March 29, 2016, 1:54 pm
There are six games on the slate for Tuesday night in the NBA and we here at Hoop Ball are here to help guide you to the games you don’t want to miss.
The Honorable Mentions: The Wizards head to Dub City to take on the Warriors, and the Thunder try to extend their nine-game winning streak in the Motor City against the Pistons.
Now for the games that you don’t want to miss.
Chicago Bulls vs. Indiana Pacers
Tip Time: 7 pm (est)
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Player Matchup: Jimmy Butler and Paul George
The Pacers (39-34) are 3-2 over their last five games as they look to fend off the Pistons for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference and avoid a first round matchup against the Cavs.
“It’s a big game, probably the biggest game of the season for us right now,” George said. “We have a chance to push ourselves one more game up in the win column.”
George has had himself an amazing season after suffering a horrific leg injury back in 2014. Through 73 games this season, he has averaged 23.4 points, seven rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. This game against the Bulls (36-37) – like George said – is a very big game for the Pacers, but more importantly for Chicago.
Chicago trails the eighth-place Pistons by just 2.5 games and they are three games behind Indiana. The Bulls have been struggling as of late, dropping four out of their last five. With the season quickly coming to a close the Bulls are desperately looking for a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
A big reason for the Bulls’ recent struggles has been because of the lack of production they have received from Jimmy Butler. The fourth-year guard has recently returned from injury but through the month of March, he has averaged just 15.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists while shooting 38.9 percent from the field. A team that was once looked at as one of the best defensive teams in the league has now seen that label washed away this season. Chicago is ranked 13th in defensive efficiency this season and over their last five games the team has surrendered 107.2 points per game.
These two teams are also fighting to own the tiebreaker in their season series.
Houston Rockets vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
Tip Time: 8 pm (est)
Where: Quicken Loans Arena
Player Matchup: Patrick Beverley and Kyrie Irving
Cleveland (52-21) is sitting comfortably at the top of the Eastern Conference and is still viewed as the heavy favorites to come out of the East. It has already been reported that LeBron James will be sitting this game out for rest.
“Not too many chances and opportunities to rest one game and have four days off, so I thought it was a good opportunity to rest him,” head coach Tyronn Lue said.
With James now out of the lineup, the ball will be firmly in the hands of Kyrie Irving. In the previous meeting against the Rockets, Irving racked up 23 points and four assists on 52.9 percent shooting from the field.
The Rockets (36-38) are currently tied with the Mavs for eighth in the Western Conference. Houston needs a win to take sole possession of the final playoff spot in the West, but even with James out of the lineup a win against the Cavs will not come easy.
James Harden has placed his team on his back, putting up monstrous numbers averaging 29 points and 9.7 assists per game through the month of March. Unfortunately, Harden’s impressive play has not resulted in success for the Rockets. Houston enters Tuesday’s matchup losing four out of their last five games and giving up 104.4 points per game to their opponents.
“We need to be more aggressive,” Harden said.
“I think we’re playing at our best when we’re moving the basketball and defensively rebounding the basketball or just moving at a high pace,” Harden said. “That’s our brand of basketball, so no matter who we’re playing, if we play that way, we’ll be in good hands.”
These next four games for the Rockets (CLE, CHI, OKC, DAL) will be crucial to whether or not they make the playoffs. Both of these teams are very good at scoring the basketball, but lack a consistent pressure on defense. This game is going to be a high-scoring affair and we’ll see how much fight the Rockets have left in them.