Things are getting down to the wire in the NBA’s regular season, and that means that each game is more important than ever to the teams looking to improve their playoff positioning or grab one of the last playoff spots in their respective conference. This weekend features games featuring teams in those exact spots, as well as the top seeds in each conference in action. These are the three NBA games you cannot miss this coming weekend.
Golden State Warriors vs. Memphis Grizzlies
It will be interesting to see how the Golden State Warriors handle this game against the Memphis Grizzlies, given that it comes on the heels of a very important game for the Warriors against the San Antonio Spurs. With the Spurs being the only true competition in the Western Conference for the Warriors, one would expect that Golden State will put everything they have into that game, which could leave the NBA’s best squad vulnerable when it comes time for this Saturday night contest.
Meanwhile, the Memphis Grizzlies have been dealing with the worst injury situation in the entire NBA, losing the vast majority of their starters to ailments throughout the season. Memphis has a chance to finish in the top five in the Western Conference, but they will need to win some of their final few games to get there given that the Portland Trail Blazers are right behind them. Winning this game would be not only important for keeping themselves in fifth, but for momentum heading into the playoffs as well.
As far as the matchup on the floor, Golden State really does have a massive advantage over the Memphis Grizzlies at the moment due to all of the injuries to Memphis. Even without those injuries the Golden State Warriors are the best team in the NBA and would be the favorites in this one, theoretically speaking. How much the Warriors have left in the tank after what will surely be a tight and difficult game against the Spurs will be the key here, but picking the Warriors to win should be the right move.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Chicago Bulls
First of all, whoever decided to schedule the NBA games at the times they did on Saturday night should be reprimanded. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls are tipping off just one half hour after the start of the aforementioned game between the Warriors and Grizzlies, making it hard for NBA fans to watch the top seeds in each conference play since they are playing at the same time. It’s a rare mistake from a normally fan friendly NBA.
Looking at this game, it’s a battle of two teams that were thought to be among the best in the NBA heading into this year, but have failed to reach those heights for various reasons on each side that could very well prevent them from reaching playoff performances that would be satisfactory given the level of talent on each team.
When looking at the Cleveland Cavaliers, it’s been a lack of focus and cohesion that have prevented them from being great. Despite clearly having the most talent of any team in the Eastern Conference, Cleveland hasn’t been able to play a strong 48 minutes with enough consistency to look like a legitimate threat to win the NBA Finals should they get there. This has resulted in blowing double digit leads and other things that just shouldn’t happen to such a talented roster.
Chicago Bulls fans have had to endure a similarly frustrating year, with a complete lack of defense being the reason for their struggles this year. In switching from former head coach Tom Thibodeau to current head coach Fred Hoiberg, the Bulls have lost their edge on defense, which has proven insurmountable for a team that doesn’t boast an elite offensive punch. As a result, they are in danger of missing the NBA playoffs entirely.
Chicago tends to play well against the Cavaliers, and will need to in this game to keep themselves afloat in a tough playoff race at the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff charts. But LeBron James will always be the most talented player on the court at any given time, and the Bulls might not have enough answers to combat him effectively in this spot. Take the Cavaliers with confidence in this game.
Golden State Warriors vs. San Antonio Spurs
This is the main event of the weekend, as the two best teams in the NBA go toe to toe for the second time in just four nights for a chance to prove themselves ahead of what should be an amazing Western Conference Finals between the two. The last time the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs met in San Antonio, the Spurs locked Golden State down defensively. Can they do it again and make a statement to their Western Conference foe?
The answer is that San Antonio can stop the Warriors again in theory, but it probably won’t happen a second time, at least not to the same level that it did the first time. The Warriors are too good at making adjustments and moving the ball to allow themselves to be defended the same way in two meetings, which should lead to a very interesting cat and mouse game of adjustments between Warriors head coach Steve Kerr and Spurs coach Greg Popovich.
While it is nonsense that the two best teams in the NBA have to play each other twice in four nights just before the playoffs, it gives these two games a main event feel, as if all season was building up to these moments. That makes the games even more exciting, even if it’s not necessarily the best thing for either team from a competitive standpoint heading into the playoffs.
As far as picking this game is concerned, it is hard to pick against the Spurs at home, as they have proven to be invincible there so far this season and have already defeated Golden State on their home floor. While it’s equally difficult to go against the Warriors at any point, you’ll be glad you made that decision if you roll with San Antonio in this massive matchup.
By Jason M. Sanin