Following on from the Boxing Day Blockbuster, once again Aussie & New Zealand NBA fans have reason to celebrate as ESPN presents four live and exclusive NBA Games back-to-back on Tuesday January 17. ESPN also has their two usual programmed games on Thursday and Saturday.
Here's a breakdown of the upcoming games being televised as well as a rundown of the ins and outs of the NBA for week 4.
Chicago Bulls vs. Memphis Grizzlies
Tuesday, Jan 17 – 5:00am-7:30am ESPN & ESPNHD
The Chicago Bulls have settled in nicely to top spot on the Eastern Conference with there suffocating defence which is ranked number 1 in the league. This has been helped with the three straight loses of the Miami Heat. Even a game without 2010/11 MVP Derrick Rose the Bulls still managed a workman like victory against Washington with unknown John Lucas helping out with a team high 25 points.
Memphis have lost Zach Randolph for around 2 months with a knee injury and need OJ Mayo, Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol to try and pick up the offensive slack. Grizzlies having struggled without Zach Randolph early have found some more consistency in the past week but have failed to find the spark of last years playoffs. OJ Mayo has struggled off the bench at times this season and needs to find some consistency to help fill the void left by Randolph.
Mike Conley will be up against Derrick Rose which is no easy task. Rudy Gay and Luol Deng will be a great match up at small forward, and both are capable of putting up good numbers across the board.
Bulls too strong - by 9.
Los Angeles Clippers V New Jersey Nets
Tuesday, Jan 17 – 7:30am-10:00am ESPN & ESPNHD
Immediately following at 7:30am on ESPN, the New Jersey Nets travel to the Staples Center in Los Angeles in the first of the double headers of the day when they take on the LA Clippers. Blake Griffin & Chris Paul will be expecting to take care of the Nets who have faced a tough start to the season. The Clippers fresh from a big win over the Heat and the Lakers are starting to gain confidence with the form of Paul encouraging for the Clipper Nation Army.
The Nets have thankfully 3 games in their winning column as it was looking shaky at the start of the season with Deron Williams out of form and no other players looking capable of assisting him. Rookie Marshon Brooks has been a good find averaging 14.5 points and 4 rebounds a game.
Deron Williams against Chris Paul is probably the highlight of the matches for the day, both point guards are close to being the best rated in the league. Williams looks to have finally found form after a slow start to the year notching a 35 point - 14 assist game against Phoenix. Kris Humpries will matchup against Blake Griffin in what will be a test for the Nets power forward.
Clippers by 5 with the Nets taking it to them early.
Boston Celtics V Oklahoma City Thunder
Tuesday, Jan 17 – 12 noon-2:30pm ESPN & ESPNHD
It will be the young guns taking on the more experienced campaigners when Oklahoma travels to The Garden to take on Boston. The Celtics are sitting outside the top 8 in the Eastern Conference and are having difficulty with the back to back schedules having lost the recent Indiana Pacers/Chicago Bulls games. They are also on a 4 game losing streak which wont be pleasing Coach Doc Rivers.
The Thunder’s youthful Squad led by the likes of Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kevin Durant are riding high in confidence. They became the first team in the NBA this season to win a back-to-back-to-back stretch of games with a 108-96 win over the Spurs last week and find themselves at the top of the Western Conference.
Kevin Durant against Paul Pierce a highlight in a shoot out as well as Russell Westbrook against Rojon Rondo a great watch if speed and agility is what your after. Both point guards are quick and athletic and who can get on top may go along way to deciding the winner of this game.
Boston bad form to continue with the Thunder too strong by 8 points.
Los Angeles Lakers V Dallas Mavericks
Tuesday, Jan 17 – 2:30pm-5:00pm ESPN & ESPNHD
The final match tipping off at 2:30pm on ESPN will be one worth waiting for as the grudge match-up of the season. The Lakers will be fired-up with the memory of their 0-4 thrashing at the hands of the Mavericks in the 2011 play-offs. Thankfully the Black Mamba aka. Kobe Bryant is on fire and may be the differnce in this game. Kobe currently has 32 points, 5.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game. His last four games have been something to behold netting 40 points in each game.
Dallas have recovered well after a poor start and it hasn’t been on the back of Dirk Nowitzki as would be expected. Dirk has been a little rusty so far in the season down in most elements of his game only averaging 18 points per game. Thankfully Jason Terry, Shawn Marion and at times Vince Carter have been able to help the Mavericks get back on the better side of a .50 winning percentage.
Can anyone stop Kobe? Vince Carter will get first go but am tipping if Kobes streak can continue he may be the difference. The other player to watch up will be Lamar Odom as he plays against his old team. No love will be lost as the way he departed with the Lakers was less than pleasing for Odom.
Dallas win by 2
Atlanta Hawks V Portland Trail Blazers
Thursday, Jan 19 – 12 noon-2:30am ESPN & ESPNHD
Atlanta currently sitting 5th
in the Eastern conference after the 3rd
week of the season have been solid so far with key wins over Chicago and Miami. But bad news this week having lost center Al Horford for the season with a pectoral injury could go on to hurt the hawks as the season progresses. Little known Russian Zaza Pachulia has big shoes to fill in the Centre position as his minutes will increase with the move into starting centre.
Portland is capable of beating anyone on any given day. Their depth and starting five are as good as anyone in the competition especially at home where they hold a 5-1 record. LaMarcus Aldridge and Gerard Wallace provide options at both ends of the court with Aldridge shouldering much of the offensive burden and Wallace providing the workmanlike defence and hustle.
Atlanta’s Josh Smith has been in good form averaging 27.7 points per game and he will either match up against Aldridge or Wallace. Portland’s Wesley Matthews against Atlanta’s Joe Johnson at shooting guard will be a important matchup as well.
Atlanta on the back of Joe Smiths form by 3 points at home.
The Season so far
What I Like:
Dwight Howards monster game of 45 points and 23 rebounds against Golden State Warriors was as good as it gets for any dominant big man in the NBA. So far this season Howard has 20.5 points and 15.2 rebounds per game, so no wonder his trade rumours are still the talk of the NBA. Imagine what would happen if he could shoot free throws!
Kawhi Leonard’s form. With the injury to Manu Ginobili for the San Antonio Spurs, Leonard has gained more minutes and put up some great numbers. Leonard the 15th
pick overall in 2011 is averaging 8 points, 5 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game. San Antonio Coach Greg Popovich likes Leonard's hustle and intensity so look for his numbers continue to increase over this season.
Kobe Bryant and the Lakers had some doubters at the start of the year especially when Kobe's shooting percentage was below par to start the season. His past week has been vintage Kobe and the reason why many pundits suggest he is definitely a future hall of famer. Kobe was the 3rd
plus 30 year old in history to put up more than 40 points each game 3 times in a row.
What I don’t like:
Carmelo Anthony’s sprained ankle hurts the New York Knicks, hopefully he doesn’t miss too many games. The Knicks have been struggling and so has the form of Amare Stoudamire. The Knicks loss to Memphis the game Carmelo hurt his ankle was down right embarrassing. The Knicks have improved on the defensive end but they are struggling to find a winning combination on the court.
Hack a Dwight or anyone who has a poor free throw shooting percentage. Not only is it not in the nature of the game it also looks terrible when the Centre goes to the line 39 times (see Howard against the Warriors breaking Wilt Chamberlains 1962 record). Not sure what can be done to stop it, but fouling the ordinary free throw shooter every minute makes takes away from the excitement of the game.
My Fantasy Player of the Week
Detroit Piston Brandon Knight has come into form due to an injury to guard Rodney Stucky. Knight had been up and down to start his first NBA season but in the past week has been averaging 24.4 fantasy points a game at around 36 minutes - scoring 12.5 points, 3 assists and 3.8 rebounds a game.
Knight’s numbers may drop with Stuckey coming back from injury but his ability to score well has him as a key component of some fantasy teams. Take it from me I have just played a team who had Knight and when I add up the numbers he is the reason I lost for the week!
Games to look out for this week
The usual Saturday game on ESPN at 12 noon this weekend has the Los Angeles Lakers playing the Orlando Magic. Can Kobe continue his 40 plus point run or can Dwight show his strength around the ring to his rumoured new home?