NBA Weekly Preview: Celtics vs. Bulls, 76ers vs. Bucks, Raptors vs. Jazz
Boston vs. Chicago: Tonight’s matchup between the Celtics and Bulls is the first of 4 meetings between the two teams this season. Without Derrick Rose, and Kirk Hinrich stepping out of the lineup with a hip strain, Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo will look to be aggressive the entire time that he is on the floor. In return, the Bulls will look to get as much as they can out of Nate Robinson who will fill in and play significant minutes. Nate Robinson has started off well this season for the Bulls and will need to play a strong game for Chicago to get a win tonight.
Other key matchups in this game will be Paul Pierce against Luol Deng at small forward and Joakim Noah will battle Kevin Garnett inside at the center position. Deng and Pierce are both all-star players that are counted on to do some of everything for their teams. Whoever can gain the upper hand in this matchup will put their team in a good position to win the game. Down low, Noah and Garnett will battle for rebounds and look to get easy buckets; but the real test will be to see who can get stops when they matter. Both teams are very good defensively, so the team that can more effectively generate good looks at the hoop late in the shot clock will have an advantage if the game remains close down the stretch.
Boston is not playing as well as they would like to be and tonight’s game may be a little more important for them as they look to get back on track. With that in mind, I would expect Doc Rivers and the Celtics to be well prepared and look to come out and make a statement with a win in Chicago.
Philadelphia vs. Milwaukee: The Sixers and Bucks find themselves 4th and 5th in the Eastern Conference, respectively. Both teams have only 2 losses so far and are looking to be playoff teams once again this season. Even though Andrew Bynum has yet to play a game, Philadelphia is playing with clear intentions of being one of the best teams in the East. Jrue Holiday is playing at an extremely high level, and guys like Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young are each playing as well as they have ever played in their young careers.
The battle to watch in this game will be at both guard positions. Both the Bucks and the Sixers best players are their point guards: Jrue Holiday and Brandon Jennings. Jennings is an offensive machine and remains the league leader in steals. Holiday has put the team on his shoulders as he is averaging 18 points and just fewer than 10 assists a game. While Evan Turner is a player that can help you in a lot of ways, he must be very focused tonight on defense in an effort to slow down Monta Ellis, who is currently averaging a team high 21 points and a nice 5 and a half assists. Anything extra that Turner is able to provide offensively will be a plus, but defense is an absolute must on this night.
Philadelphia’s bench has been impressive this season, and if the reserves are able to put together another effective game tonight, the Sixers, as the more complete team, will likely get their 4thstraight victory.
Toronto vs. Utah: The Jazz travel to Toronto to take on the Raptors while in search of their first road victory of the season. The Jazz are currently 3-4 with all of their wins coming at home and all of their losses on the road. This will likely change tonight with the Raptors being shorthanded as they deal with a number of injuries on the perimeter, including their star point guard Kyle Lowry.
Lowry is dealing with an ankle sprain and is in no rush to get back onto the court. Landry Fields will also likely be out of action as he seeks attention to a wrist injury. Alan Anderson stepped into the starting lineup on Saturday in place of Landry at the shooting guard spot, but suffered his own foot injury in the second half of the game. It is possible that none of them will play tonight and guys like Dominic McGuire, Linas Kleiza, and rookie Terrence Ross will see extended minutes. Despite Utah’s 3-4 start, the Jazz are a good team and will likely get an easy win as the Raptors try to get key players healthy for the future.