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5. Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Washington Wizards
Saturday, November 16, 2013, 7:00 PM ET
Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.
You are probably thinking, why is a game featuring two teams below .500 (as of now) a must-watch matchup? While both Cleveland and Washington have started the season slow, the fact that each team carries young point guards who are on the verge of breaking into the elite status in the NBA cannot and should not be ignored. Kyrie Irving and John Wall are in similar situations, as they are both are considered the leader of squads and are expected to propel their teammates to playoff appearances. While Irving has outplayed Wall in just about every category during his last two seasons in the league, this positional matchup will likely be the most even battle going into the game as both are healthy and now NBA experienced.
While this game will be highlighted by the point guard battle, the contest will likely come down to how involved each of the former first picks get their teammates involved. Both Irving (Dion Waiters, Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao) and Wall (Trevor Ariza, Martell Webster, Bradley Beal, Marcin Gortat) have depth, finishers and skilled shooters around them for easy opportunities. Both Irving and Wall excel in the passing department, while Wall has improved his shooting accuracy immensely (although Irving remains the better shooter). The 21-year-old Irving and 23-year-old Wall have been heavily compared since they were drafted as the first pick in back-to-back draft years. So whenever these two rising stars face each other on the court, eyes will be watching.
Key Positional Matchup: Kyrie Irving vs. John Wall
4. Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Golden State Warriors
Thursday, November 14, 2013, 10:30 PM EST
ORACLE Arena, Oakland, CA
Well, this should be fun. Two highly offensive-minded teams face off on the second leg of TNT’s Thursday night NBA showcase. Golden State is posting 102.6 points per game while OKC is scoring 102.2 points per game (as of Monday). So far this season, the Warriors have improved defensively with a 92.0 defensive efficiency rating per ESPN (second in the NBA) while the Thunder hold a 97.6 defensive efficiency rating (tied for eighth in the NBA). Led by the best shooting backcourt in the league in Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry, the Warriors are a highly efficient shooting team in general with an effective field goal percentage of 55 percent (second-best in the NBA). Meanwhile, OKC has dropped in shooting efficiency due to the absence in the opening week of Russell Westbrook, who is also slow to get back into form.
The Warriors’ matchup against the Memphis Grizzles during Week 2 showed an apparent weakness in Golden State’s game: defending the paint. The Warriors are arguably the best perimeter team in the NBA, but can easily buckle under the pressure if the opposing team forces the ball down low consistently. Therefore, lookout for OKC to post up Kevin Durant and play inside out to take advantage of this weakness. On the other side, lookout for Golden State to shoot the long ball as OKC gives up 37 percent from the 3-point line to opponents (17th in the NBA). Expect a ton of offense in this matchup between two growing powerhouses.
Key Positional Matchup: Kevin Durant vs. Andre Iguodala
3. Indiana Pacers vs. Chicago Bulls
Saturday, November 16, 2013, 8:00 PM ET
United Center, Chicago, IL
The Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers square off against each other for the second time already in this early NBA season. This time this division rivalry showdown heads to the Windy City. During the last battle between these two defensive-minded squads, the game resulted in a comeback in the final quarter by the Pacers bench. Derrick Rose struggled offensively during the Bulls’ Week 2 matchup against the Pacers, scoring only three of his 17 total points in 12 minutes in the second half, as he spent the first half of the fourth quarter on the bench. Meanwhile the Pacers bench, led by Lance Stephenson, Luis Scola and Donald Sloan, stole the show in this battle and helped the Pacers take the lead in the final 12 minutes and eventually leave the Bulls in the dust. Paul George had a great offensive night while Roy Hibbert continued his campaign for a Defensive Player of the Year nod.
Since the first matchup between these two division rivals is so fresh in the memories of every player, the hype surrounding this game is heightened. The atmosphere between these two teams is very intense, and the physicality that was shown on the court during Week 2 is only a precursor of what to expect on Saturday night. Chicago will certainly be playing for revenge, especially on their home turf. If you want to see intense, physical basketball, then circle this game on your calendar.
Key Positional Matchup: Paul George vs. Luol Deng