Tonight in the NBA: Saturday, January 12th
Highlighted by a rematch of Thursday night's double-overtime thriller between the Spurs and Thunder, Saturday offers a strong slate of eight quality basketball games. Let us have an in-depth look and analysis at each of them.
Detroit Pistons @ Los Angeles Clippers - 3:30pm ET
The Clippers and Pistons square off for the first time since their blockbuster trade last season involving Blake Griffin and Tobias Harris.
While on paper, the Pistons look like a better team after the trade with Blake Griffin headlining the roster, the results have yet to show. Since Griffin's arrival, the Pistons have played sub .500 basketball and haven't looked like they are anywhere close to moving in the right direction.
Meanwhile, the Clippers have far exceeded expectations and the rebuild has gone considerably quicker than expected. When the Clippers made the move for Harris, Bradley, and what would become the 12th overall pick, most expected that it would take at least a few years for the Clippers to find their footing again. Instead, only one year removed from the deal, the Clippers find themselves seven games above .500 and playing stellar team basketball.
Look for the Clippers to control this game from wire to wire as they pick up a win in front of their home fans.
Memphis Grizzlies @ Miami Heat - 5pm ET
In the first go-round between these two teams, the Heat squeaked out a win at home.
Memphis got off to a strong start this year, but have stumbled hard in recent weeks. While their trademark grinding defense still remains, the Grizzlies have struggled mightily on the offensive end.
Early on, their staunch defense was able to carry them to a strong record. But as the rest of the league has started to gel and play as cohesive units, the Grizzlies offensive production has taken a huge hit.
Miami have recently turned things around and is coming off a huge win against the Celtics. Despite catching the Celtics on the latter half of a back to back, this is still a quality win for a young team. Forward Justice Winslow has finally been given the keys to the offense in recent weeks and with that change, the Heat have looked like a completely different basketball team than the one that stumbled out of the gates.
Look for this to be a low scoring and gritty affair that the Heat pull away with late.
Boston Celtics @ Orlando Magic - 7pm ET
Despite the Celtics being one of the premier organizations in the league and the Magic being in the midst of a rebuild, the first meeting between the two teams this season saw the Magic walk away with a win.
Coming off a tough, but an excusable loss to the Heat on the tail end of a back to back, the Celtics will look back to get in the win column. One of the deepest and most talented teams in the league, who happen to be coached by wonderchild Brad Stevens, the Celtics are a dangerous matchup for any team.
The Magic predictably dropped their last game to the Jazz, as they have with their previous 3 games as well. Still in the middle of a rebuild, this season is much more so about getting their young talent quality minutes compared to competing for a playoff spot.
The Celtics should come out with a point to prove and despite having a tendency to play down to the level of their opponent, should be able to win this one handily.
New Orleans Pelicans @ Minnesota Timberwolves - 8pm ET
These two teams are 1-1 on the year, with Minnesota taking the first matchup and New Orleans the second.
The Pelicans are in the middle of a hot streak right now. Finally fully healthy and having figured out how to integrate offseason signing Julius Randle, the Pelicans are finally playing like the team experts expected they would be to start the year.
Minnesota is also in the midst of a revival after coach Tom Thibodeau was ousted. Towns has continued his stellar play since Thibs left with a 30 point 11 rebound performance in his last outing against the Mavericks.
Towns will go and get his, but the Pelican frontcourt, headlined by superstar Anthony Davis, should more than be able to go toe-to-toe with Towns and his recent scoring outburst. Expect the Pelicans to win a tightly contested game in this affair.
San Antonio Spurs @ Oklahoma City Thunder - 8pm ET
Round 1 of these two teams on Thursday night was a double overtime thriller that saw the Spurs pull away with a victory late. Partly due to a questionable reversed call that would have resulted in a chance for a 4 point play for the Thunder that sealed their fate.
The Spurs shot the three ball at an ungodly clip in the first matchup, going 16-19 from deep. This mixed with an otherworldly performance from LaMarcus Aldridge was able to do just enough to carry them past the Thunder late.
While many fans felt (rightfully so) that the Thunder got robbed late, there were a ton of positive takeaways from the game. From Westbrooks career high in assists to Terrance Ferguson's late barrage of 3's to force OT, last night was overall encouraging for the Thunder.
Unfortunately, Khal Drogo lookalike Steven Adams got hurt in the affair and is questionable for tonight's matchup. Adams' presence will greatly affect the game as if he is able to go, the Thunder will once again have a legitimate shot to take down the Spurs. Without Adams however, expect Aldridge to feast once more and for the Spurs to handle the Thunder.
Denver Nuggets @ Phoenix Suns - 9pm ET
These two teams have matched up twice before on the season with Denver handily taking both contests.
Denver comes in with a genuine case to be considered one of the best teams in the league. Sitting atop the deadly Western Conference, Nikola Jokic and company have finally figured out things on the defensive side of the ball to help keep pace with their historically good offense.
The Suns, while sporting one of the worst records in the league, aren't necessarily as bad as their record would indicate. Playing in the West, the Suns are prone to facing difficult competition on a nightly basis yet still find ways to at least keep games exciting.
An exceedingly young team, the Suns are still a few years away from competing but do have the raw talent to explode on any given night. Look for Denver to continue their dominance over the Suns this year in a fast-paced and exciting affair.
Chicago Bulls @ Utah Jazz - 10pm ET
This will be the first meeting of the year between the Jazz and Bulls. The last time these two teams met was back in 2017 with the Bulls sporting nearly an entirely different roster.
The Bulls are in full on rebuild mode and as a result, aren't necessarily prioritizing wins. More so general player development. As I've said in these columns before, Baby Dirk is showing why he was worth a lottery pick and Zach LaVine looks to finally have figured out how to use his athleticism for good in the NBA.
Meanwhile, the Jazz are coming off a strong defensive performance and win against the Magic. Winners of 4 of their last 6, the Jazz have returned to playing their trademark strong defense during their recent hot streak. While Donovan Mitchell had struggled to start the year, over the recent streak he has started to heat up, scoring more than 25 points in his last 4 games.
Expect the Jazz defense to give the Bulls fits and for the Bulls to be simply overmatched. Jazz by 20.
Charlotte Hornets @ Sacramento Kings - 10pm ET
This will be the first matchup of the year between the Eastern Conference Hornets and the Western Conference Kings.
The Hornets are coming off a thrashing at the hands of the Trail Blazers, dropping the contest by nearly 30 points. When it comes to the Hornets, as Kemba goes, the team goes. While his points per game are similar in wins and losses, his shooting efficiency drops heavily in losses and he takes nearly 3 more shots per game to even come close to matching his performance in wins.
The Kings, on the other hand, are coming off a nice home win against the Pistons. One of the most surprising stories of the year, nobody expected the Kings to be a competent basketball team, much less a playoff contender.
Yet here we are, halfway through the season with the Kings sitting just 1.5 games back of the 8 seed. As said before, De'Aaron Fox has been the main catalyst for the turnaround, but young guns Buddy Hield and Willie Cauley-Stein have stepped up and given career years to the cause through this point.
The Kings will continue their winning ways against the Hornets in what should be a fun point guard duel between Walker and Fox. The Kings are a deeper team with more weapons around Fox and that depth will show in their home matchup against the Hornets.
That's all for tonight's NBA matchups! Check back in tomorrow as Sunday offers seven games highlighted by a Western Conference contender showdown in Denver at Portland.