The 2018 NBA Season is just about to heat up. The professional hard court league always heats up towards the end of the NFL Season. The NBA Season is no different. For my first NBA Weekend Preview, the key games to watch are on Saturday, Jan. 20. There are two games that should garner plenty of interest from both NBA fans and NBA betting handicappers.
2018 NBA Week 14 Preview
Saturday, Jan. 2o
Oklahoma City Thunder at Cleveland Cavaliers
When: 3:30 pm ET
Oklahoma City Thunder
With Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul George on the Thunder, you’d think they’d be a much higher scoring team than they are. Oklahoma City only averages 104.1 points per game. That ranks 19th out of 30 NBA Teams. The issue for OKC appears to be just getting the basketball in the hoop. The Thunder only shoot 45.1% from the field. That ranks 21st in the league. They shoot 35.4% from three. That ranks 23rd int he league. Oklahoma City doesn’t even hit their free throws well as they rank 29th in the NBA at 70.3%.
What the Thunder does well is defend. In a way, it makes sense. Billy Donovan’s squads at Florida were always defensive first teams. That’s how Donovan won back-to-back National Championships in the early 2000’s.
His OKC squad ranks 3rd in points allowed per. Opponents average 101 points per versus the OKC Thunder. Opponents only shoot 45% from the field. They’re good for 35.4% from three. They even struggle from the stripe as opposing players shoot 75.6% from the free throw line versus OKC.
Past Cleveland Cavaliers’ teams have been about defense first. That’s definitely not the case with this seasons Cleveland squad. The Cavaliers, who are ahead of Indiana, Detroit, and Milwaukee by about 3 games in the Eastern Conference Central Division, rank 25th in points allowed per game. The Cavs give up 108.7 points per. Opponents shoot 47% from the field and 37.2% from three versus the Cavaliers.
Cleveland’s offense averages 109.5 points per. That ranks 5th in the NBA. Lately, Cleveland’s been on a major downturn. As of Jan. 15, the Cavs have gone 4 and 18 straight up in their last 22 games. Why? It appears adding terrific point-guard Isaiah Thomas to the mix hasn’t yielded benefits just yet.
On a positive note, the fantastic LeBron “King” James is having one of the best shooting seasons of his career. LeBron’s averaging 27.3 points from over 55% shooting from the field. That’s the King’s best shooting percentage from the field in his career. He’s also grabbing 8 boards and dishing 8.8 assists per.
Key Match up – PG Isaiah Thomas vs PG Russell Westbrook
Thomas is an excellent point-guard. Last season with the Boston Celtics, Thomas was an all-star. He averaged a shade under 29 points per game. He averaged a shade under 6 assists per. He even grabbed close to 3 boards per. Thomas was the reason the Celtics made it to the post-season. But, he’s struggled to get into Cleveland’s flow. The Cavs have been downright pathetic with Isaiah starting in their Top 5.
Oklahoma City has also had trouble creating the right flow with their two prized free agents. In OKC’s case, winning games has settled on how well reigning MVP Russell Westbrook plays. That’s just like it was in Oklahoma City last season before they shelled out big bucks and assets for Carmelo Anthony and Paul George.
Westbrook’s averaging 25 points, 9.9 assists, and 9.8 boards per. Thomas must find a way to keep Russell to either under or at his assists and rebound averages. That’s the only way Isaiah wins this match up on Saturday. I’m not sure that happens.
If it doesn’t, anything else that happens in this game won’t matter.
Final Score: Oklahoma City Thunder 103, Cleveland Cavaliers 97
Golden State Rockets at Houston Texans
When: 8:30 pm ET
Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors are once again the class of the NBA. As of Jan. 15, the Warriors have a fantastic 36 and 9 record. Golden State leans on an offense that generates 115.9 points per game on average. The Warriors shoot a blistering 50.9% per game. They shoot an incredible 38.8% from three.
Based on points allowed per, Golden State doesn’t appear that great on defense. The Warriors allow 106.8 points per game. That ranks 20th in the NBA. However, Golden State holds its opponents to only 43.7% from the field. That ranks 2nd in the league. Golden State also holds opponents to 36% from three.
The Warriors are the only team in the NBA with a Big 4. Two-time NBA MVP Steph Curry averages 27.6 points per game. Steph grabs 5.2 boards. He averages 6.5 assists and 1.7 steals. Backcourt mate Klay Thompson averages 20.5 points per. Thompson averages 4 boards and 2.5 assists per game. Draymond Green goes for 11 points, close to 8 boards, and close to 8 assists per game.
Green is unlike any other player in the NBA. He’s pretty much a utility player, capable of playing all 5 positions on the court. He’s a mini Magic Johnson. Because of Green’s presence, 2014 NBA MVP Kevin Durant can concentrate on just playing his game.
Durant doesn’t have to overcompensate on the front court with Green also on the front court. Durant averages 26.4 points, 6.9 boards, and 5.3 assists per game. He might be Golden State’s most important player.
Houston is the second highest scoring team in the NBA. The Rockets average 114.6 points per game. Houston shoots 46% from the field. That ranks 13th in the NBA. The Rockets shoot 36.1% from three. That ranks 17th in the NBA. Houston ranks 5th from the stripe. The Rockets shoot a fantastic 79.6% from the stripe.
Houston’s defense isn’t terrible. The Rockets yield 107 points per from 47% shooting from the field. The 107 points per ranks 21st in the NBA. The 47% from the field ranks 23rd in the NBA. Houston also ranks 23rd in the NBA in three-point percentage allowed. Opponents shoot 37.2% from three versus the Houston Rockets.
The Rockets don’t have a Big 4. Heck, the Rockets don’t even have a Big 3. What Houston does have are two of the very best players in the NBA in James “The Beard” Harden and Chris “CP3” Paul. Houston acquired Chris Paul this past off-season. Paul has become a revelation for Houston Rocket fans.
He’s averaging 18.6 points per game. He’s dishing the rock an average of 9.1 times per while he’s grabbing 5.7 boards per. Paul runs Houston coach Mike D’Antoni’s offensive system to perfection. Paul’s so good at doing his job, that Harden is able to to do his job. Harden averages 9 assists, 32.3 points, and 5 boards per. He’s a legit contender for the 2017-2018 NBA MVP Award.
Key Match up: Rockets pace versus Warriors pace
The Golden State Warriors are the best team in the NBA because they force you to play their pace. That’s why opponents average close to 107 points per game while only shooting 43% from the field. The key isn’t necessarily the amount of possessions, which is what Houston coach Mike D’Antoni believes, it’s about what you do with the possessions. As long as the Warriors take good shots and you take bad shots, you’re going to lose. That’s why field goal percentage means so much when you play the Golden State Warriors.
There’s a chance Rockets’ point-guard Chris Paul doesn’t play on Saturday. Paul was a part of some brawl that occurred in the Clippers’ locker room after a crazy contentious, emotional, game on Jan. 15. The NBA League Office is looking to see who, if anyone, should be suspended and for how long.
Here’s the thing, it doesn’t matter if Paul plays. The one flaw with Coach D’Antoni’s system is that it relies on acquiring more possessions than your opponent acquires. Defense doesn’t matter as much as how many possessions you acquire.
That offensive philosophy plays right into the hands of the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors shoot over 51% from the field. That’s absolutely incredible. Golden State plays D’Antoni’s system with a wrinkle. The layer of excellent field goal percentage defense is all it will take for the Warriors to beat the Rockets by around 10 points on Saturday night.
Final Score: Golden State Warriors