The last few weeks have been a stratifying force in the NBA, and while the rankings in the West are still quite complicated, there is a much greater sense of who’s fake and who’s for real across the board. So without any further ado, here is a sneak peak into the upcoming week’s notable matches in the NBA:
Grizzlies @ Nuggets: This game taking place in the Mile High city Monday night will be a battle of two teams who have exceeded expectations in the season thus far. Not only have they both made surprise appearances at the top of the Western Conference leader board, but both teams continue to make a statement on defense in ways that they failed to last year. Both teams are in the top 4 of opponent points allowed (per teamrankings.com), so you can probably bet this game will get dragged into the mud. Impact players for Memphis include the renewed Marc Gasol and early ROTY contender Jaren Jackson Jr. who have both been dynamic scorers and capable defenders down low. Mike Conley continues to show strength as a veteran 1-guard, and it makes you wonder how you forgot that this team was good when they weren’t injured. Nikola Jokic continues to be a triple-double threat every night, and the depth of scoring potential with guys like Jamal Murray and Gary Harris proves to make Denver one of the most well-rounded teams in the hunt right now. Both Denver (17-9) and Memphis (15-10) are in the playoff bubble right now but nobody in the West can spare even a single win, although it matters more for the Grizz specifically.
Trail Blazers @ Rockets: This game, which will be one of 3 games played Tuesday night, is probably the most entertaining on the docket. Both teams need to keep any and all momentum they can build, as Houston is at the 2nd lowest spot in the West (but also have the highest potential to improve out of any West team, I’d argue) and Portland is hanging on to a playoff seed by a thread. Both teams are lethal on offense, but struggle on defense, so hitting the over wouldn’t be an awful bet. Chris Paul hasn’t looked like himself much this year, making the 1-2 punch that usually is Harden and Paul more like a 1-punch, 2-open-handed slap. Nevertheless, the Rockets are back on track on offense. Dame Lillard, meanwhile, has been beasting lately putting on some performances that make me thankful I wasn’t playing against him in fantasy that week. In the past 2 weeks, Dame has averaged just under 30 PPG, which would put him 4th in the league for that time frame. Whether or not either of these teams can sustain into the post-season I can’t say, but a nice little midseason shootout would be fun.
Raptors @ Warriors: I mean, you all knew this was coming, right? The early projection for a finals preview, the last meetup between these two saw a Raps’ win at home despite Kevin Durant joining the 50+ club that night, although this time it will take place at Oracle, which is probably the most hostile arena to play in at the moment, Toronto being a close runner-up. Toronto has looked absolutely pristine on defense, as they have many well-sized, switchable disruptors and a lineup of bigs that can protect the rim. They also have that Kawhi Leonard fellow, who I’d argue plays the most disruptive, aggressive style of defense in the league that won’t get you a foul. Golden State, however, has just gotten Steph Curry back into the rotation, and when he was out, it was painfully clear how much he matters for them on the court. Klay’s efficiency plummeted, Durant was tired and taking more contact, and there was that drama with Draymond Green which came from the fact that there wasn’t a clear option to take the ball down court for the game-winner. Which, I mean, Kevin Durant is a pretty obvious choice, but I suppose without your point guard it’s a little less straightforward. This game has little implication total-wise, but it matters in team’s abilities to test out lineups and start making long-term adjustments for the post-season. Plus, the last game was a thriller.
Alright guys, that’s gonna do it for The Other 29 for this week. I’m hoping to get the finale of my Sixers’ Big 3 piece up soon this week, once finals are all sorted out and it gets a bit less hectic, so be on the lookout for that! Thanks for reading and TTP!