Even without Kevin Durant and Jeff Green, the Thunder went into Boston last night and picked up a huge win against the Celtics. Everything else went pretty much according to plan, although the now 10-1 Spurs were more impressive on the road in Utah than I thought they would be. I’d say it’s time to start giving the Spurs a little more love.
We’ve got nine games on the schedule for tonight, so let’s rank them from must not see to must-see:
#9: New York Knicks (5-8) at Los Angeles Clippers (1-12) – 10:30 PM ET, Regional
As expected, the Knicks put up a good gob of points last night (125) against the Warriors, but maybe not as expected, they won the game. And tonight, they have a great chance of doing the same thing, as the Clippers’ struggles have been well documented. In looking at the Clippers upcoming schedule, this is a possible win. Actually, this is a “you better win or you’re about to start staring the worst record in NBA history right in the face” type of game.
#8: New Jersey Nets (4-8) at Denver Nuggets (6-6) – 9:00 PM ET, Regional
This game would probably be more watchable if Carmelo Anthony was at the top of his game. But right now, the guy just looks like a guy that wants to be traded immediately. The Nuggets are in no hurry to do this, and this is certainly a tough spot for both sides. The fact of the matter is, if you’re going to trade him, you should just go ahead and do it. Though perhaps on the other side of the coin, the Nuggets might be trying to get as many wins as possible with him to try and stay in the Western Conference race, since the likelihood of them getting better as a team after the trade isn’t all that great.
#7: Phoenix Suns (6-6) at Charlotte Bobcats (4-8) – 7:00 PM ET, Regional
Watching the Suns play is always enjoyable, but watching the Bobcats play…..well, not so much. I’m not sure why that is, as they have entertaining players in Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace, but the Bobcats are just one of those teams that I struggle to watch consistently. They’ve started to turn the corner though despite being 4-8, and they gave the Heat all they wanted last night in Miami.
#6: Miami Heat (8-4) at Memphis Grizzlies (4-9) – 8:00 PM ET, Regional
I still contend that the Grizzlies are much better than their record shows, but falling to 4-10 here wouldn’t make that contention look all that smart. The Heat got challenged big-time from the Bobcats last night, and having to go straight to the road after that one could help Memphis here. A blowout would be surprising, but a 10-point win or so for Miami seems about right.
#5: Orlando Magic (8-3) at Indiana Pacers (5-5) – 7:00 PM ET, Regional
The watch-ability factor of the Pacers immediately went up when they had that 54-point third quarter a few weeks ago. Meanwhile, the Magic are who we thought they were, as they continue to play some very solid basketball. This really feels like it could be a great game, but the big matchup, literally, will be inside between Dwight Howard and the much-improved Roy Hibbert.
#4: Cleveland Cavaliers (5-6) at San Antonio Spurs (10-1) – 8:30 PM ET, Regional
Even though I said above that we should start giving notice to the Spurs, I’m placing this game at number four. And I feel like that could be too low. Why? Because the Cavs gave the Hornets all they wanted last night in New Orleans. But on the other hand, I see this as a letdown spot for Cleveland, after coming up short against the Hornets. The Spurs might be a little sluggish here as well, coming off of the big win last night in Utah. This one won’t be pretty, but it should be a decent game.
#3: Dallas Mavericks (7-4) at Atlanta Hawks (8-4) – 8:00 PM ET, NBA TV
An excellent inter-conference showdown here, even if the Mavs were a little underwhelming last night against the Bulls. But a lot of the credit for that goes to Chicago, as they really played a great game. We might still be underestimating the Hawks, though this would be a great spot for them to make a statement. This has the feel of one of those wild games that goes right now to the wire, so this is high on the watch-ability scale.
#2: Oklahoma City Thunder (8-4) at Milwaukee Bucks (5-7) – 8:30 PM ET, Regional
From a record standpoint, maybe this isn’t sexiest game on the slate, especially since the Bucks lost to the Sixers last night. However, from a matchup standpoint, I love this game. Particularly at the point, where the Russell Westbrook vs. Brandon Jennings battle should be a joy to watch. Westbrook showed what he could do last night in the absence of Durant and Green, as he carried the Thunder to victory. We’ll have to see if Durant suits up tonight, but even without him, this game should be very entertaining.
#1: Utah Jazz (8-5) at Portland Trail Blazers (8-5) – 10:00 PM ET, Regional
The Jazz didn’t do a whole lot last night against San Antonio, which means they should be ready to go for this Western Conference showdown tonight. Even without Brandon Roy in the lineup, the Blazers are still fun to watch, and Wesley Matthews, who came over from Utah, is making a big impact so far in Portland. The Jazz really need this game to get back on the right track, but the Blazers are tough at home. And of course, any time Paul Millsap is in the lineup, the game is going to be exciting.
Do you think the Clippers break the losing streak and win tonight?