of the year. Jimmy Butler has also given the Heat the closer they need on offense, while Bam Adebayo has blossomed into an All-Star talent.
The Rockets have slipped a little entering the week, as they’ve lost three straight games. The defense has come and gone for Houston. When they lock in defensively, they’re tough to beat, as the James Harden and Russell Westbrook-led offense is there every night. A lot of defensive success is related to continuity and players being on the same page. That’s where injuries have sunk the Rockets. Rarely have they had their full unit together, and have missed key role players like Eric Gordon and Danuel House.
Enjoy the family, friends, food and football!
Mavericks at Suns
Luka Doncic is waging an MVP campaign at just 20-years old. He’s a nightly triple-double threat and is constantly making big shots. While, Doncic is the main reason Dallas sits at 11-5 and on a five-game win streak entering the week, he’s getting help from Kristaps Porzingis, who seems be shaking off early-season rust. Those two have combined to key the Mavs league-best offense. Rick Carlisle is still mixing and matching around his two stars, and Dallas has enough versatile pieces for him to do so.
Phoenix has slipped a bit and is now 8-8. The injury bug has caught the Suns and they’ve been without Ricky Rubio and Aron Baynes for several games recently. Phoenix is also still without DeAndre Ayton, as he’s completing the back half of his 25-game suspension. That has the Suns looking a lot like the “Devin Booker and who?” group they’ve been over the last four years. If they can tread water while Rubio and Baynes heal, and until Ayton gets back, Phoenix will be able to hang around the playoff race.
Hornets at Bucks
The Bucks have the second-best record in the NBA and are on a roll with seven straight wins entering the week. They lost Khris Middleton to injury, but haven’t missed a beat. Obviously Milwaukee feeds off Giannis Antetokounmpo, but that only works because their deep roster of role players fit around the MVP perfectly. Guys like Brook Lopez, Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, Robin Lopez, Wesley Matthews and on and on, know exactly what is expected of them each game. That allows Mike Budenholzer to keep things chugging along despite some bumps and bruises impacting the roster.
The Hornets have been a pleasant surprise. They aren’t threatening for the playoffs, and they’ve lost four in a row entering the week, but they’re better than anyone could have expected. Devonte’ Graham has made a leap from potentially solid back-up point guard to viable starting lead guard. James Borrego has called upon Graham to start alongside Terry Rozier, and Charlotte is getting scoring and playmaking from both players. Combining the two guards with young forwards Miles Bridges and P.J. Washington finally has Hornets fans excited about their future, versus hoping a team full of overpaid vets makes a playoff push.
Mavericks at Lakers
The Lakers have quickly gelled together and become the NBA’s best team, as they sport a 14-2 record entering this week. They’ve won seven in a row and many in dominating fashion. LeBron James looks rejuvenated and Anthony Davis has been his perfect running mate, as many predicted. But the role players have made the difference for Los Angeles. JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard are giving the team about 40 minutes or so of solid defense and rebounding at the center spot. And the rest of the positions are filled by shooters for most of the rest of the game, which gives James and Davis room to work. And when James needs a rest, Rajon Rondo is back from injury and doing his playmaking thing off the Lakers bench. It’s all come together faster than anyone could have expected.
Dallas was covered above, so we’ll use this space to remind everyone that when these two teams met a month ago, it was a 119-110 overtime victory for the Lakers. James put up 39/12/16, while Luka Doncic tallied 31/13/15. If another classic battle is on tap, we all win!