Your NBA Weekend 11/13-11/15: “Contender or Pretender” Edition
Another NBA Weekend is upon us, meaning another weekend to try to weasel our way out of any obligations we’ve found ourselves a part of. I will say however: if you celebrate Thanksgiving in any capacity, just buy all food items now so you’re not stressed out by the day Thanksgiving rolls around. I’ve never actually looked at the way prices change when the big day is approaching, but I really ought to. But outside of doing things to ensure a flawless holiday, don’t do anything else this weekend by watch basketball. This weekends “Your NBA Weekend” post features a few teams that are possibly battling for a lower seed in the playoffs, or are starting to look like they could be a surprise pick for the bottom seeds in a year that no one had anticipated they make it into the post-season.
Minnesota Timberwolves at Indiana Pacers, 7:00 EST
Coming into this season, the Indiana Pacers were a team that were widely anticipated to be able to land a spot in a weak Eastern conference. Lead by Paul George, the Pacers have a 5-4 record going into this game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Timberwolves are a team that no one truly had any sort of expectations for this season, due to the fact they are regarded as being a team that is currently rebuilding. But from excellent play from Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Ricky Rubio, and Nemanja Bjelica, the Timberwolves sit at a 4-4 record. By no means is a nice start early for them a sign that they can make a playoff push, but it’s not looking completely ridiculous right now. They’ve shown they can battle back hard against tough opponents, have a roster that is surprisingly versatile, and Wiggins is starting to look like the Wiggins we all know and love. With a Western conference where two teams that were anticipated to make the post-season (New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings) are not looking so great, the Timberwolves have a chance at sliding in and getting some playoff experience for their young core.
Houston Rockets at Denver Nuggets, 9:00 EST
The Houston Rockets have finally managed to get something resembling consistency from their team, as they battled back from an 0-3 deficit with a four game win streak. They did lose their last contest to the Brooklyn Nets (netting the Nets first victory of the season, a reason for all of Brooklyn to celebrate), leaving them at 4-4 on the season. That being said, this looks like a game that the Houston Rockets should be able to win…but when your team dropped three games in a row by twenty points (including a game to the Denver Nuggets), nothing is guaranteed. I’m looking for the Rockets to come out swinging in this battle, but for Denver to have the mental strength to recognize that they beat this team before, so why not again? Dwight Howard will have a huge interior presence against the Nuggets, so I’m looking for him to have a huge game (should he play, as he’s currently listed as questionable due to rest).
Detroit Pistons at Los Angeles Clippers, 3:30 EST
It’s a given that the Los Angeles Clippers are going to be in the NBA Playoffs. They simply have a roster that is too talented to not find a way in this year and make a strong push to be in at least the Western Conference finals. The reason I’ve added this match-up to this themed NBA Weekend post was due to the fact that A: The game was listed really early, and B: The Detroit Pistons are playing in it. Everyone knows the Pistons have brought basketball relevancy back to the Motor City, after a handful of rough years recently. Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond lead the charge as being a great duo, but the rest of their starting five fits together really nicely. I’m waiting for Brandon Jennings to return to see his role on the team, as I anticipate he’ll be their sixth man. The Pistons are making a lot of noise right now in the Eastern conference due to a solid start (despite having a weaker bench unit, minus Stanley Johnson), and are seeking to show how good they truly are by taking down this Western conference opponent this weekend. This is going to be a good game.
Orlando Magic at Washington Wizards, 7:00 EST
The Orlando Magic are team that is currently in the midst of rebuilding and are coming along really nicely. A massive part of their team, Nikola Vucevic, has just returned to the roster after a brief injury and is looking to take on Marcin Gortat, a battle that should be relatively easy for him (despite the fact I feel Marcin Gortat is an underrated center in the NBA and fits in well with the Washington Wizards). The Wizards have been a huge variable team as of lately, as they’ve both managed to pick up solid wins but then also drop some games that they truly should have won. John Wall and Bradley Beal have been their two primary offensive contributors throughout the season, but Otto Porter Jr’s efforts cannot be discredited. He’s managed to slide into the starting role nicely, averaging 13.4 points-per-game and shooting 52.7% from the field. It should be noted that the Wizards have dropped three games in a row.
Denver Nuggets at Phoenix Suns, 9:00 EST
The Phoenix Suns are a team that could battle for one of the bottom seeds in the Western conference, as their starting five isn’t even terrible as of right now. Their back-court consisting of Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight has started off the season hot, as they look like a potential top five back court in the NBA currently. They’ve managed to combine for an average of 42.7 points-per-game, and are proving me wrong as a doubter of how Knight would fit in with the squad. The question with the Suns as of right now is wondering if they can develop any sort of consistency in this season. They’ve put together a pattern of winning a game, dropping a game, winning a game, dropping a game, so far this season (albeit they did have a brief two game winning streak). The Suns are still a bit far from becoming an actual contender in the Western Conference, but it’s been fun seeing this team develop after what was a rough previous year with the Goran Dragic drama.
New Orleans Pelicans at New York Knicks, 12:00 EST
This is actually the game for this entire weekend that I am the most excited about. The New Orleans Pelicans are a team that are looking to get back on track in the midst of a horrible way to begin the season. While admittedly there could be some early season jitters due to trying to implement new head coach Alvin Gentry’s system into the game, they’ve truly looked a bit off early in the season. It doesn’t help that Anthony Davis just suffered an injury, although it’s probably nothing significant. Ryan Anderson has stepped up to be a huge part of the team recently, as he stretches the floor well for the squad and has been shooting nicely in the last three games, averaging 21 points and shooting 53%. This game means quite a bit to the New Orleans Pelicans, as losing games early in the Western Conference can really effect playoff seeding at the end of the season.
The New York Knicks come into this game as being a team everyone has been fascinated by this season, primarily rookie Kristaps Porzingis, who has gained a reputation of dunking over some of the best in the NBA. I expected for him to eventually pan out as a player who looks good, but anticipated a rough rookie season. He’s proving me (and many others) wrong, and has been a huge beacon of hope for Knicks fans, who are looking forward to their future featuring Porzingis on the team.
Utah Jazz at Atlanta Hawks, 6:00 EST
It would be disingenuous to call the Atlanta Hawks a lock for a playoff spot due to contending in the Eastern conference. Admittedly, the Eastern conference is notorious for being the weaker conference, but the Atlanta Hawks are truly a great basketball that haven’t taken the dip many people anticipated they would this season. Kent Bazemore has stepped up in his starting role on the team after the Hawks lost DeMarre Carroll in the off-season. Everyone on the team has looked sharp this season and are proving any doubters they had wrong.
The Utah Jazz are a team that I went into this season with dampened expectations towards. In my potential playoff seeding, I had them not even making the playoffs, rather anticipating the Sacramento Kings would make it in (Which is proving to be perhaps be an error on my part…). The Jazz started off the season well, despite the fact Rudy Gobert is yet to play at a level people were anticipating he would. Despite this, the Utah Jazz are have become a team with a massive defensive presence as they rank fourth in defensive ranking and first in points allowed per game. The Jazz are looking legit, despite the fact Quinn Snyder had tried to lower peoples expectations going into the season, preaching that they’re still building team chemistry and that it takes time.
Toronto Raptors at Sacramento Kings, 9:00 EST
The Toronto Raptors are a team that has made the NBA Playoffs two years in a row, but failed to get past the first round of the playoffs. This year, they’re looking to improve upon these disappointing playoff appearances as they’ve added DeMarre Carroll to their roster. Kyle Lowry and DeMare DeRozan have proven to be their primary offensive weapons, but Jonas Valenciunas has had a great season so far as well, averaging 14.6 points-per-game and 10.2 rebounds. The Raptors have started off the season well, looking to pan out to be a top four team in the East.
The Sacramento Kings are a fascinating team to look at, partially for the wrong reasons. A lot of reports of varying levels of validity are coming out, as it’s been reported that George Karl and DeMarcus Cousins have been butting heads, along with weird locker room votes on potentially firing Karl (which I’m not buying into that this ever happened, as it shows an insane level of incompetence). Still, the Kings have a decent enough of a roster to battle for a lower seed in the West. Cousins is coming back from an injury that took him off the court for a few games, so he will be looking to return to form in the next couple of games.