Unfortunately there are only 2 live games being shown on Aussie TV screens this week on ESPN, lets have a look at what to expect plus a few of my thoughts on the season so far...
Los Angeles Clippers vs Miami Heat
Thursday, Jan 12 - 2:30pm-5:00pm ESPN &ESPNHD
Los Angeles Clippers (4-2), Off: 99.6 (25), Def: 96.3 (22)
The Clippers were hardly sighted last week with just the 2 game so they will be fresh for this anticipated clash at home to the Heat. Chris Paul still seems to be finding his feet while being steady but not spectacular during the first 2 weeks of the season. Blake Griffin is going from strength to strength putting up some good numbers again after his stellar season last year. He is averaging 24.7 points and 10.4 assists per game so far this season and Paul’s ability to find Griffin on the fast break is growing each game.
Miami Heat (8-1), Offence avg: 108.3 (1st
in League), Defensive avg: 96.5 (7)
Dwayne Wade has missed the Heats past 3 games with a foot injury so hopefully he will take part in the game against the Clippers. The Heat have been impressive largely thanks to Lebron James and Chris Bosh and currently have the best record in the NBA. Udonis Haslem has been consistent as well as young point guard - Norris Cole, racking up 11 points and 4 assists a game in his first year as a pro.
No doubt most eyes will be on Lebron and Wade at one end and the Blake show at the other. If anything this game should showcase some great dunks. The Clippers will be looking to get some consistency into their game as they have had a couple of blowouts (Spurs and Bulls) and will be hoping to find the chemistry required to match the likes of Miami and the Thunder.
Clippers at home but the Heat on fire - Heat by 4.
Boston Celtics V Chicago Bulls
Saturday, Jan 14 - 12:00pm-2:30pm ESPN & ESPNHD
Boston Celtics (4-4), Off: 92.75 (21), Def: 92.25 (21)
Boston after an indifferent start to the season have found their feet winning 4 of the past 5 games (do Nets, Wizards twice, Pistons count?). The ageless Ray Allen as usual has been a great again leading all scorers with 20.4 points per game and surprise packet Brandon Bass has played well off the bench adding 12.4 points and 6.3 rebounds a game.
The Celtics did miss Paul Pierce through the first three games and he has been contributing well averaging 15.2 points and 6.2 rebounds a game since his return. The age of the Celtics list will continue to be a talking point as some pundits are predicting a slide for the Celtics in the East in this shortened season. Many back to back games may start to take a toll on the older bodies of the Celtics big three.
Chicago Bulls (7-2), Off: 96.8 (11), Def: 88.7 (2)
The Bulls with the second best record in the East have had the best start to a season since winning 12 of 13 to open the 1996-97 season. They have a brutal schedule coming up with 7 games over 9 nights. They will need the bench to step up over this period, luckily Chicago does have some depth with Taj Gibson, Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver providing some assistance to Carlos Boozer and Derrick Rose.
Boozer has made an impressive start to the season averaging 14 points and 8.3 rebounds a game. Of note Chicago ranks among one of the stingiest teams in the NBA with an average of just 88.7 points surrendered.
Rajon Rondo against Rose will be a great matchup and the reason fans pay money to watch these games. The 2 best point guards in the league will go head to head and how well Rondo can curb Rose’s influence will go a long way to the Celtics getting a much needed home at win. Lookout for the Garnett and Noah/Boozer battle down low and Garnett to get the home crowd into it early.
Boston at home for some Celtic pride by 3 points.
Season so far.
What I Like:
Lebron James is a one man wrecking ball after the first 2 weeks of NBA action. He is filling the stats sheet up night in and night out and has got the Heat off to a flyer. The Heat are 8-1 and James is averaging 36 minutes, 30.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, 7.6 assists and 2 steals a game. If James is after retribution for the finals last year then he sure is showing it. He is playing like a man possessed and it looks like the Heat will definitely be the team in the East again this year.
Kyrie Irving the 2011 No. 1 draft pick has shown some great signs in his rookie season and has established himself as the prime candidate for rookie of the year honours. Irving has played well in his last four games, averaging 16.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 5.2 assists as well as leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to three wins out of the four in that period.
Kevin Love was mister consistency last year (he had 53 consecutive games with a double-double last season) and this season is looking no different. Love has posted at least 22 points and 12 rebounds in each of his first six games. He is certainly the workhorse as well for the Minnesota Timberwolves playing close to 40 minutes a game and averaging 26.1 points and 14.9 rebounds a game. Minnesota’s record isn’t great but at least the 3-5 record is pleasing fans with Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams showing some good signs early in the season.
What I don’t like:
Washington Wizards and John Wall not showing much improvement at all. They are 0-9 and sit last in the Eastern conference. It may be a lot to sit results solely on Walls shoulders but after his excellent rookie season he seems to have hit “the wall” pardon the pun. He is yet to shoot above .50% a game this season and the Wizards rank in the bottom of nearly every category. One of the areas of most concern is Walls average of 6 assists per game, a player of his calibre needs to improve this stat if the Wizards are to at least be competitive as the season progresses.
Injuries and blow outs were always of concern this season after the lockout and the compacted season. Players coming into the season underdone and a short pre-season meant that fatigue would cause some issues for some teams. Injuries are starting to mount and the amount of blow outs must be a concern for the NBA. Some games have been decided by half time and a lot of stars sit out large parts of games when back to back games are being played. Trash time is starting to be seen way too much for my liking.
My Fantasy Player of the Week
[caption id="attachment_1332" align="aligncenter" width="402" caption="Fear the beard: James Harden putting up some great numbers."]
James Harden of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Kevin Durant may get all the accolades at the Thunder but Harden is turning into one of the most well rounded players in the league and will again via for the 6th
man award again.
Hardens average draft position was around 69 but he is currently the 2nd
best shooting guard in the league in fantasy averaging 26.3 points per game and sitting in the top 40 players in fantasy scores. He fills the stats sheet up with 17.6 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 1.7 3 points made per game and has shown good consistency. For those lucky enough to have drafted him around the 4th
round good luck to you!
Games to look out for this week
Friday Jan 13: Portland Trailblazers @ San Antonio Spurs. Two formidable Western Conference teams with the Blazers (5-2) depth and the old heads of the Spurs (6-2) showing they still have some fight left in them?
Saturday Jan 14: Los Angeles Lakers @ Los Angeles Clippers. One of the bigger games now that the Clippers have some talent. Most Californians will all be watching this game to see how well the Clippers go against Kobes team for bragging rights in LA.