Detroit Pistons vs Charlotte Hornets
Monday 15th January 5:30pm (UK time)
|Pistons vs Hornets||
The Pistons recently lost star point guard Reggie Jackson to a serious injury, but Ish Smith has filled in admirably thus far. Detroit started off the season on fire, but they now sit in sixth place in the East with a 22-18 record. They’ve won just three of their last seven, so they’ll be glad to return from a long road trip on Monday. Defence has always been the strong suit of this team, and the addition of Avery Bradley at the shooting guard position from the Celtics only made Detroit better on that end. Tobias Harris and Andre Drummond have been the saving grace for the Pistons, averaging a combined 33 points and 20 rebounds.
The Charlotte Hornets currently have one of their worst records in years, with a 16-24 start to the season. Cody Zeller remains on the list of injured players, and coach Steve Clifford will return later next week following his health issues. Michael Carter-Williams, the former rookie of the year, is shooting just 28% at the backup point guard position. However, new addition Dwight Howard has been a revelation for Charlotte, dominating the paint to the tune of 16 points and 12 rebounds per contest. Kemba Walker, an All-Star last year, averages 22 points and six assists.
Neither one of these teams is performing well at the moment, but the Pistons have better shooters and superior defence. Expect the home team to win a low-scoring game in this one.
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Miami Heat
Thursday 18th January, 1am (UK time)
The Milwaukee Bucks are 22-19, but that record doesn’t demonstrate just how dangerous this team could be come April. Led by names like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Eric Bledsoe, and Malcom Brogdon, the Bucks are loaded on the offensive end. In addition, guys like Khris Middleton and John Henson utilise their length on the defensive end to make life miserable for opponents, and Jabari Parker could return any day now from his second ACL tear. If he is anywhere near as good as he was two years ago, this team could make it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. Giannis is making a case for the MVP award with his 29 points and ten rebounds per game.
The Heat are the hottest team in the league right now, having won six straight and 13 of their last 17. Despite the loss of Dion Waiters for the rest of the season, Miami remains in fourth place in the East. Point guard Goran Dragic averages 17 points, five assists, and four rebounds per game, and Hassan Whiteside puts up 14 and grabs 12 boards of his own. The Heat always seem to find a way to win games with a motley crew, and that trend has continued this year with the likes of Kelly Olynyk, James Johnson, and Josh Richardson all contributing.
The Heat haven’t lost often lately, but the Bucks have shown fortitude and intense competitiveness at home this season, suggesting the wind is behind Giannis and Milwaukee in this Eastern Conference throwdown.