NBA Incoming: Previewing the Week Ahead (Dec. 3)

Cross another week of the NBA schedule from your calendar, a week that was by no means lacking in storylines.

The Nets beat the Knicks in the first head-to-head matchup between the now-city rivals, which according to Carmelo Anthony might just have “started something.”

San Antonio elected to send its ‘elderly’ players home early, fielding an undermanned side – that still nearly won the game – against Miami, a move that cost the team $250,000 in fines.

Dwight Howard admitted that he could have acted better during his final months with Orlando, before going 9 for 21 from the free throw line in a home loss to his former side.

And the Wizards won a game!

Looking ahead now, here’s our pick of the top five games on this week’s Association schedule.

Oklahoma City Thunder at Brooklyn Nets (Tuesday)

The Oklahoma City Thunder have pulled together and now have one of the best records in the NBA.

With just one loss in the last nine games, Oklahoma City (14-4) has put the brakes on any suggestions that James Harden’s departure would cause the team to take a step backwards. On Tuesday night the Thunder gets to show its mettle with a trip to New York City.

After defeating the Knicks last Monday night, Brooklyn (11-5) has laid down the gauntlet to its crosstown neighbor. Whilst New York currently resides a game ahead of the Nets, it’s impossible not to be impressed by the improvement shown this season by Avery Johnson’s side.

Both sides will see this as a good opportunity to evaluate itself against opposition from the opposing conference. Oklahoma City has already posted an impressive 7-2 record against the East but Brooklyn will be the team’s toughest test yet. Brooklyn meanwhile will look to improve on a 3-3 inter-conference record, which includes a win over the Clippers and a loss to the Lakers.

Indiana Pacers at Chicago Bulls (Tuesday)

Both Indiana (8-9) and Chicago (8-7) are facing the harsh reality of how much injuries to star players can change the NBA landscape. Still, both sides are still very much contenders for the Central Division this season.

The two meet in the first of four games this season on Tuesday. Indiana will be heading back to the Midwest following a three-game jaunt along the West Coast that saw the team collect victories over the Lakers and Kings, before dropping a game to the Pacific Division-leading Golden State Warriors.

Chicago has won back-to-back games after dropping seven of 11 games, a record that has seen the Bulls share the division top spot with the surprising Milwaukee Bucks, winners over both the Bulls and Pacers already this season.

Both teams can look ahead to returning stars all they like, but getting a win in this type of game now is going to be vital when it comes time to look back on the season.

New York Knicks at Miami Heat (Thursday)

New York will look for a repeat of its opening game victory over Miami when the two sides meet on Thursday.

New York (12-4) toppled Miami (12-3) 104-84 in its season opener, kickstarting the franchises best start in nearly two decades. After a 6-0 start, things cooled off somewhat with the Knicks collecting four losses in seven games, but a three-game winning streak has the side back at the top of the Atlantic Divison.

Miami meanwhile has won six of the last seven and shares the best record in the league with Memphis. The Heat dialed up victories over Brooklyn and (a under-manned) San Antonio last week to assert its dominance at the elite end of the table.

The Knicks’ visit to South Beach will be another great yardstick for both sides; a chance for the Knicks to prove they belongs and an opportunity for the Heat to prove they can handle high-quality teams.

Los Angeles Lakers at Oklahoma City Thunder (Friday)

After facing the Nets on Tuesday, the Thunder returns home to host the Los Angeles Lakers (8-9). Despite the team’s well-documented woes this season, the Lakers could pose a significant threat to the Thunder; at least we hope they will.

The Lakers are a paltry 1-4 on the road. Mike D’Antoni’s side will be hoping that an upcoming swing of eight road games in nine – and nine in 12 – will give his team the impetus to turn things around.

The Lakers will also need to improve when playing quality opposition. Currently, the purple and gold side has only beaten two teams (Golden State, Brooklyn) with a winning record this season.

Oklahoma City will look to make a statement in this one by taking out the team most expected to challenge the Thunder for the Western Conference this season.

Atlanta Hawks at Memphis Grizzlies (Saturday)

Rudy Gay and the Memphis Grizzlies will look to retain their No. 1 record in the league this week.

With Joe Johnson now plying his trade in Brooklyn, Atlanta (9-5) was expected to suffer a drop-off in terms of results. The Hawks though are finding ways to win and are clutching to second spot in the Southeast Division.

Memphis (12-3) has surprised most, claiming a share of the best record in the league whilst leading the Western Conference. The Grizzlies fell to division rivals San Antonio on Saturday and will be looking to bounce back this week with games against Phoenix, New Orleans and Atlanta.

Atlanta is the sort of mid-level side that the Grizzlies will need to beat if they want to be taken seriously, but it’s also the sort of team that could cause problems. For Atlanta, a win over Memphis would make one hell of an impression, and could potentially generate a charge within the team.

In Brief…

Having picked up its first win of the season last Wednesday – an 84-82 squeaker against Portland – Washington (1-13) will look for win number two this week with games against Miami, Atlanta and Golden State. … Milwaukee (8-7) visits San Antonio (14-4) on Wednesday, an upset win in which would really throw the Bucks’ hat in the ring within the Central Division. … Minnesota (7-8) picked up two wins last week, the first with Kevin Love back in the fold, and with news that Ricky Rubio will recommence training, the Wolves will look to make a push up the Northwest Division. … Winners of seven of the last nine, Golden State (10-6) finds itself at the top of the Pacific Division, and with games against Orlando (Mon.), Detroit (Wed.), Brooklyn (Fri.) and Washington (Sat.), could remain there for another week.

 

Upcoming NBA Schedule

Monday 3 December

Portland Trailblazers (-2) at Charlotte Bobcats (Total: 195)

Cleveland Cavaliers (TBC) at Detroit Pistons (Total: TBC)

Milwaukee Bucks (-4) at New Orleans Hornets (Total: 192)

Toronto Raptors (+9) at Denver Nuggets (Total: 204.5)

Los Angeles Clippers (-2) at Utah Jazz (Total: 198.5)

Orlando Magic (+9.5) at Golden State Warriors (Total: 196)

Tuesday 4: MIN @ PHI | MIA @ WAS | OKC @ BKN | IND @ CHI | PHX @ MEM | LAL @ HOU

Wednesday 5: NYK @ CHA | POR @ IND | MIN @ BOS | GSW @ DET | DEN @ ATL | CHI @ CLE | LAL @ NOH | MIL @ SAS | ORL @ UTA | TOR @ SAC | DAL @ LAC

Thursday 6: NYK @ MIA | DAL @ PHX

Friday 7: BOS @ PHI | DEN @ IND | GSW @ BKN | WAS @ ATL | CHI @ DET | MEM @ NOH | CLE @ MIN | CHA @ MIL | HOU @ SAS | TOR @ UTA | LAL @ OKC | ORL @ SAC

Saturday 8: PHX @ LAC | GSW @ WAS | SAS @ CHA | PHI @ BOS | NOH @ MIA | DET @ CLE | NYK @ CHI | ATL @ MEM | DAL @ HOU | SAC @ POR

Sunday 9: TOR @ LAC | MIL @ BKN | IND @ OKC | DEN @ NYK | ORL @ PHX | UTA @ LAL

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