Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Portland Trail Blazers
Wednesday 3rd January, 12am (UK time)
The Cavaliers are finally starting to round back into shape, and they appear to be on track for another Finals berth. In order to achieve that goal, they’ll have to take advantage of extremely winnable games such as this one at home against Portland. Though they’ll enter the game riding a three-game losing streak, Cleveland owns a 24-12 record, placing them third in the Eastern Conference. The Cavs have yet to play the Blazers this season, but LeBron and Co. have been historically dominant against Portland.
The Portland Trail Blazers are at a tipping point. They’re 19-17, which puts them in the playoffs with the sixth seed in the West. However, they’ll have to fight to hold that spot down the stretch of the regular season. Portland will enter this game following a stretch where they lost four of seven, so stealing a big one against the Cavs could be a huge morale booster. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum average a combined 46 points, and they’ll be called on to carry their team on Tuesday night.
The Blazers’ stellar backcourt should keep this game close, but expect Cleveland to get back on track with a solid victory at home behind James, Wade, and Love.
|Cavaliers v Trail Blazers||
Denver Nuggets vs. Phoenix Suns
Thursday 4th January, 2am (UK time)
The Denver Nuggets are an intriguing team to say the least. They’re currently 19-17, which puts them in seventh place in the West. They’ve recently beaten fancied teams like the Jazz and Warriors, but they’ve also suffered losses to bottom feeders like the Mavericks and Lakers. Center Nikola Jokic leads Denver’s squad with his 16 points and ten rebounds per game, and he’s complemented by guys like Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, and Will Barton on the wings. In addition, the return from injury of Paul Millsap could make this squad formidable come playoff time.
Despite their bevy of high draft picks, the Suns have yet to convert any of that young talent into wins. Their 14-24 record is one of the worst in the NBA, and they stand little chance of stealing their way into the postseason. Shooting guard Devin Booker has the potential to carry his team to victory with his 25 points, five rebounds, and four assists per game, but he does so with little help. Rookie Josh Jackson has been disappointingly underwhelming, and guys like Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender simply haven’t lived up to their draft-day hype.
The Suns are a feisty team, but the Nuggets have chemistry and a veteran presence. Expect Denver to outplay Phoenix and win this one handily.