As way to help you set your NBA-watching calendar, this space will get you ready for the best games that aren’t on ABC, ESPN, TNT or NBATV each week. We’ll provide a little insight about why you should check out each matchup and a few nuggets about the teams involved.
Celtics at Suns
Boston comes into this game fresh off having their 10-game win streak snapped at Sacramento. The Celtics have battled injuries to Gordon Hayward and multiple members of their frontcourt, but have kept things chugging along. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are looking like the exciting young players who led Boston to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2018, while Kemba Walker adds the veteran closer mentality to the lineup. The Celtics 9th ranked defense isn’t really a surprise, as Brad Stevens always cobbles together a good defense. What is a surprise, is Boston leading the NBA in Offensive Rating by over half a point.
The Suns have used an efficient offense and better-than-you-think defense to get off to a 7-4 start. That is Phoenix’s best start through 11 games since the 09-10 season when the Suns made the Western Conference Finals. There are no such lofty expectations this time around, but Phoenix is making a case for a playoff run. Devin Booker is playing the best all-around basketball of his career, Kelly Oubre Jr. has becoming a consistent second scoring option and veterans Ricky Rubio and Aron Baynes have brought a mature presence to the roster. DeAndre Ayton still has over half of his suspension to serve, so Monty Williams is trying to keep the team afloat until his talented big man gets back.
Warriors at Grizzlies
It’s a very light night for NBA League Pass, so check out one of the most exciting young rookies in the league in Ja Morant. He’s averaging 18.9 points and 6.0 assists per game, while shooting over 47% from the field. Beyond the good stats, Morant is also making big plays late in games and has no fear when it comes to taking the big shot. Keep an eye on Dillon Brooks too. He’s averaging 14.2 points per game and hitting over 39% from behind the arc. He’s in the midst of a breakout season.
The Warriors are ridiculously banged up. The list of guys who won’t play is filled with All-Stars. That means opportunities abound for young players. Second round pick Eric Paschall has taken advantage and has scored 15.6 points per game on 51% shooting from the floor.
Rockets at Nuggets
After slow starts, both Houston and Denver are looking like the contenders many expected them to be. In an effort to keep him healthy, the Rockets have spotted Russell Westbrook a couple of rest days and it seems to be working. Westbrook is complementing James Harden very well with a 21/8/7 line. No rest for Harden though, as he’s carry his typical big minutes load. And there are no signs of him being worse for wear, as Harden is averaging a ridiculous 39.5 points per game entering the week.
Nikola Jokic is rounding into form, and that’s not a pun about his physique. Jokic is up to 17/9/6 and should be able to do well against a Houston frontcourt that is banged up. Jamal Murray is providing the secondary scoring, and Will Barton has come back from an early-season injury to add a third offensive weapon. Look for the Nuggets, who have played at the second-slowest pace in the NBA, to try and pick things up against a Rockets team that is down several rotation players due to injury.
No League Pass Games!
TNT has a double-header of Trail Blazers at Bucks and Pelicans at Suns, and those are the only two games of the night. In part, this is due to the NBA starting to align schedules for the next week heading into the Thanksgiving Holiday.
Celtics at Nuggets
Boston wraps up a five-game West Coast road trip in Denver. The Celtics have really struggled with the Nuggets in the past, and last year’s game in Denver featured Jamal Murray dropping 48 points. Look for Marcus Smart to get the call to defend Murray. If he can contain the high-scoring guard, it would be another good mark on Smart’s campaign for Defensive Player of the Year.
Pistons at Bucks
It’s a playoff rematch! Well, kind of. Detroit has been nicked up all season and has really struggled. They’re finally getting healthy though, with the return of Blake Griffin. Unfortunately, Griffin hasn’t looked great since getting back on the court. With Griffin less than his usual All-NBA self, Andre Drummond has had to carry the load. He’s delivered with consistently great play, but hasn’t had enough help.
Giannis Antetokounmpo continues to play just as well as he did during his MVP season of a year ago. The Bucks aren’t winning at quite the rate they did last season, but they’re starting to come on now. Milwaukee won’t have Khris Middleton, as he’s expected to miss a few more weeks with a leg injury, but the Bucks depth is so good that they haven’t really missed the All-Star wing.
Mavericks at Rockets
Dallas and Houston always play fun games, and this one should be no different. These are two of the best offenses in the NBA. Luka Doncic and James Harden are both MVP candidates. A road win would go a long way towards the Mavericks establishing themselves as legitimate playoff contenders. To get that win, Doncic will need Kristaps Porzingis to have a good game and not pull one of the disappearing acts he’s been prone to this season. Against a Rockets frontcourt that won’t have Clint Capela due to injury, Porzingis has no excuse for not putting together a solid game.
Suns at Nuggets
For the nightcap, check out the surprising Suns at the Nuggets. Much like Dallas, Phoenix is looking to establish themselves as a real playoff threat. Getting a win in Denver would really make the rest of the NBA have to take Phoenix seriously, assuming they aren’t already.