Tonight in the NBA: January 11th
After a relatively light night for the NBA, we get back into the swing of things with nine games on the slate for Friday night.
Expect blowouts almost across the board as tonight showcases a lot of matchups involving well-rested teams at the top of their respective conferences punching down against weaker competition.
Milwaukee Bucks @ Washington Wizards - 7pm ET
Our first lopsided matchup of the evening showcases the Eastern Conference leading Milwaukee Bucks take on the struggling Washington Wizards.
The Bucks have been steamrolling teams as of late, going 8-2 across their last 10 games. Giannis has appeared to finally finish morphing into some extraordinarily dominant force and has taken the league by storm in his MVP coming out party season.
Although the Wizards just split a back to back with the 76ers, they still offer little resistance on most nights. Bradley Beal can still explode and is dangerous to face on any given night, but the without Wall and an inside force like Gortat, the Wizards have lacked the consistent punch they've had in past years.
Expect the first of many blowouts as Milwaukee rolls in this matchup.
Atlanta Hawks @ Philadelphia 76ers - 7pm ET
Our second one-sided affair of the night comes courtesy of Joel Embiid and the 76ers. Taking on a young and mistake-prone Hawks team at home, the 76ers will look to get back in the win column after dropping a bad game to the reeling Wizards.
Despite the circus that seems to follow Jimmy Butler wherever he goes, the Sixers are still playing some of their season's best basketball. While he may not be the biggest fan of his role, the fact remains that his presence late in games has helped the Sixers become a much more dangerous basketball team.
The Hawks got a little hot a few weeks back before quieting down and returning to their old ways. This is a young team and while they have future pieces in Collins and Young, they aren't ready to compete on a nightly basis in the league.
Expect a statement win tonight from the Sixers in front of their home crowd.
Brooklyn Nets @ Toronto Raptors - 7:30pm ET
Yet another lopsided matchup is going down in Toronto on Friday, as the visiting Brooklyn Nets come to town.
The Nets are coming off a drubbing of Atlanta but still shouldn't pose too much of a matchup threat for the Raptors. Losing budding star Caris LaVert clearly hampered the Nets, but even with LaVert they don't offer nearly enough depth to hang with the Raptors on a nightly basis.
Interestingly enough, the Raptors last game also came against the Hawks. The Raptors had some trouble putting the Hawks away, but showed that even on off nights they are capable of picking up wins over the teams they are expected to beat.
The Raptors will want to get the ugly performance against the Hawks out of their mouths and will look to take out their frustrations against the undermanned Nets. Expect yet another blowout here.
Indiana Pacers @ New York Knicks - 7:30pm ET
Another Friday night game, another Eastern Conference powerhouse taking on one of the worst teams in the league.
The Pacers are without a doubt one of the most slept on teams in the Eastern Conference. Going 7-3 over their last 10 games, the only losses have come at the hands of Toronto (twice) and Boston. An extremely deep and versatile basketball team, the Pacers have the talent to compete with any team on any night.
Meanwhile, the Knicks are actively trying to lose basketball games in the race for Zion Williamson. They somehow picked up a surprise win against a LeBron-less Lakers team a week ago, but outside of that haven't offered the slightest amount of resistance to any other teams.
Expect that trend to continue as the Pacers should run up the score and embarrass the Knicks in front of their home crowd.
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Houston Rockets - 8pm ET
Rather than having to face one of the Eastern Conference powerhouses, the Cavaliers get the pleasure of heading out west to take on the surging Houston Rockets.
The Cavaliers are not a good team to begin with and come into this Friday night matchup limping without Larry Nance Jr, Rodney Hood, or David Nwaba. The Cavs were predictably run out of the building in their last game against the Pelicans, giving up 140 points.
The Rockets are on the complete other end of the spectrum as they have been one of the NBA's hottest franchises across the past few weeks. As they just dropped a hard-fought game against the Bucks, the Rockets will be looking to get back on track in front of their home crowd.
Look for the Rockets to absolutely dominate the Cavs from wire to wire. Expect another offensive onslaught against the Cavs as they have shown repeatedly that they cannot stop a nosebleed.
Dallas Mavericks @ Minnesota Timberwolves - 8pm ET
This is the first game of the night that should be even remotely competitive, with a matchup between two exciting young basketball teams.
The Mavericks will be without sophomore guard Dennis Smith Jr, however, Luka Doncic and Deandre Jordan should be up to the task of keeping the Mavs competitive in this one. Doncic, in particular, has been a revelation this season. As he gets more comfortable with the speed of NBA basketball, we've seen his numbers continue to improve on a nightly basis.
Meanwhile, the Timberwolves are recently freed from the Thibodeau reign of terror. This likely benefits center Karl-Anthony Towns the most as Thibodeau never truly found a way to get him consistent looks on offense. Towns erupted for 28/18 in his first game without Tom Thibodeau at the helm and will look to build on that strong game moving forward.
In what should be a tightly contested matchup, expect Deandre Jordan and Karl-Anthony Towns to go to war down low. If Derrick Rose can suit up for the Timberwolves, he gives them the bench depth to provide a slight edge. However, if Rose isn't good to go, look for the Mavs to sneak away with this one late.
Los Angeles Lakers @ Utah Jazz - 10pm ET
The Western Conference provides us with what should be another close game on Friday night. The LeBron-less Lakers take to the road to face the slowly recovering Utah Jazz.
The Jazz stumbled out of the gates this season, but have been slowly building back momentum and playing the brand of basketball that led them to such a successful second half of the season last year. Donovan Mitchell is still struggling compared to his rookie campaign, but the strong play of the deep supporting cast in Utah has been enough to help keep this team trending in the right direction.
The Lakers, on the other hand, seem to have found some rhythm in the absence of LeBron James. After dropping 3 straight, they've picked up wins over Dallas and Detroit in consecutive games. The Jazz should post a stiffer challenge compared to Dallas and Detroit, but expect the Lakers exciting young core to be up to the task.
The Lakers seem to have figured out how to play without LeBron James and are filled to the brim with talent across their roster. Despite missing their centerpiece, this is still an extremely dangerous basketball team. All that said, the Jazz are going to make this game ugly and play 48 minutes of hard defense. Without the veteran presence of James or Rondo, expect the Jazz to get the best of the young Lakers.
Charlotte Hornets @ Portland Trail Blazers - 10pm ET
While this game isn't shaping up to be a blowout necessarily, the Hornets will undoubtedly have their work cut out for them as they take to the road to face down the perennial Western Conference powerhouse, Portland.
Charlotte has made a living this season beating up on their weaker opponents. That said, they have struggled to get over the hump when facing legitimate competition. Kemba Walker is playing some of the best basketball of his career and while the Hornets would technically be in the playoffs should the season end today, he needs more help against deeper basketball teams.
Portland, on the other hand, have been consistently good over the course of the entire season. Playing in the west, they are prone to losing a few games here and there, but overall have looked the part of a top competitor. Lillard is a game-time call at the time of this writing and his presence will drastically affect the result of this game.
Assuming that Lillard is good to suit up, expect Portland to open this game up late en route to a quality win. Without Lillard in the lineup, look for Kemba Walker to take over and dominate against a leader-less Blazers squad.
Chicago Bulls @ Golden State Warriors - 10:30pm ET
It only feels fitting on a night full of expected blowouts for the night to end with the most lopsided game of them all.
Golden State is the best team in basketball, no debate. Despite being behind the Nuggets in record, there is no arguing that in a seven game series, the Warriors are equipped to handle every single team the NBA has to offer. As a strong favorite to win a 3rd consecutive NBA title, the Warriors provide the ultimate matchup nightmare for every NBA team.
Meanwhile, the Bulls are just barely outplaying the Cavaliers for the title of worst team in the league. Despite the encouraging play of Baby Dirk (Lauri Markkanen), the Bulls don't have the organizational depth to compete with most NBA teams. Considering they get the task of facing the best team the NBA has to offer on the road, they most likely won't be up to this task.
Expect the last game of the night to end in a blowout (shocker!). The Warriors are just a different class of basketball team compared to the Bulls.
The NBA returns with an 8 game slate on Saturday that looks to be considerably more competitive than the matchups we see tonight. As always, enjoy the games and we'll be back tomorrow for more NBA action!