Welcome back to the Fab Five, a new series from the mind of Adam Teich. Each Monday, we’ll discuss the coming week by looking at five upcoming NBA games to track the latest storylines, rivalries, and star-making performances. Here are the can’t-miss contests from this week:
Milwaukee Bucks vs Miami Heat (December 29th)
The Heat (or HEAT, if you want to be particular) may have played a large part in the movement to pry Giannis Antetokounmpo away from the Bucks. Though South Beach was most likely a large component of their would-be pitch, the Heat roster was able to sew seeds of doubt regarding the effectiveness Antentokounmpo’s Milwaukee teammates, gentleman’s sweeping them out of the playoffs. Having re-signed in the Green and White and acquired Jrue Holiday as a running mate, Miami still looms as Giannis’ bogeyman. With Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Tyler Herro still in tow, a win on Tuesday could be a sign that the Bucks are ready for the bright lights of the NBA Finals.
Golden State Warriors vs Detroit Pistons (December 29th)
This game will serve as the litmus test for the Golden State panic. After two horrendous losses to the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks, should the Dubs drop another game to the Detroit Pistons, the cause for concern may be legitimate. The Pistons lack the litany of perimeter threats of the Warriors’ previous opponents, so look for Andrew Wiggins to prove his worth to the rest of the league. In similar fashion, Detroit’s most interesting pieces shouldn’t face too much defensive opposition either. Use that to your advantage—chances should be slim to watch Killian Hayes and Blake Griffin post eye-popping numbers, though both are premier entertainment when locked in.
In a late edit, I’ve decided to devote an entire paragraph to Kelly Oubre Jr, who currently holds the title belt for most confounding player. Oubre’s season is off to a historically bad start—he’s yet to make one of his 17 three-point attempts. Though he’s had a few thunderous jams and displays consistent effort defensively, that’s quite literally all he’s given the Warriors, as Oubre hasn’t even made a jumper of any kind in the regular season. Watching him struggle from the field feels like watching a comedy of the macabre—something so brutal you can’t help but watch. Oubre’s too talented to let this cold streak continue for much longer, so tomorrow’s matchup may be your last chance to witness his spectacular start.
Memphis Grizzlies vs. Los Angeles Lakers (January 3rd)
It’s easy to forget, but we were one pandemic away from witnessing this matchup as a playoff series last season had Memphis held on to the eighth seed. Now with a year’s worth of experience under their belt, the matchup with the reigning champs should be an intriguing chance for the Grizzlies to exceed expectations. Though the team has struggled to execute in the clutch, it’s clear that Ja Morant has taken a leap in the offseason. Watching him and LeBron James trade buckets should double as an early slam dunk contest.
Bonus points: this will somehow be Marc Gasol’s first game in the FedEx Forum in a non-Grizzlies uniform—one has to wonder what Memphis’ tribute to the Spaniard will look like.
Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Clippers (January 3rd)
After getting demolished by the Dallas Mavericks, the Clippers’ schedule doesn’t get any easier. Faced with a team that beat the Mavs on opening day, the Suns possess the perfect combination of talent to probe LA’s weaknesses. Look for Chris Paul to come out firing against his former employer, especially against Lou Williams and Patrick Beverly, who the Clippers exchanged him for in the trade to Houston. DeAndre Ayton has also been a beast on the glass lately—don’t expect Ivica Zubac to put up much resistance. As for Devin Booker, it’s not like anything noteworthy happened the last team he matched up against Kawhi Leonard and company…
Washington Wizards vs Brooklyn Nets (January 3rd)
After another year of separation, the Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook rivalry has migrated over to the Eastern Conference. Longtime Thunder coach Scott Brooks is even involved in the matchup, so if you’re feeling nostalgic for Oklahoma City circa 2012, this is the game for you. For more modern fans, expect a shootout of epic proportions. Both teams lack solid defensive options to throw on the other’s main scorers, and guys like Joe Harris and Davis Bertans are some of the best ancillary snipers in the entire league. Don’t let Washington’s 0-3 start fool you either—Brooklyn’s loss to the Charlotte Hornets over the weekend could very well signal a propensity to cough up wins to struggling teams. Expect a battle for the ages between two of the East’s most star-studded squads.
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