Euro 2020 Special

NBA Preview: Streaking Celtics, Thunder Collide, Jazz-Rockets Renew Rivalry

It’s clear what the two standout games are in the NBA‘s Sunday schedule. The first one happens to be the first game of the day as two of the hottest teams in the league in the Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder collide for an afternoon showdown.

And later on prime time, two Western Conference rivals in the Utah Jazz and the Houston Rockets face off for a crucial head-to-head as the Rockets look to overtake the slumping Jazz in the standings.

But of course, SBOTOP NBA fans have five other fine games to enjoy, and here’s a quick breakdown of each and every one of them.


Boston Celtics @ Oklahoma City Thunder

The Celtics are on quite a roll at the moment. They have won six games in a row and are 9-1 in their last 10 games. That’s despite constantly missing 1-2 key players almost every game during that stretch. Jaylen Brown and Daniel Theis missed their most recent win against the Hawks with ankle sprains, and both remain questionable to play against the Thunder.

Oklahoma City are also playing excellent basketball and are similarly 9-1 in their last 10 games. Despite speculation that he was going to the Miami Heat, Danilo Gallinari is still in OKC as the trade deadline passed and will continue to help the surprising Thunder’s playoff push. But even with Boston’s absentees, the Thunder will still have their hands full at home.


Memphis Grizzlies @ Washington Wizards

The Grizzlies were part of one of the biggest trade deadline deals as they traded Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder, and Solomon Hill to the Heat for Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters, and James Johnson, who was then traded to Minnesota for big man Gorgui Dieng.

But with Winslow still out injured and Waiters not part of the team’s plans, Memphis could be short of weapons against the Wizards, who have won three of their last four games. The return of Rui Hachimura and Mo Wagner has added some much-needed frontcourt depth, while Bradley Beal continues to play at an All-Star level despite not getting into the actual team this year.


New York Knicks @ Atlanta Hawks

The Knicks are currently on their longest winning streak of the season at four games. And despite trading away top scorer Marcus Morris, they still edged out the injury-hit Pistons on the road. Julius Randle has led the way during that fine run, averaging 19.3 points and 11.3 rebounds per game.

Meanwhile, the Hawks have just gone through one of their toughest stretches of the season; nine of their last 10 opponents have been playoff teams. But they came out of that brutal stretch going a respectable 4-6. They even pushed the Celtics hard on the road despite missing Trae Young due to an ankle injury.

Young remains questionable to play against the Knicks, but if he does suit up, the Hawks should be able to pick up a win.


Utah Jazz @ Houston Rockets

NBA fans are looking forward to yet another monster performance by James Harden
                                                               Houston Rockets guard James Harden shoots over Phoenix Suns guard Ricky Rubio

A recent five-game losing skid by the Jazz has allowed the Rockets to gain ground for the No. 4 seed. Utah was finally able to snap their slide by beating the Blazers, although they were helped by a late missed goaltending call which drew the ire of Damian Lillard.

As for Houston, their own four-game win streak came to a screeching halt as they were blown out by 36 points on the road by the Suns on the second night of a back-to-back. James Harden had 32 points, but with Russell Westbrook out due to load management, the team as a whole shot a miserable 34 per cent.

But with Westbrook set to return, their shooting likely to improve, and home-court advantage, the Rockets should claim a crucial win over Utah. Eric Gordon, who exploded for a career-high 50 points in their first meeting a couple of weeks ago, is questionable to play due to a leg injury, though.


Chicago Bulls @ Philadelphia 76ers

The Bulls have lost ground in the race for the No. 8 seed in the East due to their four-game losing skid. After dropping three in a row on the road to the Pacers, Nets, and Raptors, they fell at home to Zion Williamson and the Pelicans.

Chicago’s chances of snapping that losing streak aren’t great, either, as they pay a visit to Philadelphia to face the Sixers, who are an NBA-best 23-2 at home. And if that wasn’t hard enough, they may also be without star Zach LaVine, who sat out practice recently due to a neck injury.


LA Clippers @ Cleveland Cavaliers

The Clippers are coming off one of their heaviest defeats of the season as the Timberwolves defied the NBA 2020 predictions by blowing out LA by 37 points. Despite being without new acquisition D’Angelo Russell, the Timberwolves still hit a franchise-record 26 3-pointers, with debutant Malik Beasley knocking down seven.

With this game on the second night of a back-to-back, Kawhi Leonard and/or Paul George will likely sit out for the Clippers as they take on the Cavaliers. Cleveland’s recent NBA 2020 results have been disastrous as they’ve lost five games in a row and 12 of their last 13.

The Clippers blew out the Cavs by 25 points at home in their first meeting as Leonard had 43 points. But with Kawhi likely out, the Cleveland could just make this game more competitive at home.


Miami Heat @ Portland Trail Blazers

The Heat’s six-game road trip hasn’t started out so well as they’ve lost back-to-back games to the Clippers and the Kings. Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro both didn’t play against Sacramento and have already been ruled out for their trip to Portland.

As mentioned earlier, the Blazers suffered a tough loss to the Jazz after a missed goaltending call late in the game. Prior to that defeat, the Blazers had won four of their last five games. After finally cooling off for a couple of games, Damian Lillard had another 40-point outburst against the Jazz.

The Blazers guard has been in unbelievable form, averaging 42 points and just under 10 assists over his last nine games. And with Butler out, he should be able to lead the Blazers to a much-needed win against the Heat, who don’t fare very well on the road.

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