NBA Preview - December  7, 2019 
thebirdwrites.com

This Saturday has 5 games slated including a Saturday afternoon 2 p.m. EST tipoff. Let's dive in.

New Orleans Pelicans @ Dallas Mavericks - 2:00 p.m. EST

The Pelicans have been struggling despite the Brandon Ingram and (more recently) Lonzo Ball playing at a high level. They lack depth and size compared to other teams in the West and that's hurting them. We get to see them square off against Luka Dončić and the rolling Mavericks who have won 4 straight and 9 of their last 10. Luka is making his MVP case while carrying the Mavericks to the 2 seed out West. 

Expect this to be a big day for Kristaps Porziņģis. The Pelicans have not had good paint defense this season and have struggled with talented big men. Kristaps is poised for a breakout scoring night after a few recent duds.

Regardless of whether you're a Mavericks fan or not, you can never pass up a chance to watch some Luka Magic. If you watch one game today, let it be this one.

Cleveland Cavaliers @ Philadelphia 76ers - 7:30 p.m. EST

Despite being 10-0 at home and having won 8 of their last 10, the 76ers find themselves in 5th place out East. If they want homecourt and truly want to be contenders, they need to be able to take care of teams like the Cavaliers with ease. The Cavaliers on the other hand are on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. They are coming into the 2nd game of a back to back after losing to Orlando last night. Beating a banged up 76ers team would be a step in the right direction though so they look to have a big night.

According to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Joel Embiid and Josh Richardson are both OUT for tonight's game. Richardson also sat out their game vs Washington with a hamstring issue while Embiid is nursing a bruised hip. This opens the door wide open for the young Cavs. Kevin Love won't have to worry about Embiid down low and the Cleveland swingmen have one less talented defender to deal with.

Indiana Pacers @ New York Knicks - 7:30 p.m. EST

The Knicks are bad. Very bad. They've lost 8 in a row and their last 2 losses to the Nuggets and Bucks came by a combined 81 points. They just fired their head coach David Fizdale and have assigned former NBA sharpshooter Mike Miller as the interim replacement. The Knicks know something needs to change, and hopefully this will give them the spark they need.

The Pacers have been one of the surprises of the NBA so far. Without Oladipo, they are boasting an impressive 14-8 record. Malcolm Brogdon has led them thus far and is 7th in the NBA for assists per game. They're waiting patiently for Victor Oladipo's return to make a big push for homecourt in the East. 

The Pacers are fun to watch, and the Knicks may have a fire set underneath them for tonight. This one could be exciting.

Phoenix Suns @ Houston Rockets - 8:00 p.m. EST

Phoenix's defense will have to answer one of the toughest questions in the NBA tonight: how do they guard James Harden? We saw the defending champion Raptors try to double-team almost every possession. Harden was limited to 23 points, but he was incredibly efficient on 7-11 shooting, plus his teammates has loads of wide open 3s. They converted and it ended with a Houston win. The Hawks also tried to double-team when they played last week. They lost by 47.

Phoenix is still without Aron Baynes who has been a key factor in their early season success. The Rockets are fully healthy and will likely come out firing. I would expect a big win by Houston. The Suns have almost no inside presence right now, which will lead to Westbrook and Harden feasting when they drive to the hole. Watch this one if you're a Rockets fan or you like Harden/Westbrook. Alternatively, Booker may play well so Suns fans should have some fun too.

Memphis Grizzlies @ Utah Jazz - 10:00 p.m. EST

Coming into the season, Utah was expected to be near the top of the Western Conference. But after a very rough start to the season from Mike Conley and Joe Ingles, the Jazz sit at 12-10. They've lost 3 in a row to good teams (Toronto, Philadephia, and the LA Lakers). These are the teams you need to beat if you want to be a force come playoff time. Tonight they face a fairly easy opponent in Memphis that will hopefully get them back in the wins column.

The Grizzlies are hurting right now. Rookie of the year frontrunner Ja Morant is week-to-week with back spasms, Brandon Clarke received the same week-to-week timetable due to his left oblique injury, Dillion Brooks is questionable for tonight, and Kyle Anderson is doubtful. Jaren Jackson Jr. and Jonas Valančiūnas will have to hold down the fort in the absence of so many crucial players.

Memphis won this matchup by 1 point in Conley's return to Memphis last month, but with so many injuries expect Bojan Bogdanović and Donovan Mitchell to lead the Jazz to a win.

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