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NBA Incoming: Previewing the Week Ahead (Nov 12)

Since Friday there has been but one topic of conversation around the NBA water cooler; the Los Angeles Lakers.

With news that head coach Mike Brown has been relieved of his duties on Friday, the weekend’s expectations that Phil Jackson would return to the sidelines, and then the somewhat surprising announcement early Monday that Mike D’Antoni would reportedly be taking over the reins – in a four year deal, according to ESPN – the Lakers have dominated the back pages and the blog spools. The team has also recorded a 2-0 record on the court since Browns’ forced departure.

It’s not all about the Lakers though. Elsewhere this week, Denver and Sacramento picked up their first wins – or first four wins in the case of the Nuggets – leaving Detroit and Washington as the only winless teams in the league. San Antonio made franchise history by going 4-0 before being picked off by the Clippers. New York continued its strong start to the season, and remains the only unbeaten team in the league heading into play this week. Minnesota continued to defy a laundry-list of injuries to improve to 4-2 while Danny Granger’s long-term injury has the Pacers worried. Not bad for the first full week of the campaign.

Let’s look ahead now to the top five match-ups on this week’s NBA schedule.

Boston Celtics at Chicago Bulls (Monday)

Rajon Rondo has been tallying up the assists, but the Celtics have yet to have found a rhythm.

After losing its first two, Boston (3-3, 2-1 road) has gone on to win three of the last four, although two of those wins were over the hapless Wizards so some might consider there to be an asterisk alongside those. A trip to the Windy City on Monday night will be a good, solid test for the Celtics.

Chicago (4-2, 3-2 home) is allowing just 88.7 points per game – fourth best in the league –and it’s this stingy defense that has the Bulls looking strong even without Derrick Rose. Well, that and the fact that five of six games have been played at home. Chicago has yet to post a win over quality opposition so the Celtics’ arrival in town will make for a good yardstick encounter.

San Antonio Spurs at Los Angeles Lakers (Tuesday)

Sunday night’s win over Sacramento coupled with a win over Golden State on Friday has given the Los Angeles (3-4, 3-2 home) its first consecutive wins of the season. If D’Antoni takes to the sidelines immediately, his first port of call will be to guide the Lakers past San Antonio (6-1, 3-1 road) at the Staples Center. Talk about a baptism of fire.

The Spurs have been sharp early, with a rejuvenated Tim Duncan playing like his younger self. Had this early part of the season panned out as the Lakers expected, this game would have been of great import, and even more so now. Getting to .500 is the first step to achieving success.

Memphis Grizzlies at Oklahoma City Thunder (Wednesday)

With a win over the Miami Heat on Sunday, Marc Gasol and the Memphis Grizzlies have proven they will be a threat this season.

With all of the hoopla that has come with the Western Conference so far this season, Memphis (5-1, 2-1 road) has quietly put together a nice run and is on the heels of the Spurs in the Southwest Division. Well, quietly that is until the Grizzlies knocked off the Heat on Sunday night.

After trading James Harden just days before the regular season, Oklahoma City (5-2, 4-1 home) has been under the proverbial microscope. A 1-2 start had a few people anxious, but four wins on the bounce has the team back at the top of the Northwest Division. This midweek showdown could well be a precursor to the later rounds of the playoffs this year.

Miami Heat at Los Angeles Clippers (Wednesday)

This game comes bang in the middle of a six-game Miami (5-2, 1-2 road) road trip, which started with a win in Atlanta and a loss on Sunday night to Memphis, before heading on to Houston, Los Angeles, Denver and Phoenix.

The Clippers (5-2, 3-2 home) – currently the cream of the Pacific Division – will hope to come across a tired Heat side and take a victory from the favorites for this season’s NBA title. That being said, the Clippers have already beaten Memphis, San Antonio and the cross-hall Lakers, so Miami will be in for a fight, tired or not.

New York Knicks at San Antonio Spurs (Thursday)

Carmelo Anthony's high-scoring has led the New York Knicks to an unbeaten record.

After tackling the Lakers on Tuesday night, San Antonio will face another high profile opponent on Thursday when New York (4-0, 1-0 road) visits AT&T Center.

The Knicks will play Orlando on Tuesday, and will be confident that the league’s only undefeated streak will still be alive when the team arrives in the Alamo City. After a showdown with the Spurs, that record may be gone by the wayside or else you can file the Knicks in your ‘for real’ folder, at least until Amare Stoudamire returns alongside those niggling questions surrounding his and Carmelo Anthony’s compatibility.

In Brief…

In search of a first win of the season, Washington (0-5) visits Charlotte (2-3) on Tuesday. … Winless Detroit (0-7) may find its best opportunity to get off the mark is a visit from Orlando (2-4). … After facing the Southeast Division-leading Heat on Wednesday, the Clippers will host the Central Division-leading Bulls on Saturday. … Having found its way to winning ways, Denver (4-3) faces the unenviable task of playing Miami (Thurs.) and San Antonio (Sat.) back-to-back. … After hosting the Spurs on Tuesday, the Lakers will face Phoenix (3-4) and Houston (3-3) on Friday and Sunday respectively, a good stretch for D’Antoni to get his legs under him.


Upcoming NBA Schedule

Monday 12 November

Utah Jazz (TBC) at Toronto Raptors (Total: TBC)

Milwaukee Bucks (+4) at Philadelphia 76ers (Total: 188)

Oklahoma City Thunder (-6) at Detroit Pistons (Total: 198)

Boston Celtics (+ 3½) at Chicago Bulls (Total: 179)

Miami Heat (-5) at Houston Rockets (Total: 195)

Minnesota Timberwolves (+7½) at Dallas Mavericks (Total: 193½)

Denver Nuggets (-3) at Phoenix Suns (Total: 203)

Atlanta Hawks (+3½) at Portland Trailblazers (Total: 198)


Tuesday 13: WAS @ CHA | NYK @ ORL | TOR @ IND | CLE @ BKN | POR @ SAC | SAS @ LAL

Wednesday 14: DET @ PHI | UTA @ BOS | IND @ MIL | NOH @ HOU | MEM @ OKC | CHA @ MIN | WAS @ DAL | CHI @ PHX | MIA @ LAC | ATL @ GSW

Thursday 15: BOS @ BKN | NYK @ SAS | MIA @ DEN

Friday 16: UTA @ PHI | DAL @ IND | ORL @ DET | OKC @ NOH | GSW @ MIN | NYK @ MEM | ATL @ SAC | HOU @ POR | PHX @ LAL

Saturday 17: TOR @ BOS | UTA @ WAS | MEM @ CHA | DAL @ CLE | NOH @ MIL | DEN @ SAS | CHI @ LAC | MIA @ PHX

Sunday 18: IND @ NYK | ORL @ TOR | CLE @ PHI | BKN @ SAC | GSW @ OKC | BOS @ DET | CHI @ POR | HOU @ LAL

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