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NBA Incoming: Previewing the Week Ahead (Dec. 10)

Another eventful week in the NBA saw the Lakers continue to struggle on the West Coast as their East Coast metropolis counterparts the Knicks rose to the top of the Eastern Conference.

Pau Gasol joined Steve Nash in street clothes as the Lakers fell to three games under .500, while New York flourished without Carmelo Anthony.

Elsewhere in the league, San Antonio and Oklahoma City continued to look impressive whilst Miami suffered a couple of hiccups, most notably a loss in D.C., to a Wizards team that had managed just one win previously.

Looking ahead, we’re in for another riotous week of basketball action. To celebrate, or simply to prepare, read on for our pick of the top five games on the Association slate over the next seven days.

Atlanta Hawks at Miami Heat (Monday)

Josh Smith and the Atlanta Hawks, winners of nine of the last 10, have worked their way back into the thick of the Eastern Conference.

After a so-so start to the season, Atlanta (12-5) is surging. A 93-83 win in Memphis on Saturday gave the Hawks a ninth win in 10 games, and went some way to suggesting that the team may be a little better than advertised. Larry Drew’s side will face another tough test Monday night with a trip to South Beach.

Miami (13-5) put the brakes on a two-game losing skid with a home victory over Charlotte on Saturday. That two-game skid included the much publicized loss to Washington followed by an absolute drubbing at the hands of the Carmelo Anthony-less Knicks. Now the defending champions will need to prove that these were isolated incidents.

Oddsmakers have the Heat as 9.5-point favorites, a number than could be considered high when you take into account Atlanta’s current form. However, Miami did take a 95-89 victory over the Hawks at Phillips Arena on Nov. 9.

New York Knicks at Brooklyn Nets (Tuesday)

In the words of Carmelo Anthony, Brooklyn (11-8) “started something” two weeks ago with a 96-87 overtime win against the Knicks in Barclays Center. The two sides meet again Tuesday at that same venue.

Following that loss, New York (15-5) put together a five-game winning streak, which was snapped by a loss in Chicago on Saturday night. The Nets however have fallen into a bit of a slump, losing four straight heading into this crosstown rivalry game.

Both sides will be looking to prove they belong, although New York has gone a long way to proving that already with the Eastern Conference’s best record and two wins over the defending champions. The Nets will look to upset their rivals and stake a claim as one of the East’s best sides.

Los Angeles Clippers at Chicago Bulls (Tuesday)

Jamal Crawford and 'A Tribe Called Bench' are a huge part of the Clippers' success so far this season.

A six-game win streak has seen the Clippers (14-6) ascend to the top of the Pacific Division some 5.5 games ahead of their crosshall rivals. That streak will be tested by a Chicago (11-8) side that has won three straight and six of the last eight.

Having gone 4-3 against Eastern Conference opponents this year, the Clippers could have problems in the Windy City, although an inconsistent Bulls team has only won four of nine against Western foes. Both will look to use this game as a statement, trying to grab the attention of those enamored with the sides just above each of these.

Los Angeles Lakers at New York Knicks (Thursday)

After visiting the Nets on Tuesday, the Knicks will welcome the struggling Los Angeles Lakers (9-12) on Thursday, for Kobe Bryant and Co.’s only visit – Finals pending – to Madison Square Garden this year.

The Lakers’ struggles are well documented with the absence of Steve Nash, and now Pau Gasol, a major cause for concern. It’s unclear if either will be available for this game, the second of four straight and six of eight on the road. So far this season the Lakers have been a miserable 2-6 away from home.

Whilst it’s far too early to count the Lakers out, it’s never too early to start winning, and a win under the lights of basketball’s Mecca could go a long way to jumpstarting this troublesome campaign. For the Knicks, a win would cement the side’s aspirations of an NBA title.

Washington Wizards at Miami Heat (Saturday)

Jordan Crawford and the Washington Wizards came up big against Miami last week and will be looking to do the same on Saturday.

We all know how dire the Wizards have been this season but nobody can deny that they’ll want to see if Washington (2-15) can do the unthinkable and upset Miami again.

The penultimate game of a six-contest home stand – which comes as part of a 10 from 12 home schedule – Miami will look to focus and make sure it is not embarrassed by the Wizards again. Nobody expects it to happen, but then again, nobody expected the Wizards to take a 105-101 win last Tuesday.

In Brief…

San Antonio (17-4), enjoying a share of the best record in basketball, faces a hectic week traveling to Houston, Utah and Portland before returning home to face Boston on Saturday. … Meanwhile, Oklahoma City (17-4), the side sharing that lead, faces a relatively quiet week with very winnable home games against New Orleans and Sacramento. … Two losses in four games have seen Memphis (14-4) relinquish its lead in the West but with games in Phoenix and Denver this week, the Grizzlies will stay in the hunt. … After a solid start to the season, Charlotte (7-12) has dropped seven straight, and will face tough contests this week against Golden State, the Clippers, Atlanta, and Orlando.

Upcoming NBA Schedule

Monday 10: DET @ PHI | GSW @ CHA | ATL @ MIA | SAS @ HOU | SAC @ DAL | TOR @ POR

Tuesday 11: NYK @ BKN | LAL @ CLE | DEN @ DET | WAS @ NOH | LAC @ CHI

Wednesday 12: BKN @ TOR | ATL @ ORL | CLE @ IND | CHI @ PHI | LAC @ CHA | GSW @ MIA | DAL @ BOS | SAC @ MIL | WAS @ HOU | NOH @ OKC | DEN @ MIN | MEM @ PHX | SAS @ UTA

Thursday 13: CHA @ ATL | LAL @ NYK | SAS @ POR

Friday 14: DAL @ TOR | LAL @ WAS | PHI @ IND | GSW @ ORL | DET @ BKN | MIL @ CLE | MIN @ NOH | BOS @ HOU | SAC @ OKC | UTA @ PHX | MEM @ DEN

Saturday 15: GSW @ ATL | ORL @ CHA | CLE @ NYK | WAS @ MIA | IND @ DET | BKN @ CHI | DAL @ MIN | LAC @ MIL | BOS @ SAS | MEM @ UTA

Sunday 16: HOU @ TOR | LAL @ PHI | DEN @ SAC | NOH @ POR

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