The NBA season is already a third of the way through, and the Utah Jazz are surprisingly the top team in the league. The Jazz have gone on a tremendous run over the past month, which has seen them overtake the two Los Angeles teams atop the Western Conference standings.
And after sweeping a recent road trip, the Jazz are back home for a tough stretch of games against top championship contenders, beginning with a matchup against the Boston Celtics.
Elsewhere, the East-leading Philadelphia 76ers pay a visit to the Sacramento Kings, who have suddenly been one of the hottest teams in the league.
Read on below as SBOTOP runs through all seven games on the NBA schedule.
Brooklyn Nets @ Detroit Pistons
The Nets are looking to get back on track after back-to-back defeats, which they suffered after Kevin Durant had to be pulled for another COVID protocol quarantine. They were also missing Kyrie Irving in their 124-108 loss to the Sixers due to rest.
But Irving should be back playing alongside James Harden to take on the league-worst Pistons, who went 0-4 during their recent West-coast road trip. Although, Detroit almost defied the NBA 2021 odds in their double-overtime loss to the Lakers last time out. Jerami Grant had another strong game with 32 points in a losing effort.
New York Knicks @ Miami Heat
The Knicks made big NBA 2021 news by trading for former MVP Derrick Rose to bolster their playoff chances. Rose averaged 14 PPG for the Pistons this season and will bring some much-needed offensive firepower for a Knicks team that has not had much scoring from its backcourt this year.
The Knicks will travel to Miami to complete their two-game set against the Heat, who won the first game in New York, 109-103. The Heat have strung together back-to-back wins thanks to Kendrick Nunn, who has scored 41 points over the last two games. Nunn will continue to get more playing time with Avery Bradley and Goran Dragic still ailing with injuries.
Houston Rockets @ New Orleans Pelicans
The Rockets are currently on a downward trajectory with three losses in their last four, including back-to-back defeats since losing leading scorer Christian Wood with a sprained ankle. John Wall and Eric Gordon — who are both averaging 18 PPG this season – also sat out their 25-point loss to the Hornets last night due to rest, but they should be set to return to the lineup against New Orleans.
The Pelicans have picked up some momentum of late with three wins in a row. Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram have both played well, but Lonzo Ball’s surprisingly hot shooting has been crucial to their success. Ball is averaging 18 points while shooting 13-of-22 from beyond the arc in his last three games.
Golden State Warriors @ San Antonio Spurs
The Warriors are looking to bounce back right away after losing the first of their two-game set against the Spurs last night. Fresh off his 57-point performance against the Mavs, Stephen Curry had another strong game with 32 points, but it was not enough as the Warriors lost their second in a row.
Spurs guard Dejounte Murray had a terrific game with 27 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 steals. DeMar DeRozan, who recently had back-to-back 30-point games, also kept up his recent hot streak with 21 points and 10 assists as the Spurs pushed their current winning streak to three games.
Boston Celtics @ Utah Jazz
The Celtics continued their up-and-down play during their current West road trip with a loss to the Suns. Boston have now gone just 2-4 in their last six games as they remain without starters Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown. But despite those absences, they’ve still been able to pull off some big wins against the Warriors and Clippers through All-Star Jayson Tatum’s strong play.
Boston will now battle the Jazz, who kept up their incredible hot streak by beating the Pacers. Utah have now won four in a row and are 15-1 in the last month. Mike Conley will miss out once again with a hamstring injury, but Bojan Bogdanovic is getting back to his best and is averaging 25 PPG on 56 per cent shooting over his last six games.
Orlando Magic @ Portland Trail Blazers
The injury-hit Magic were blown out by 26 points last time out by the Bulls as they dropped to 1-5 in their last six games. Evan Fournier is missing once again due to back spasms, which will further reduce Orlando’s already limited offensive options.
Meanwhile, the Blazers will be looking to bounce back after an 11-point loss away to the Knicks. Damian Lillard missed practice due to an abdominal strain which has been bothering him recently, but he is still capable of playing at a high level despite his injury.
Philadelphia 76ers @ Sacramento Kings
The 76ers recovered quickly from their shock home defeat to the Blazers by beating a significantly shorthanded Nets team. The Sixers are now 5-1 in their last six and still lead the East over the Bucks. Ben Simmons, who missed the Blazers loss, had 16 points, 12 rebounds, and 8 assists on his return, while Joel Embiid is still on fire, averaging 35 PPG over his last eight games.
But the Sixers could have their hands full against the streaking Kings, who have won four straight games and are 7-1 in their last eight. They are coming off a clutch win over the Clippers, with De’Aaron Fox exploding for 36 points. Fox has been fantastic of late, averaging 30.8 PPG and 8.2 APG over his last five games.
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