Friday 23 February 2018 / 05:31 AM


Highlighting the key games, intriguing match-ups and what to look out for in this week’s NBA action

Daily highlights

Each day’s main event (all times AEDT)

Grizzlies @ Bucks, Tuesday 12pm

Memphis have been impressive in implementing their new hybrid style. Whilst their start suggests that the results are sustainable, cementing their position within the west will depend on being able to tick a few more boxes. Here, we get a look at an answer to one apparent question for the Grizzlies’ development: how do they, and more specifically who, guards the premier wing threat on the opposing team.

Giannis, much like most star wings across the league, is being depended on more and more to handle the creative burden and ignite the offence (and doing a great job thus far, Milwaukee ranking an impressive second in both assist percentage and assist-to-turnover ratio) a tactic that specifically favours a match-up where the opposition doesn’t have an obvious choice in guarding him. Whether Memphis can contain him — and alternatively whether or not he can exploit the mismatches — is the focal point of this match-up.

Raptors @ Rockets, Wednesday 12pm

The Raptors are flying under the radar, sitting comfortable without being outstanding. Their offence has remained stable — ranking within the top five with a 107.9 offensive rating — carrying a middling defence (16th in defensive rating) that makes match-ups like these a great litmus test for how they are travelling and provide some perspective on the ceiling of their roster.

The Rockets are a superior team on both ends of the floor: ranked second in offensive and a surprising eighth in defensive rating. They have comfortably reverted back into their Harden-centric offence that was lethal last year, firing at similar successes in the wake of the Chris Paul injury. They have to exploit the defensive inequality to ensure victory, and their ability to do so will indicate how real their early form is.

Pistons @ Bucks, Thursday 12pm

‘Are they for real?’ Game of the Week: The Bucks are on the cusp, showing signs of life despite a problematic defence, but as Bledsoe acclimatises they should expect an upswing in results. On the other hand, the Pistons are 10-3 entering the week, a start nobody expected, and appear to be travelling at that level boasting a 5.0 net rating, good for fifth in the league.

In comparison, the 6-6 Bucks come in at -0.8, an illustration of the separation in performance between the two. The match-up appears to favour the Bucks, but the form-line suggests otherwise. A potential playoff preview.

Warriors @ Celtics, Friday 12pm

The league’s best offence takes on the stingiest defence. The Celtics have played the Warriors well in recent times, but this is arguably the most cohesive their defence has looked, even without Avery Bradley.

The margins will have to swing one way or the other: the Dubs average 117.5 per 100 possessions; Boston only allowing 97.5 in as many touches — both league-leading marks. ‘Defence wins championships’, but does it win games in November?

Thunder @ Spurs, Saturday 12pm

The Thunder are both unsurprisingly struggling and frustratingly good: their elite defence is the second best in the league (98.5 def. rtg) but they have the worst clutch shooting numbers and are now 0-6 in games decided in the last five minutes. They haven’t quite clicked, and when there isn’t a strong foundation individuals simply revert to their habits — on this team, it’s low-efficiency, isolation-heavy basketball — and as a result they’re failing to fully bring together the talents of their roster.

The Spurs won’t beat themselves, that we know, but OKC have shown a tendency to do that exactly — somehow coming in under .500 despite a +5.6 net rating that ranks fourth in the league. These are the type of games their three stars are together to win, and all the other minor concerns disintegrate if they can at least prove their mettle in big games.

Warriors @ 76ers, Sunday 11:30am

Considering the Sixers’ unconventional new starting five, Kevin Durant makes the most sense to be put on the Ben Simmons assignment, which would be sensational viewing – topped only by the looming showdown of Draymond Green and Joel Embiid, which is guaranteed to get chippy.

Green’s intensity has brought the championship edge back to Golden State, but his defensive versatility is what is most integral to matching up with one of the only units that is as unorthodox as their own.

Intriguing matchups

Teams jostling for positions and other exciting showdowns (all times AEDT)

Timberwolves @ Jazz, Tuesday 1:00pm

The Timberwolves have a team full of exciting players, yet they for some reason or another play strangely dull basketball. The Jazz might be the only team in the league that pushes that sentiment further, and the combination of the two has the potential to be a drawn-out grinding affair.

But in that is a weird fit of rosters: the Jazz are light on quality wings and play a more traditional double-big system, whilst the Wolves rely on the Butler-Wiggins duo for most of their perimeter creation and feature two bigs who stretch the floor — or at least pretend to in the case of Taj Gibson — and generally play a spread system.

Whoever exploits the other’s weakness more efficiently will take this cake, and leave the other with some holes to plug. The injury to Rudy Gobert, preventing a match-up with Towns, is a huge disappointment.

Clippers @ Cavs, Saturday 11:30am

Does LeBron guard Blake? Can he guard Blake? They can’t put K-Love on him, and all the other options are too small or lack mobility. Toggle through all of the options for the Cavs to stop the point of attack, and all of a sudden it feels like a match-up heavily in the Clippers’ favour.

If Cleveland, who rank dead last in defensive rating, legitimately have anything up their sleeve (something they desperately claim), we’ll get a glimpse of it here. No surprises, it’s most likely the same as their other innovations — hope that LeBron can figure it out. It’s not the worst bet, and it’s fun as hell watching him try.

From the cellar

Tank-offs! The best of the worst, for better or worse (all times AEDT)

Lakers @ Suns, Tuesday 1:00pm

A chance to see some fascinating talent in a calmer environment, against a team of similar level — a rare happening for the either side.

Both coming from the bottom at the same time is likely to form a sweet divisional rivalry, so expect these games to be heavily contested (but also intentionally lost, as beating one of these teams directly interferes with their standing). Lonzo and Devin Booker going back and forth will be fun, unless you’re a fan of defence – but then you probably aren’t tuning in anyway.

Kings @ Hawks, Thursday 11:30am

The Hawks are a beautiful paradox, the anti-tank tankers — playing veterans, doing everything right and playing sound fundamental basketball but coming up just short each night out — which is kinda the point of tanking, sans the development aspect.

The Kings are the opposite of Atlanta (the anti-anti-tank tankers, if you will indulge me) and will ride their young guys even if it puts them out of games in the first quarter. The art of tanking can vary, but it all leads to the same destination; when they come together losing might be just as hard as winning usually feels.

Trail Blazers @ Kings, Saturday 2:00pm

Not technically a tank-off, but the Kings get a nice evaluation of D’Aaron Fox’s impressive defensive potential against a premier scorer in Damien Lillard, and if having to face them at home wasn’t enough, they’ll travel to Portland the for the reverse fixture the following night (Saturday, 2pm).

A test of resilience for a young team who can find themselves struggling against this exact type of opponent, and a sweet two game buffer for Portland’s record, and likewise for the Kings in the loss column, though they won’t need help jacking that number up.

Quick hits

Cavaliers @ Knicks, Tuesday – Get this: the Knicks will enter this game with a better record than the Cavaliers. Think about that. To make matters worse, the Cavs are completely ill-suited to deal with the scoring of Porzingis, but LeBron, angry, and at the Garden is always must-see. Potential for another huge game.

Celtics @ Brooklyn, Wednesday – The Cs visit the team to which their current iteration is owed, except for the first time in years beating them doesn’t directly better their draft pick. Is it finally time for some Nets redemption?

Raptors @ Pelicans, Thursday – Two All-Stars apiece; the twin towers against the guard combo. Which is a more effective way to construct a winning team?

Rockets @ Suns, Friday– Track meet: the Rockets might crack 135 on this one.

Jazz @ Nets, Saturday – The fasted paced team in the league against the most notorious plodders. For the fans of contrast!

Add Comment

About the author

Brayden Issa

Brayden is a Sydney-based sports management student and sports fanatic, specialising in rugby league, basketball, football and cricket. He is concerned with everything related to professional sports performance and management.

More nba News

Special Features