Despite an eve with no games, Christmas week schedule packs as many games in six days that it usually does in seven. Six teams play four games and only two, the Memphis Grizzlies and Minnesota Timberwolves play less than three.
Brooklyn leads the way with 3 home games and a fourth on the road. The first two games will be very tough as they are against rivals for the last playoff spots in the Eastern Conference and feature a home (BOS) then road (@MIL) back-to-back. The final two are both at home against cream puffs Charlotte and Cleveland.
The other four members of the Atlantic division play 13 games and all of them are on the road giving Brooklyn a real chance to climb in the standings. Boston has the toughest schedule because after their Christmas game in Brooklyn, they head out west against for games against the tough @LAC and @GSW before @SAC on Sunday. Philadelphia will struggle too as they can’t stop opposing bigs and will have to deal with Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, David Lee, LaMarcus Aldridge and J.J. Hickson, who has 7 straight double-doubles. Toronto has a modest 5 game win streak and the easiest schedule but they are 2 and 14 on the road, will be without Jonas Valanciunas (broken finger) and must decide how to integrate Kyle Lowry (triceps) and Andrea Bargnani (elbow, wrist) back into the line-up when they are ready.
The Clippers also have 3 home games and 1 road outing to extend their 12 game win streak but none are easy as they face DEN, BOS, @UTA and UTA. Orlando despite only having 3 games, has the easiest schedule as their opponents are a combined 6 for 35 at their respective locales.
Denver has the toughest schedule with @LAC, LAL, @DAL (and the return of Dirk Nowitzki?) and @MEM in 5 nights. They have the league’s best home record but really struggle away from the Pepsi Center. Another high scoring club, Houston takes its show on the road against the always tough @CHI, @MIN and @SAS before settling at home with OKC.
Some games of note include:
NYK @ LAL on Tuesday. We a got glimpse of the Steve Nash Lakers last night but they should get better now that they are fully healthy. In particular, keep on an eye on the arc as both teams will try to feast on the 3 point shot and the big man battle between Dwight Howard and Tyson Chandler. Nash needs to get Superman much more involved if the Lakers are to win. Amar’e Stoudemire may also make his return though from what I have read that seems doubtful.
GSW @ UTA on Wednesday. Utah is as always a dominant home team but Golden State as part of their overall emergence this year is winning on the road, too (10 and 6). The game will feature a very intriguing match-up of super strong back court play from the Warriors against the dominant Jazz presence in the front court. GSW has somehow found a way to limit opposing bigs without an interior presence and should come out on top.
SAS @ HOU on Friday. This is a game where you will want to start everybody as it features two of the three highest scoring teams in the NBA and is in Houston where the Rockets play much better. The match-up also pits veteran savvy against youthful exuberance and a deep 15 man rotation against a thin 8 man unit.
NOR @ CHA on Saturday: I am a sucker for these type of games. Charlotte will probably be on a 17 game losing with this their best chance to end it, whereas New Orleans may well be on a 13 gamer of their own if they don’t beat the Raptors the night before. The game also features a premier match-up of ex-Wildcats Anthony Davis v. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. A return by Eric Gordon may also be on the cards hopefully sparing us from further torture of having to watch Austin Rivers play.