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A Look at the Week Ahead in Orlando

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What are the key games this week?

Milwaukee Bucks v Houston Rockets Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

In an attempt to stay consistent, we’re going to preview the key weekday games (M-Th) every Monday, and take a peak at the weekend games each Friday. Let’s look at this weeks slate.

Monday

Raptors vs Heat

12:30pm CST, Watch on NBA TV

Both of these teams looked awesome in their opening games, where Miami blew out Denver and the Raptors outclassed the Lakers. The big story here is Jimmy Butler, who seems to be quarantined for an unknown reason. If he misses a week or so of play, Miami could find themselves sliding down the standings, which would put them in danger of facing Boston in the first round. He’s gotten a ton of love recently, but Nick Nurse deserves all of it. He’s an incredible coach.

Nuggets vs Thunder

3:00pm CST, Watch on NBA TV

Here’s a fun game between two really, really good teams. The internet will surely be rooting for Bol Bol to get some meaningful action, but for me, I just can’t get over how good Oklahoma City is. I’m not sure if they have the wing depth to really challenge anyone in a playoff series, but they aren’t the team I’d want to face in the first round. Tune into this one if you can and watch Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander toy with opponents.

Grizzlies vs Pelicans

5:30pm CST, Watch on ESPN

This should be appointment TV for the obvious Ja Morant and Zion Williamson reasons, but if New Orleans doesn’t get their act together, that’ll be about the only reason to tune in. Granted, the Pelicans have played their two toughest games of the bubble already with a soft schedule (relatively speaking) ahead, but they looked terrible in their last outing. Memphis is really, really fun. Watching Brandon Clarke, and realizing he went AFTER the lottery in the 2019 Draft is going to hurt a little.

Lakers vs Jazz

8:00pm CST, Watch on ESPN

Full disclosure, this one doesn’t do a whole lot for me, but it is ESPN’s primetime game, so we should probably acknowledge it. Utah has looked bad thus far, and the Lakers look very much like the flawed contender that they are. That’s the beauty of a season without a 2018 Warriors, each contender is flawed. I’ll watch this one (duh), but I don’t expect to be wildly entertained.

Tuesday

Suns vs Clippers

3:00pm CST, Watch on NBA TV

This could be a blowout, but I still think Phoenix is sneaky good. Last night’s win over Dallas only has strengthened that belief. I doubt they’ll make up enough ground to get into the play-in, but I could be convinced that they’re the best team on the outside looking in. There should be a lot of points in this one.

Celtics vs Heat

5:30pm CST, Watch on TNT

Although rather unlikely, there is a scenario where this could end up being the 3-6 matchup in the East, especially if Jimmy Butler really is out for a while. Either way, this should be a really, really fun basketball game. Jayson Tatum looked like himself again yesterday, but I’ll be more interested on the Heat side of things, namely Bam Adebayo and Duncan Robinson. Adebayo is awesome, and it’ll be fun to watch him switch out onto the Boston wings. Robinson has turned himself into a phenomenal offensive player beyond being just a shooter, and is a pretty solid defender for someone who is generally though of as a weak link on that end.

Rockets vs Blazers

8pm CST, Watch on TNT

The Blazers are making a mad dash for the 9th seed, although they’re not off to a great start. Houston has managed to win two games thus far against really good teams (Milwaukee, Dallas), but I’m concerned about how their legs will hold up. Maybe they really will be able to play this small for an extended period of time, but I’m skeptical. Either way, the guard play in this game is going to be world-class. I’ll be interested to see how Jusuf Nurkic handles this matchup.

Wednesday

Nuggets vs Spurs

3pm CST, Watch on NBA TV

I have no idea how they’ve done it, but San Antonio has moved themselves into the 9th seed, only 2.5 games back from Memphis. They’re a real threat to sneak into the playoffs. It would be peak comedy for the Spurs to end up winning the play-in after all of the other options that I’m sure have higher entertainment value for the league.

Thunder vs Lakers

5:30pm CST, Watch on ESPN

This isn’t “must-see” necessarily, but these are obviously two very good teams and the rest of the games on Wednesday are kind of duds. There’ll be weird matchups across the board.

Thursday

Pelicans vs Kings

12:30pm CST, Watch on NBA TV

In theory this game has consequences in the race for the 9th seed out West, but the way these two teams have started, that’s looking less likely. Either way, they’re two fun (albeit not very good) teams, so that counts for something, I guess.

Bucks vs Heat

3:00pm CST, Watch on TNT

In the first game of a fantastic triple-header, we get a possible second round matchup in the East. Bam Adebayo is about as good of a body to throw at Giannis as there is in the league, and Miami’s shooting could create issues for Milwaukee’s defensive scheme if Mike Budenholzer remains rigid in his ways.

Clippers vs Mavericks

5:30pm CST, Watch on TNT

Game two of TNT’s triple-header showcases the possible (likely) 2-7 matchup in the West. We’ll get to see how Luka Doncic performs while being hounded by the likes of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Patrick Beverly. Luka has been great so far in Orlando but has struggled to close games, which has been a theme in Dallas all year long. The Clippers will put Dallas’ historically efficient offense to the test.

Blazers vs Nuggets

5:30pm CST, Watch on NBA TV

I hope you all have a two-TV set-up, because this is another great game in the 5:30 time slot. It’s a rematch of their playoff series last year, which Portland ultimately won. I’m very here for a Nurkic/Jokic battle in the post, as well as watching for the continued awesome play of Minnesota-native Gary Trent, Jr.

Lakers vs Rockets

8:00pm CST, Watch on TNT

Styles make fights, right? I’m fascinated by this potential second round matchup, given that the Lakers play a jumbo lineup and Houston is allergic to players taller than 6’7”. The Lakers should bully Houston down low, but P.J. Tucker and James Harden are so strong and Robert Covington is such a fantastic help defender that this could get interesting. The math game also promises to come into play here. If the Lakers don’t make threes, Houston could pull a big upset.