March 19, 2016, 2:25 pm
The weekend is here and if you’re a fan of the NBA you are in for quite a treat. There are nine games on the schedule for Saturday and while most of you will be tuning into one specific game — which we will get into — there are plenty of other games that have the potential to be spectacular.
The Honorable Mentions: The Thunder continue their East Coast trip as they take on the Pacers, the Rockets will be facing the Hawks and the Bulls look to bounce back from their loss on Wednesday by taking down the Jazz.
Now for the games that are without a doubt the ‘must watch’ games of the night.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Miami Heat
Tip Time: 7:30 pm (est)
Where: American Airlines Arena, Miami, FL
Player Matchup: Kevin Love and Luol Deng
LeBron James made headlines earlier this month when he decided to take a trip to Miami to workout with his friend and former teammate Dwyane Wade. Ever since then it seems as if the Cavs just can’t stay out of the headlines.
The most recent piece of ‘news’ — or better yet rumors — has been that Kyrie Irving and James are on a power kick with one another. How much of that is true is up for you to decide, but it doesn’t seem to be a huge issue since the Cavs are still winning games and sit comfortably at the top of the Eastern Conference.
Cleveland (49-19) is entering this matchup on the second night of a back-to-back, and after Thursday’s win against the Magic, the Cavs have clinched a playoff berth.
“We thought we were going to make the playoffs, so it wasn’t really a big deal,” coach Tyronn Lue said following the win over the Magic. “We have bigger things ahead of us. We have a bigger deal in front of us.”
Kevin Love has yet to find his place on this Cavs roster since coming to the team last season in the Wiggins deal. Through the month of March, Love is averaging 14.6 points, 9.6 rebounds and shooting a horrific 36.7 percent from the field.
Love was listed as questionable for Friday’s matchup against the Magic due to ‘illness’. He was able to play through it on Friday but was benched in the fourth quarter. With the playoffs now secured, even though it’s reported that the players won’t rest this weekend, a surprise night of rest wouldn’t be extremely shocking.
Stay close to Hoop Ball for updates on Love’s status before tip-off.)
The Heat (39-29), unlike the Cavs, have yet to clinch their place in the playoffs. Although there are no questions that Miami will be making it in the playoffs this season, there is a question mark of who they will be playing.
The Heat find themselves in a three-way tie for fourth, fifth and sixth in the Eastern Conference. With just 14 games left in the season, each game becomes more important than the last, or as head coach Erik Spoelstra said, “There’s a lot at stake for us.”
Unfortunately, Miami has been struggling as of late. The team has gone 2-3 over their last five games and the reason for their struggles has been the team’s defense. Through their recent five-game stretch, Miami has given up an average of 110 points per game to their opponents. That is very significant since the Heat normally hold their opponents to an average of 97.9 points per game on the season.
Dwyane Wade must have had a sip from the fountain of youth with how he has been able to stay reasonably healthy this season. Through 62 games, which is the total amount of games he played during the 2014-2015 season, Wade has averaged 19.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. In the two previous meetings against the Cavs, Wade has averaged 22 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.
“Obviously, we love to compete against them and I love to compete against (LeBron),” Wade said. “It will be good for us, coming off of a loss to play the best team in the Eastern Conference. It will be another challenge for us.”
This is an important game for the Heat, who are looking to stay out of the bottom-end of the playoff bubble. For the Cavs, they are looking to end a dry spell. Like LeBron, it’s been a while since Cleveland has come away with a win in Miami. The last time Cleveland was able to get a win in Miami was back on January 25, 2010.
Golden State Warriors vs. San Antonio Spurs
Tip Time: 8:30 pm (est)
Where: AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
Player Matchup: Draymond Green and LaMarcus Aldridge
This has to be the most anticipated game of the season. These two teams have already faced each other once this year and in that game we saw a dominating performance by the Warriors. The game was in Golden State, where the Warriors have yet to lose on their home floor. Now the Spurs, who have also stayed undefeated at home, will look to defend their home court and give the reigning champs their seventh loss of the season.
In a way that leaves you in awe, the Warriors (62-6) have found a way to improve from their title run last season. The biggest reason for their success has been the improvement of the reigning MVP Stephen Curry – yes, I just said an MVP improved.
Curry is something this league has never seen before. After dealing with multiple ankle injuries early in his career, Curry has become the best shooter in NBA history. His ability to create shots for himself, play off of the ball and his unlimited range has earned him that title. Through 65 games this season, the six-year veteran has averaged 30.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game.
Surprisingly, the Warriors will be looking to snap a losing streak in Saturday’s game. No, don’t worry, the team hasn’t lost a game that you’re not aware of nor have they lost consecutive games all season. However, the Warriors as a franchise have lost 32 regular-season games in a row to the Spurs when playing in San Antonio.
“We know what the Spurs have been doing all year,” Curry said before Friday’s game against the Mavericks. “We’ll talk about how we haven’t won there in the regular-season for so long. We’d love to end that streak.”
If it weren’t for the historic season the Warriors were having, the Spurs (58-10) would be getting more attention. After getting upset in the first round of the playoffs by the Los Angeles Clippers last season, the Spurs have reloaded and look to be the best shot at an upset of the Warriors in a playoff series.
Kawhi Leonard has been phenomenal this season. The fourth-year forward is having himself a career year averaging 21 points, 6.7 rebound and 1.8 steals per game. In the month of March, Leonard is averaging 24.1 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.6 steals per game.
In Spurs’ fashion, Tim Duncan – who was not active for the last game against the Warriors – downplayed Saturday’s game.
“It’s whatever you want to make it,” said Duncan. We’re going to show up for the game and we’re going to play it. It’s not going to change our season or anything else. It will be a great matchup for us. Obviously, two best records in the league. They’re playing exceptionally well. It’s a good test for us. Playoff-type atmosphere and playoff-type intensity. Good experience for us.”
After a rough start adapting to his new team and scoring just five points in the last matchup against Golden State, LaMarcus Aldridge has become heavily relied upon in the Spurs’ offense. Through the month of March, Aldridge has averaged 23.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.
These are not just the two best teams in the Western Conference, these are the two best teams in the entire NBA. Though both teams have already clinched a playoff berth, this game will start to have a playoff-feel to it no matter how much both teams want to resist attaching that type of meaning to it.