Sports from the Basement

A Gut-Check Week for the Atlanta Hawks: NBA Preview for Jan 5 – 11

For the first full week of the New Year, many Americans focus on the NFL Playoffs. The NBA, however, features some great matchups and intriguing story lines as we head towards the All-Star break. The Hawks and Bulls have particularly tough weeks and as the two top teams in the Eastern Conference entering the week, it will be exciting to see them make their way through the NBA minefield.

Below is an exciting match up for each day this coming week that you should check out:

Monday, January 5th – Rockets at Bulls, 8:00pm ET on NBA League Pass

A classic East vs. West showdown. The Bulls are the pick to win the East (if healthy), and are 9-1 in their last 10 games. The Rockets are still getting their sea legs after adding Josh Smith and Corey Brewer, but have been dangerous despite Howard, their oft-injured center, missing too many important games. If Rose and Harden are on their games, this one could be wide open – but both teams poses the ability to clamp down on defense, so it promises to be a great matchup.

Other great games tonight include Wizards at Pelicans (8:00pm ET on NBATV), Thunder at Warriors (10:30pm ET on NBATV), and Hawks at Clippers (10:30pm ET on NBALP).

Tuesday, January 6th – Suns at Bucks, 8:00pm ET on NBATV

The Suns enter the week having won 8 of the last 10 games, and a full 1 1/2 games clear in the last Western playoff spot. The Bucks, in many ways this years Suns from last year, are the young team that is overachieving – currently 18-17 and in 6th in the East. While the Suns should win in Milwaulkee, the Bucks always have a trick up their sleeve, and their length and youth make this an interesting match-up.

Wednesday, January 7th – Grizzlies at Hawks, 7:30pm ET on NBA League Pass

The Grizzlies have faltered of late, coming into the week having lost 5 of their last 10, but still have a dominant lineup when healthy. The Hawks seem world-beaters, having easily defeated the Blazers over the weekend, and causing less and less fans to wonder “are they for real?” Al Horford will need to step up to combat Memphis’ interior lineup, and Kyle Korver’s deadly shot will be key if the Hawks want to repeal the Grizzlies on their home court.

Thursday, January 8th – Heat at Trail Blazers, 10:30pm ET on TNT

The Heat are an enigma, but one that is 5 games under .500 and should get blown out by the Blazers. Portland, for what it’s worth, has handled teams well without Lopez, their starting center, and the play of Damian Lillard has been far beyond his young age and experience.

Friday, Janurary 9th – Bulls at Wizards, 8:00pm ET on ESPN

After a tough weekend, the Wizards will likely have a lot to prove this week – and a nationally televised game against one of the leaders in the East will be a perfect pulpit for John Wall, Paul Pierce, and the rest of the Washington team. The Bulls, though, are solid and continue to run up the standings. This is also a rematch of last year’s first round playoff series in which the Wizards demolished the Bulls and first rose to national attention.

Other great games tonight include Grizzlies at Pelicans (8:00pm ET on NBALP)

Saturday, January 10th – Mavs at Clippers, 3:30pm ET on NBA League Pass

The Clippers are many people’s vote for “most disappointing team” so far this year. Still 23-11 and in 6th place in the West, they have had chemistry issues and underperformed – but could flip the switch at any moment. The Mavs have jelled faster than expected with the addition of Rondo, and if Ellis can continue to carry the bulk of the point-scoring load, this team has a bright year ahead of them.

Other great games tonight include Bucks at Bulls (8:00pm ET on NBALP)

Sunday, January 11th – Wizards at Hawks, 3:00pm ET on NBA League Pass

The week ends with a daytime battle of two of the East’s leaders. By this point, both teams will have played several important games, and we’ll likely have a better idea of how serious both teams are – both in comparison to one another and to the Bulls, who are leading the Eastern Conference fight.

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