Monday, January 16, 2012

Games of the Week: January 16-22, 2012.

Image from

Editor's Note:  Sing the lines below to the tune of "The Addam's Family" theme.

Games of the Week! (snap snap)
Games of the Week! (snap snap)
Games of the Week, Games of the week, Games of the week (snap snap)

Well, that was fun.  For me, at least.  Anyways, let's get to the games of the week for January 14-22, 2012.

Monday: Dallas Mavericks at Los Angeles Lakers (7:30 PM PST)

Tonight sees the return of former Laker swingman, and current reality television star Lamar Kardashian to the Staples Center, this time as a member of the defending champion (in name only) Dallas Mavericks.  Of course, Lamar was a featured piece of the most-famous-trade-that-never-was, which would've sent former New Orleans Hornets star Chris Paul to the Lakers, and Odom (among others) to the Hornets.  Odom was so incensed that the Lakers would have the audacity to trade him that he asked, nay, demanded to be...traded.  Seems like a bit of circular logic to me.

But we wish Mr. Kardashian well.  According to Chris Mannix of SI, Odom considered taking time off after a very stressful offseason.  Here's to Odom getting back to basics, both in his personal life, and on the court, where he's struggled to find a rhythm.

Tuesday: Golden State Warriors at Cleveland Cavaliers (4:00 PM PST)

Admittedly a homerific pick, but a compelling matchup nonetheless.  The Cleveland Cavaliers, at 5-6 (currently good for eighth in the East), are showing considerable improvement--and importantly, a new identity--in year 2 ATD (After The Decision) under coach Byron Scott.  Rookie point guard Kyrie Irving, the number one overall pick in last summer's draft, is living up to his billing, averaging 17 points and 5 assists per game on about 50% shooting.  Those would be great numbers for anyone, let alone a rookie.  Furthermore, rookie forward Tristan Thompson, whom I had relatively low expectations for in his rookie campaign, is proving naysayers wrong, averaging 8 points, 6 rebounds, and nearly 2 blocks in only 20 minutes per game.  Veterans Antawn Jamison, Anthony Parker and Anderson Varejao clearly have the ears of the young players on the team, and Byron Scott, once again equipped with a top-shelf point guard, is able to run most teams out of their gyms.  This is a fun team to watch (they have the tenth-most prolific offense in the league), and if they remain hot, I wouldn't be surprised to see them as a low seed playoff team.  If that is to happen, however, they must win games like the one they'll play Tuesday night against the Warriors, a 4-8 club that has been disarmed by injuries and twenty years of losing.

Wednesday: Denver Nuggets at Philadelphia 76ers (4:00 PM PST)

I will actually be at work while this game is happening, and that's a shame, because no one should be terribly surprised if this is an NBA finals preview in this bizarrely abbreviated season.  Both Denver and Philadelphia were well positioned for success after the lockout, with young, motivated rosters that remained largely unchanged, and veteran coaches in George Karl and Doug Collins who clearly have the respect of their players and front offices.  The Sixers, in particular, have been getting unquestioned love from most major media pundits (most notably ESPN's John Hollinger, who has perched Doug Collins' club firmly at the top of his power rankings for the last two weeks) and for good reason.  According to most metrics, the Sixers feature the league's third best offense (at worst), and the league's first best defense.  Denver's not too far behind, at second, and sixth, respectively. Not bad.  This will be a great basketball game.

Thursday: Los Angeles Lakers at Miami (5:00 PM PST)

Kobe versus LeBron.  Need I say more?

Oh I do?  Okay.  Well, this is another potential finals preview, and a marketing dream for David Stern and the NBA. And, luckily for him (and Joe Bernardo) this dream could be a reality if Andrew Bynum continues the tear he's been on since he came back.  He's averaging 17 points, 14 rebounds and 2 blocks per game, shooting 54%, and most importantly, staying healthy.  When your pivot is providing those numbers (and as efficiently as Bynum is doing so, with a player efficiency rating of nearly 21), you are a championship contender by any metric.  And let's not forget Kobe, who has scored 40 or more points in his last 4 games.  Perhaps he'll break the personal record he set in 2003, when he scored 40 or more points in 9 straight games.  I remember when it happened and it still feels surreal.  Regardless of how you feel about Kobe, we are truly blessed to be able see a player of his caliber in his prime.  There will not be another Kobe.  Fact.

Friday: Minnesota Timberwolves at Los Angeles Clippers (5:00 PST)

This matchup features arguably the two best power forwards in the game today in the Clippers' Blake Griffin and the Wolves' Kevin Love (also, the stars of the best lockout-related commercial, ever).  These two players lead exciting young teams that are undergoing huge transformations in terms of on-court play and off-court culture.  Love and Griffin's games are wildly dissimilar.  As Hans Peterson points out, Kevin Love relies on finesse and shooting to get his points, while Blake Griffin just murders people down low.  And, as a bonus, we'll get to see Wolves rookie sensation Ricky Rubio go against CP3 in an amazing matchup of present brilliance versus future greatness.  If you are a basketball aficionado, these are the games you really look forward to.

Saturday: Philadelphia 76ers at Miami Heat (4:30 PM PST) 

These two clubs faced each other in the playoffs last year, where the second-seeded Miami Heat quickly dispatched the Philadelphia 76ers in five games.  Now these two teams will go against each other again, with the 76ers playing excellent ball, and Miami perhaps dealing with the absence of Dwayne Wade, who is out indefinitely with a myriad of nagging injuries.  Notably, these two teams rest on opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to team building.  Obviously, the Miami Heat are frontloaded, with superstars LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh doing most of the work, and role players providing somewhat inconsistent support.  Meanwhile, one is hard pressed to find a bona fide star on a team as balanced as the Sixers.  For example, Philadelphia's leading scorer is Lou Williams, who is averaging 16.1 points per the bench.  Meanwhile, guards Andre Iguodala and Jrue Holiday are both averaging 14.3 points per game, Thad Young is averaging 12, and Elton Brand and Spencer Hawes both averaging around 10.  That's remarkable to have six players averaging double digits, and all doing so efficiently.  Jrue Holiday, who has the lowest player efficiency rating of any of the double digit socerers, has a PER of around 15, which is the league average.  These two teams employ completely different philosophies, and I'm interested to see how they compete against each other.

Sunday: New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers (3:30 PM PST)

And lo, on the seventh day, the NBA fan rested.  Let's go Niners.

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