10 Must-Watch NBA Games Before December
10 Must-See NBA Games Before December
The NBA season is finally upon us and there is no shortage of games made for TV in the first month. We get plenty of chances to determine how good some of the younger/new-look teams can be, as well as a few good tests for each conference's defending champion. The first four weeks will give us an idea of which teams are in it for the long haul and which teams are already looking forward to the draft.
We've learned that the NFL is a scoring-driven league while the MLB postseason has been dominated by starting pitching, but what will win in the NBA this season? The league seems to be trending into a smaller and more offensive-oriented game, but there are still a handful of contenders that hang their hat on stingy defense and size. We should get an idea of what it takes to win in the 2013-14 version of the NBA by the end of November, and what teams are built to succeed.
In addition to some great team matchups, we will get the pleasure of seeing some of the game's best point guards oppose one another. With the NBA being a league that is generally top-heavy, we get a November look at games that will almost certainly occur in May.
Cancel date night. Get a babysitter. Call in sick to your night job. Whatever you have to do, don't miss these 10 games. Star power will be on full display as we enter what can only be described as a golden age in the NBA.
October 31: Golden State Warriors @ Los Angeles Clippers
There is definite intrigue in having Chris Paul and Steph Curry face off, but this is much more than a battle of elite point guards: it's a battle of teams that could represent the Western Conference in the finals.
Both teams can run the floor and score with the best of them, making this an entertaining game for all sports fans. But from a basketball perspective, I want to see the immediate impact of Andre Iguodala. He is a versatile player who can contribute in a big way on both ends of the court. If Iguodala can produce like he did in his Philadelphia days, the Warriors are much more than a "fun" team that shoots threes.
November 1: Miami Heat @ Brooklyn Nets
Who doesn't love a Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett vs. LeBron James game? The ex-Celtics duo join a talented Nets roster that I fully expect to make some noise in the Eastern Conference long term, but will they experience growing pains?
Not only do Pierce and Garnett get a shot at James, they also oppose their one-time teammate Ray Allen. The sharpshooter was shunned by the Celtics twosome after taking his talents to South Beach, making the pregame handshake the most anticipated of the season. My money is on James and the Heat making a concerted effort to get Allen involved, and for Garnett to throw a borderline cheap shot elbow.
Some things never change.
November 6: Chicago Bulls @ Indiana Pacers
Most NBA analysts are expecting these two teams to finish the among the top three in the Eastern Conference, making every matchup critical when it comes to postseason seeding. Both teams are more than capable of winning the conference, and with both sides rostering a top-10 player in the league (yea, I said it), they figure to be even better than they were a year ago.
These are elite defensive teams, and I expect the game to be decided by a stop or two. At the end of the day, I've got the Pacers winning this division, and I expect them to win this game on the broad shoulder of Paul George.
November 8: Golden State Warriors @ San Antonio Spurs
Could we have a changing of the guard in the Western Conference? The Spurs are going to continue to win games, and with Kawhi Leonard being an emerging star, they have the potential to continue their decade-plus of dominance. That being said, I like the Warriors to be more improved from last season than the Spurs, a trend that could level the playing field in May. The Spurs will not be on the second night of a back-to-back, so there is no reason to think that their stars will need a break.
Can the Spurs win uptempo games? Is Steph Curry an elite player that can lead his team to the promised land? Can Klay Thompson be more than just a shooter? There are a ton of long-term questions for these teams, and this game can give us a start in answering them.
November 13: Cleveland Cavaliers @ Minnesota Timberwolves
Everyone has their guilty pleasure. Maybe it's reality TV. Maybe it's Reese's peanut butter eggs. Or maybe, just maybe, it is 20-something year-old point guards who make everyone on the floor better.
I've got both of these teams battling all season for a low-end playoff spot, something that would require huge seasons from their high-end floor generals. Ricky Rubio is a consistent jump shot away from being a franchise-caliber point guard, while the artist known as Uncle Drew is already the complete package when healthy. This game lacks the luster of title contenders, but watch this game for all 48 minutes and you're likely to see a handful of jaw-dropping plays.
November 13: Oklahoma City Thunder @ Los Angeles Clippers
We've got both of these teams as title contenders when at full strength, which is why this is a must-win game for Lob City. After years of being a doormat, I'm all in on the Doc Rivers-led Clippers this year, as they are a team that simply needs to learn how to win. The Thunder figure to be without Russell Westbrook (torn meniscus) for this one as he continues to recover, giving the Clippers a decided edge at their strongest position. Chris Paul is going to give this team a chance to be special, and this would be a great game for Blake Griffin to prove that he is more than a high-flying, funny commercial-starring, offensively-limited post presence.
November 18: Memphis Grizzlies @ Los Angeles Clippers
Have I mentioned that I like the Clippers this year? The Grizzlies are the complete opposite when it comes to roster construction, but they've been equally (if not more) effective in terms of winning games. Marc Gasol has solidified himself as a top-shelf big man, so if Zach Randolph can rediscover his 20-10 form, this is a team that no body wants to play. Can they score enough to run with the breakneck pace of teams like the Clippers? The difference-maker for me is Jerryd Bayless' ability to score the basketball. If he can prove to be reliable, the Grizzlies can build on last season's postseason success.
November 20: Indiana Pacers @ New York Knicks
I've got Paul George as a better player than Carmelo Anthony, and this is a great opportunity for him to prove it. The Knicks won 54 games last season behind a jump shooting-oriented offense, and while I have major concerns about that working with any sort of consistency, they theoretically improved their jump shooting by adding Andrea Bargnani. I like the Pacers to have a much better season than the Knicks, but this is an interesting matchup that should lead to a very entertaining game.
November 22: Chicago Bulls @ Portland Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers lacked depth last season and that isn't going to change this season, but that shouldn't make them any less fun to watch in the early season. I'm a big fan of what Damian Lillard can do and believe that Nicolas Batum is the type of player that championship-level teams have, making Portland a dangerous early season squad ... that is, until they inevitably wear down.
This will be the second night of a road back-to-back for the Bulls, so I'll be keeping an eye on how fresh Derrick Rose looks. The Bulls' bench was dominated by the Heat's bench last night, and should that trend continue, don't be surprised if this is a nip and tuck game.
November 29: Golden State Warriors @ Oklahoma City Thunder
By this time, the Thunder should have Russell Westbrook playing at a high level, thus giving us a good feel for who is the bigger threat in the Western Conference. Both teams can score at a high level, but was the departure of Kevin Martin for OKC and the addition of Andre Iguodala in Gold State enough to shift the title of most explosive team the Warriors' way? There's only one way to find out: tune in.