Six Pack: Best Games in Season’s 2nd Half
A bit of a different format in the Six Pack today… With over 50% of the 2010-2011 NBA season in the books, let’s take a look at the second-half schedule and figure out which games need to be marked down as ‘must-see TV’ in our respective calendars. (With the potential of a disastrous lockout looming – could these be the last regular season games we get to watch for some time??)
I have listed – in chronological order – the six most interesting/intriguing matchups the remainder of the season has to offer (along with some honorable mentions to keep an eye on) …
1. Los Angeles Lakers at Boston Celtics – February 10:
Whenever constructing these schedule-preview columns, you are required by law to highlight a regular season match-up featuring the prior year’s NBA Finals combatants. It’s a rule. And with the Celtics clobbering the Lakers this past Sunday, a bit of panic is starting to settle like smog over Los Angeles. The Lakers have now lost four of the five games they have played against teams with a better record than them this regular season. Next week in Boston, L.A. gets to revenge one of those losses, and remind the rest of the NBA (and their worrisome fans) that Kobe and Company still wear the crown and remain the team to beat until someone else knocks them off the mountaintop…
2. New York Knicks at Miami HEAT – February 27:
Could this be a possible playoff preview!? If the postseason started tomorrow, the #3 seed HEAT would faceoff with the sixth-seeded Knicks. David Stern and the powers that be in the NBA league offices couldn’t possibly wish for a better scenario. New York, a former flagship franchise currently enjoying a resplendent resurgent, taking on the recently-formed Villains on South Beach… One of LeBron’s spurned suitors would have the opportunity to prove he made a colossal mistake. New Yorkers would cherish the opportunity to boo him for a week straight. The ratings would be through the roof. The Garden would be electric. All the celebrities would be out in force to take in action under the bright lights of Broadway (what might Tracy Morgan say with Chuck and the Jet on TNT this time?). The last time these two teams squared off, the Knicks knocked off Miami. New York has been inconsistent this season, but when they bring their A-game, they have proven they can play with anyone. The HEAT would no doubt be overwhelming favorites in a series, but it would be a great opening act for the 2011 playoffs and would be damn fun to watch.
3. Los Angeles Lakers at Oklahoma City Thunder – February 27:
OKC will be rocking, as they are treated to an encore of one of the more entertaining and exciting first-round matchups in recent NBA history. Last season the Thunder were the lovable underdog upstarts; however, expectations have been ramped up for this young Thunder squad. They have the depth, talent, and the dominant alpha dog leading the way. How long until they are considered legit playoff contenders? These two teams could end up meeting up in a best-of-seven this Spring as well, this time in the semi-finals.
4. Washington Wizards at Los Angeles Clippers – March 23:
At this point, any game in which Blake Griffin participates is ‘must-see TV.’ Even if they broadcasted Clipper practices streaming on the web – you’d get plenty of people to tune in. The prospect of Blake delivering the greatest dunk in recorded history anytime he steps on the hardwood seems like a legit possibility. Maybe he dunks from the tree-point stripe, or may he flies so high and comes down so hard that he decapitates himself on the rim? Either way, I don’t want to miss it… Back in October, this game between the Wiz and the Clips was expected to be billed as a game that could help decide some Rookie of the Year votes, as John Wall and BG were the two odds-on favorites entering the 2010-2011 season. However, Griffin locked up the ROY award sometime back around Thanksgiving. Nonetheless, hopefully Wall is closer to full strength later in the season and will be able to trade highlights with Blake inside the Stapler…
5. Miami HEAT at Cleveland Cavs (Part II) – March 29:
The first time LeBron returned to Cleveland, the apocalypse was predicted. Extra security was provided by both state police and the league. Sale of alcohol was prohibited. There was a genuine fear of what might happen if LeBron clapped his chalk. The media crunch at the arena was similar to an NBA Finals Game 7. .. This time around, the novelty will have worn off, but Clevelanders will be no less upset, particularly considering the Cavs have lost more home games in two months than they did over the last two years with LeBron wearing wine and gold. Could be an ugly situation, especially if the Cavs get blown out of the building again.
6. Boston Celtics at San Antonio Spurs – March 31:
The C’s and the Spurs have clearly been the two best teams in their respective conferences all season long. And these two veteran squads boast some of the league’s most battle-tested and clutch performers. Accordingly, we could very well be looking at a preview of the 2011 NBA Finals.
Miami HEAT at Orlando Magic – February 3:
The battle over Florida bragging rights – a seven-game war may commence come Spring…
Chicago Bulls at Utah Jazz – February 9:
Boozer returns to Utah as a Bull and we get to watch two of the best young point guards in the NBA, Deron Williams and D Rose, go head-to-head.
Washington Wizards at Cleveland Cavaliers – February 13:
The Wiz are 0-24 on the road this season… The Cavs have lost 21 straight games and 31 of 32 overall. Cleveland is now 8-40 on the year, and became the first team in the league to notch 40 losses – They are the first team in NBA history to be the first team to reach 40 losses just one season after being the first team to tally 40 wins in the prior season… So, technically, when these two squads play each other in a couple of weeks, one team has to win, right? The unstoppable force versus the immovable object!
Denver Nuggets at Memphis Grizzlies – February 22:
With the NBA trade deadline looming, could this home date against the Grizz possibly be the last time Carmelo Anthony suits up in Nuggets uniform?
Los Angeles Lakers at Miami HEAT – March 10:
Kobe and Pau will be looking to revenge the Christmas Day beat-down LeBron and D Wade dished out back in December…
New Orleans Hornets at Utah Jazz – March 24:
CP3 versus D-Will. ‘Nuff said.
Miami HEAT at Toronto Raptors – April 13:
What a nice way to put a bow on the regular season. And you thought Raptor fans booed Vince Carter loudly?! Welcome home, Chris Bosh.
Tweets of the Week:
@darrenrovell – The perils of product placement RT @BrianGainor Doesn’t look like Paul Pierce will endorse Gatorade http://is.gd/FjflDJ
@GaryParrishCBS - "If they’re not going to guard me, I’m going to take that shot." — Jimmer Fredette after making this shot: http://twitpic.com/3rcb2y
@bball_ref - BBR Blog: Layups: Name the 1990s All-NBA Teams http://bit.ly/hh1S9K
Dunks of the Week:
* Anytime and any human being dunks themselves, how can we NOT include them in the dunks of the week. Really gotta see this one to believe it.
* Ronnie Brewer puts Josh McRoberts in his poster and autographs it…
* Gallo bangs baseline on Miami
* And who else, Blake Griffin, with a ridiculous reverse alley-oop
* Just for something different, a nifty layup from the world’s best dunker
Elias Sports Bureau Stats of the Week:
* The Celtics made 44 of 73 shots from the field (60.3%) in a 109-96 win over the Lakers at Staples Center on Sunday. That was the third-highest field-goal percentage ever posted by the Celtics against the Lakers at home or on the road, during the regular season or postseason, versus the Minneapolis or the LA Lakers. Boston shot 61.5 percent from the field in a regular-season loss at the LA Forum in 1990, and 60.8 percent in Game 1 of the 1985 NBA Finals, a 148-114 rout of the Lakers at Boston Garden. Scott Wedman was 11-for-11 from the field in that game, coming off the bench to score 26 points in 23 minutes.
* Kobe Bryant gave meaning to the phrase "one-man show," scoring 41 points in the Lakers’ loss. Bryant shot 16-for-29 from the field, including 12 unassisted field goals, his highest such total in any game this season. It was only the third game of Bryant’s career in which he scored at least 40 points but did not record an assist.
* The most unusual number in the box score for Sunday’s Celtics-Lakers game was the "10" at the bottom of the Lakers’ "Ast" column. That was the team’s lowest assist total in a home game since October 25, 1960 (two weeks before the Kennedy-Nixon presidential election), in the team’s second home game after moving from Minneapolis to LA. In Jerry West’s fourth NBA game, Los Angeles was credited with only five assists on 42 field goals in a 120-118 win over the Knickerbockers.
* Shaquille O’Neal played 13 minutes without scoring in Boston’s victory against his former team. It was the second game of O’Neal’s career in which he failed to score, and he played only two minutes in the other, suffering a strained left knee early in that game (Feb. 22, 2005 for Miami).
* Dwight Howard received a well-earned rest for the fourth quarter of the Magic’s 103-87 win over the Cavaliers, scoring 20 points and grabbing 20 rebounds over the first three periods. It was the third time in Howard’s career that he attained 20/20 status by the end of the third quarter, something no other player has done even once over the past six NBA seasons.
* The Heat and Thunder staged an impressive battle of the Big 3′s, with all six players – three on each side – scoring at least 20 points. But the difference in the Heat’s 108-103 victory at Oklahoma City was shooting accuracy, with Dwyane Wade (32 points), LeBron James (23), and Chris Bosh (20) all making at least half their field-goal attempts, while Kevin Durant (33), Jeff Green (23), and Russell Westbrook (21) each missed more than 10 shots from the field.
- It was the third time this season that Miami’s Big 3 all scored at least 20 points and shot 50 percent or better from the field in the same game. The Heat won all three of those games.
- It was the fourth time in their four seasons as teammates that Oklahoma City’s Big 3 all missed more than 10 field-goal attempts in the same 48-minute game. The Thunder lost three of those four games.