Sports from the Basement

Let’s Sort Out the Eastern Conference Log Jam: NBA Preview for Jan 12-18

Without a doubt, there are some nice Western Conference games this week-but the real action will be with Eastern Conference teams. The Hawks enter the week with a 3 game lead over the trio of the Raptors, Bulls, and Wizards, but face the Raptors and Bulls in a back-to-back. Meanwhile the Bulls get the rematch against the Wizards-this time at home while they’re on a back-to-back following a rematch with the Spurs. Each of the top four teams in the East faces a tough week – and by weeks end we should have some clarity in the standings.

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

Monday, January 12th – Rockets at Nets, 7:30pm ET on NBA League Pass

A slow night leaves us with the Rockets-still looking to get enough chemistry to be a serious contender in the west-versus the Nets-a team struggling of late and not looking forward to a rough week. Houston has already executed two trades this season (for Smith and Brewer), and the Nets seem prime for one, especially if they have a bad week as we expect. Defending Howard will be a challenge for the Plumlee/Lopez duo, while Joe Johnson will look to shut down James Harden. Neither is likely, and the Rockets should roll to victory.

Tuesday, January 13th – Spurs at Wizards, 7:00pm ET on NBATV

The Spurs won the first matchup last week in San Antonio, but the Wizards seem to have an extra gear that was absent that night. If Wall can continue his great play and role players like Humphries can continue to step up, this team quickly becomes a serious part of the “best-team” conversation.

Other great games tonight include Cavs at Suns (9:00pm ET on NBALP)

Wednesday, January 14th – Wizards at Bulls, 8:00pm ET on ESPN

Last week, the Wizards blew out the Bulls in a rematch of the first-round playoff series from last year. The Bulls, now tied with Washington and Toronto coming in to the week will be out for revenge. Jimmy Butler, who had a particularly bad night against Paul Pierce, will be looking to avenge the loss and his own shortcomings, while John Wall will again be looking to prove his dominance over Rose at point guard.

Other great games tonight include Heat at Warriors (10:30pm ET on NBALP) and Clippers at Blazers (10:30pm ET on ESPN)

Thursday, January 15th – Thunder at Rockets, 8:00pm ET on TNT

The Thunder are mad. Westbrook and Durant, both sidelined for portions of the season due to injury, are coming at teams with a vengeance. With the acquisition of Dion Waters, the Thunder gain another scorer off the bench – and now face their ORIGINAL scorer off the bench, James Harden. After getting blown out last week by the Warriors, this will be an important test to see how serious the new-look Thunder are – and if their hopes of snagging that last playoff seed and causing chaos throughout the summer are for real.

Friday, January 16th – Hawks at Raptors, 7:30pm ET on NBA League Pass

A rough back-to-back for the Hawks begins in Toronto, where the Raptors are looking to get back to their winning ways from earlier this season. The Hawks have been unstoppable of late, but will if Lowry and company can play as a team they have the goods to challenge the Hawks, who have suddenly become the Spurs of the Eastern Conference.

Other great games tonight include Warriors at Thunder (8:00pm ET on ESPN), Blazers at Spurs (8:30pm ET on NBA League Pass), and Cavs at Clippers (10:30pm ET on ESPN)

Saturday, January 17th – Hawks at Bulls, 8:00pm ET on NBA League Pass

For many, the Bulls are the favorites in the East-even though they trail the Hawks by 3 games coming into the week. Head to head, the Bulls would seem to have an advantage via star power, especially inside where Gasol and Noah could be unstoppable against a team like Atlanta with only one big man. The Hawks will be coming in tired from the night before, but if they can escape these two games with two wins the rest the east will have a hard time catching them anytime soon.

Other great games tonight include Warriors at Rockets (8:00pm ET on NBATV) and Blazers at Grizzlies (8:30pm ET on NBALP)

Sunday, January 18th – Pelicans at Raptors, 3:30pm ET on NBA League Pass

In this matinee, we get to see the upstart Pelicans travel up north to face the strong but struggling Raptors. I enjoy games where each team’s dominant player is at an opposite position than the other team’s dominant player, and this game gives us a chance to see the best big man in the league versus one of the best young point guards. By this point in the week, the Raptors could be heavily bruised or back on top of the East, depending on how the week’s games fall to them.

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