The NBA season is starting its second half and that means it is the stretch run for most of these teams as they compete to get to the playoffs (or to get to Zion). Saturday has a 12-game NBA slate on the docket and there are a bunch of great matchups out there for one reason or another.
Portland Trail Blazers vs. Philadelphia 76ers:
The first game of the day includes two teams looking to sharpen up heading into the playoffs with their new transactions. The Trail Blazers will be adding Enes Kanter to the roster on Thursday to join recent additions Rodney Hood and Skal Labissiere. This pickup was interesting for the Blazers because Kanter is a very unique player. Kanter is really dreadful on the defensive end, but he can put up 25 points and 20 rebounds on a good night. Kanter isn’t a key piece to a playoff team, but he can be a useful offensive threat off the bench. The 76ers are going to be without Embiid, which should allow new players Boban and Tobias Harris to see more touches and minutes, especially for Boban. I think this lack of Embiid will hurt the 76ers, but I think it does allow the rest of the team to gain a little more chemistry with the new guys. This should be a really close game. I expect the 76ers to come out with the win, but only by a few points.
Phoenix Suns vs. Atlanta Hawks:
Why does this game matter? This is a major game in the tank-off race. The Suns have the worst record in the NBA and the Hawks are 5th. The worst 3 teams in the NBa all get similar draft odds going into the lottery, which means that all the Hawks should want to do is get 3rd-worst. The issue is they’re just a little too good. The Hawks have good young players in Young and Collins, along with others. They also have real NBA-role players in guys like Taurean Prince, Kent Bazemore, and Dewayne Dedmon. The Suns are lacking these “real NBA role players” and I think that is why they successfully lose this game in Atlanta.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. New Orleans Pelicans:
This will be a storyline game with the recent trade rumors surrounding these two teams. The interim GM for the Pelicans recently announced that they plan to play AD and Jrue Holiday less moving forward, while giving more young guys and free agents more time. This hurts the Pelicans chances to look like a good basketball team, but I think they are still a fine time if that means giving more time to Elf and Julius Randle and not the third-string guys. The Lakers are outside of the playoff picture and every game is becoming LeBron’s chance to prove his dominance over the NBA. They need every win they can get and I think they get a much-needed one against the Pelicans here.
Sacramento Kings vs. Oklahoma City Thunder:
The Kings are looking to make a playoff push with the addition of Harrison Barnes to the team. They are currently in the log jam for the eighth spot. The Thunder need to be playing to avoid the Warriors until the Western Conference Finals, which would mean they need to maintain a top 3 seed to do so. Paul George is playing the best basketball of his life and Russell Westbrook just seems to be along for the ride. I do like the Thunder to win this game at home over the young Kings.
Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors:
This primetime game will be the one that everyone wants to see on Saturday night. The Rockets have recently gotten Eric Gordon, Chris Paul, and Clint Capela back into the lineup, which makes them a completely different and better team. The Warriors are also likely going to be extending Boogie Cousins out in terms of minutes played moving forward. This will be a great game between two teams gearing up for their playoff run. Both teams need to work on perfecting the chemistry with their ideal lineup vs. a good opponent, and this is a great chance to do so. I think the Warriors pull away with this game late.