Bucks-Celtics and Rockets-Mavs highlight the six NBA games scheduled for today
Basketball’s return was an unprecedented success. Yesterday, the NBA restart went off without a hitch. Both games came down to the wire. The Utah Jazz notched a win over the New Orleans Pelicans thanks to a pair of late free throws from Rudy Gobert. After that, LeBron James put the clamps on Kawhi and Paul George to give the Lakers a 103-101 victory over the Clippers.
With the first two games of the NBA restart in the books, it looks like the league is finally ready to unleash its full slate of games. There will be six NBA games played today in Orlando. Action starts at 2:30 PM EST, but the real excitement won’t begin until the evening. The Milwaukee Bucks will take on the Boston Celtics at 6:30 PM EST. After that, the Houston Rockets face off against the Dallas Mavericks at 9:00 PM EST. Those are the two best games of the day, so those are the ones that I will be previewing for today. Sorry NBA fans, you’ll have to go elsewhere if you want a preview of Nets vs. Magic or Suns vs. Wizards.
Milwaukee Bucks (-4.5) vs. Boston Celtics (+4.5) at 6:30 PM EST
After top teams in the Western Conference clashed last night, it only makes sense that some of the best teams in the East would go head-to-head today. When the season was paused back in March, the Bucks were the best team in the NBA with a 53-12 record. Meanwhile, the Celtics come into this matchup with a 43-21 record. Even though the Bucks’ regular-season record was significantly better than Boston’s, I still think this will be a close game.
Anybody that has watched the NBA over the last two years knows that Giannis Antetokounmpo has emerged as one of the best, if not the best, players in the league. The Greek Freak was named league MVP last season. However, he is having a better season statistically this year. The Greek Freak is averaging more points and rebounds per game in fewer minutes this year compared to last year. As a result, the Bucks currently stand alone with the best record in the NBA. Giannis has been excellent this season for the Bucks (and deserves to be named MVP), but Milwaukee has made it this far because they are playing well as a whole team.
Giannis is third in the NBA in points and rebounds per game this season, but the Greek Freak has had a lot of help from his teammates. Milwaukee enters the NBA restart with the number one scoring offense in the NBA, averaging 118.6 points per game. Furthermore, the defensive side of the ball has been getting the job done for the Bucks, who are currently fifth in the NBA in points allowed per game. Furthermore, Khris Middleton has continued to prove his worth, putting up over 21 points per game this season and earning a second straight invite to the NBA’s All-Star weekend. The Bucks have a terrific starting five, plus a great sixth man coming off the bench in George Hill. Milwaukee will go far in the playoffs this year, but they may not have the easiest time getting off to a hot start against a team that is loaded top to bottom like the Celtics.
The Boston Celtics seem like mirrored opposites of the Milwaukee Bucks. Milwaukee is led by an MVP candidate who makes every player around him better. Meanwhile, the Celtics have an arsenal of talented players that can take over a game. The C’s seem to have a different person leading the team every night because there is no shortage of scorers in Boston.
The top five players on the Celtics all average more than ten points per game. This is further exemplified by the fact that the top three scorers on the team all average over 20 points per game. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Kemba Walker make up the three-headed monster that leads the Celtics into Orlando. Furthermore, Tatum and Walker have already faced off against the Bucks and have proven they know how to score when going up against an elite team. Also, this game marks the first start Jaylen Brown will make against the Bucks this season, so I am confident he will be a difference-maker in tonight’s matchup.
I am leaning towards the Celtics right now. I love Giannis and think he will win MVP. However, the Celtics have a more complete roster top-to-bottom with more players that can score. Also, I think the Celtics will greatly benefit from having Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Kemba Walker all playing on the court at the same time. With those three guys out there, as well as lock-down defenders like Marcus Smart, Daniel Theis, and Enes Kanter, I think it will be hard for everybody else on the Bucks (besides Giannis) to get the job done against their opponent and win their matchup. I like the Celtics to win this game outright.
Celtics 108 – Bucks 105
Dallas Mavericks (-1.5) vs. Houston Rockets (+1.5) at 9:00 PM EST
The second exciting game of the day will be a late-night matchup between two teams from the Lone Star state. The Houston Rockets are hoping that their small-ball approach to the game of basketball will bring the team its first championship since 1995. Meanwhile, the Mavs are hoping Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis can help Dallas earn its first playoff-birth since 2016.
Even though this game is littered with stars and NBA greats, I believe that the most interesting player in this matchup is Luka Doncic. The 21-year-old Slovenian has taken one of the biggest leaps from rookie year to second-year I have ever seen. Luka averaged more points, assists, rebounds per game all while making his shots at a higher percentage than last year. I am never a person to say that things in the world of sports are a guarantee. However, I think Luka Doncic is a lock to win Most Improved Player in the League this season.
Kristaps Porzingis will also have to be a big factor in the Mavericks’ game plan if Dallas wants to make a deep playoff push. The Mavs have been blessed with two lanky, European big men that can score from anywhere on the court and get the ball to anybody. If Dallas wants to win, Luka and Kristaps will both have to score over 25 in this one and Porzingis will likely need to record a double-double.
On the other side of the ball, you have a team that is no stranger to the postseason and making deep playoff pushes. 2016 marked the last time the Houston Rockets did not win a playoff series. Offense has been the main reason why the Rockets have had so much success over the last few years. The Rockets have finished with the second-ranked scoring offense in the NBA three of the last four years.
The Rockets tandem of Westbrook and Harden is as good as any duo in the NBA. Harden is first on the team in scoring while Westbrook is second. Both players also lead the team in steals as well as assists. In fact, the Rockets are the only team this season that finished with two players ranked in the top ten in points per game. I am not worried about Westbrook and Harden getting the job done against the Mavs.
To be honest, there are only two factors that are making it hard for me to pick the Rockets with confidence. The first issue is that the Rockets do not have the services of Eric Gordon for about two weeks. Gordon will certainly be missed since he is third on the team in points per game. The other issue is that the Rockets play small ball, and that works to the Mavericks’ advantage. When your two best players are tall, lanky Europeans that can move the ball all over the court and shoot from three, then you should have little issue taking advantage of the small defenders on Houston’s side. I want to pick the Mavs, but I feel the Rockets are a little bit more used to the spotlight of the playoffs and big games. Houston will win this game outright.