Today we’re entering Week 3 of the 2020/21 NBA season. We have already seen some career-highs and some surprises at the beginning, but 6-7 played games mean nothing compared to the entire season, which contains 72 games. What will happen tonight and where a potential shocking result is hidden – you can find out in my new NBA Game Previews.
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Orlando Magic
A clash of the current Central and Southeast Division leaders. Two sides have an unexpectedly great start to the season, for how long will the good mood last we shall see. Both squads are more or less handicapped by injuries. Kevin Porter Jr. and Isaac Okoro for the Cavs, and Johnatan Isaac and Evan Fournier for the Magic are out. Even though Fournier (back spasms) and Okoro (sprained foot) have game-time decision tags for tonight, the return of the other two is still unknown. While GMs of tonight’s rivals are figuring out how to replace the missing players, Nikola Vucevic and Sexland (Garland & Sexton) made those absences invisible. Tonight’s tilt will decide who will be the leader of the Eastern Conference, so the details will count and everything is possible.
Charlotte Hornets @ Philadelphia 76ers
I wouldn’t call this a b2b because of the day of the rest in-between, so I call this a rematch. After the expected domination of the Sixers at home and unexpected “scary” game by Terry Rozier (35p PTS, 7 3-PT), this time Michael Jordan and the Hornets know what they are facing. I assume that they won’t win tonight but they will definitely make it harder for Philly. First of all, I don’t anticipate this amount of points (239) and also a margin that large (15).
Even though he played 36 minutes, Joel Embiid didn’t play as he knows (19 PTS & 14 REB) because he was weak from a recent injury, so his teammates took his leading role and shared it. Although this is their second H2H game, and James Borrego made some tactical preparation, it will be a victory for the Philadephia 76ers. How difficult will it be for them we will find out tonight.
New York Knicks @ Atlanta Hawks
There is only one win between these two in the EC standings, but if you watch both of the teams play, you would never think about it. The home team has the biggest attacking potential in the entire league when they are fully rostered. For tonight, they are missing some important players from the bench (Danilo Gallinari, Kevin Huerter, and Rajon Rondo), but the starting five is intact. It is clear that the New York Knicks are playing a better defense; allowing only 104.7 PPG, while the Hawks allow 112.2 PPG. The odds are in favor of the hosts, but if the Knicks’ defense does its job, at least the difference won’t be bigger than a couple of points. However, if it doesn’t, a blowout is a possible outcome.
Oklahoma City Thunder @ Miami Heat
To continue my NBA Game Previews, I chose an inter-conference battle. After a very unusual low-point game for Miami (83) and a loss in Dallas, the Heat host the OKC at the AmericanAirlines Arena. With complete starting five and rhapsodic Goran Dragic, everything points to the victory of the last season’s vice-champions. As a matter of fact, those two squads have the same record (2-3), but the analysts say that this is a great start of the season for the Thunder and a bit slow one for the Heat.
The difference is in the teams’ aspirations. It was presumed that Oklahoma wants to start a rebuilding process at the end of the trade deadline and that Miami has the ring in their minds, that’s for sure. Now, we can surely say that the Heat have the same aspirations as at the beginning of the season, but it’s not clear what the Thunder want. This should be a win for the Heat with a lot of points.
Boston Celtics @ Toronto Raptors
The next game for tonight is an Atlantic Division tilt. It should be a playoff duel, but if we look at the form the Raptors are displaying, it won’t be possible this season. It’s the first contest of four between these teams in the regular season. The Raptors will be motivated for sure because of last season’s tough loss in game seven of the playoffs. Will the motive be enough to beat the Celtics – we will see. I assume that this game won’t provide a bunch of points, especially not in the paint.
The Raptors are 4th team in defensive rating this year, allowing only 107 PPG (10th in the NBA) to their opponents. Although they are good on defense as a team, they don’t guard opposite small forwards well, allowing 23.6 PPG. So, it is expected from Jason Tatum to take the leading role on offense for Boston. This game came with a huge diversity of outcomes, so I guess this is the most difficult game for prediction. I expect a low amount of points (under 220), but I am not sure about the winner, at all.
Dallas Mavericks @ Houston Rockets
If there wasn’t a movie with the same title already, I would call this game a “Texas Massacre”. It’s a b2b game and the second on the road for Dallas. How important Luka Doncic is for the Mavs, you could see last night against the Bulls. A difference of 10 points in the loss speaks a lot. He is probable to play tonight after bruising his left quad. If he misses the game again, the Mavs are no match to the Rockets. Jalen Brunson is no match to John Wall in any aspect of the game, and if Harden is in a good mood, no player in the league can stop him. So tonight’s final result depends on Doncic again. Over 115 points scored by the home team is possible to occur, but the final number of buckets depends on how successful will the visitors be.
Detroit Pistons @ Milwaukee Bucks
A Central Division clash is next in my NBA Game Previews. The reigning MVP had a great start to the season, but that wasn’t enough for a positive record at the beginning of the season. No one expected three losses in six starting games from the team that will fight for the NBA title. Each member of the committee plays very well, so tonight’s margin is expected to be at least 12 points. The Detroit Pistons are the biggest underdogs in the NBA, and this season they can win only with a massive amount of luck. I assume that tonight, even luck won’t help them, and their efforts to confront the Bucks will end in the first quarter.
Indiana Pacers @ New Orleans Pelicans
Another intriguing inter-conference tilt. Domantas Sabonis will have another under the rim battle against a strong opponent. Both power forwards (Sabonis and Zion Williamson) are experiencing a great start, and the league will have exceptional big men in the future. Leading his team in all three basic stat lines, Sabonis is the first attacking option for the Pacers. On the other hand, Zion is leading the entire league in steals (1.3) and is playing magnificently right now. If those two fail, there is a lot of players who can take the leading parts on both sides. First of all, Victor Oladipo for the Pacers, and Brandon Ingram for the Pelicans. This is a must-watch for tonight, and the final result is blurred. Whoever gets a victory tonight – it will be deserved.
Sacramento Kings @ Golden State Warriors
I’ll conclude my NBA Game Previews with this Pacific Division tie. After a tremendous last night and a career-high of 62 points, Steph Curry and co. will try to continue in the same rhythm. While Steph is on fire, no defender in the NBA could slow him down even a bit. After defeating the Trail Blazers, the Warriors will give their best effort to continue the streak. Meanwhile, the Kings have lost two of three games on the road, and tonight they have their chance to change the course with a win. If Sacramento somehow manages to slow down Curry, the odds will be right about guessing the winner. That will be the Kings, but if Curry gives us another game to remember, the outcome could be surprisingly different.
That’s all for today’s NBA Game Previews.