Houston Rockets vs. Charlotte Hornets
Thursday 14th December, 2:30am (UK time)
The Rockets are looking like title contenders at this point in the 2017-18 NBA regular season. They’re 20-4, and the addition of Chris Paul to Houston’s offence has made them a scoring machine every night. They’ve lost only three games at home so far, and James Harden looks like the frontrunner for the MVP award with his 32 points, nine assists, and five rebounds per game. Shooters like Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza, and Ryan Anderson stretch the floor while Clint Cappela keeps the defence honest with his rim runs and alley-oop finishes.
The Hornets are in a downward spiral following the losses of Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky due to injury issues. They’re 9-16 on the season, but they’ve won just one game on the road. Kemba Walker and Dwight Howard have done their best to keep this team afloat, but their combined 38 points and 17 rebounds per game just haven’t been enough. Offence and three-point shooting in particular have been Charlotte’s Achilles heel, and they’ll need Kaminsky back soon to provide that outside touch.
The Rockets are looking unstoppable right now, and Charlotte is reeling. Houston should win this one handily at home.
Memphis Grizzlies vs. Atlanta Hawks
Saturday 16th December, 1am (UK time)
Little has changed since the Grizzlies pulled the plug on David Fizdale. Their record still sits at an unimpressive 8-18, a far cry from what fans are used to seeing. Memphis is usually a perennial playoff contender in the West, but that looks unlikely heading into Week 9. Mike Conley, who provides much of the team’s offence, is still on the shelf with a heel injury and, though Tyreke Evans has filled in admirably with his 18 points per game, Memphis needs its star back. The grit and grind mentality is still upheld by this team, but their frontcourt certainly misses Zach Randolph right now.
The Hawks, who weren’t expected to do much this season, have been competitive considering the roster they have. Atlanta sits at 6-19, but they’ve rarely lost games by large margins. Rookie forward John Collins has been a bright light for this team with his otherworldly hops and all-around skill set, and Dennis Schröder continues to develop into an All-Star point guard. His 21 points and six assists per game are both team highs. Dewayne Dedmon has revitalised his career after a stint with the Spurs, and Kent Bazemore is finally flourishing at the shooting guard spot, averaging 12 points, five rebounds, and three assists per contest.
The Hawks are a competitive team, but this is a must-win game for Memphis. Their defence will likely smother Atlanta, and that’s why the Grizzlies might just scratch and claw their way to a home win in this one.