Wednesday offers a 12-game NBA slate that includes many of the game’s biggest stars. ESPN will showcase two early MVP candidates in James Harden and Blake Griffin. Both will be on display against teams that will struggle to defend them.
The Rockets and Clippers have looked like squads that can give Golden State a run for its money in the West, and Wednesday offers each a chance to remain hot into November.
Houston Rockets at New York Knicks
This will be one of the slower-paced games you’ll watch all year.
Both the Rockets and Knicks rank among the league’s slowest in terms of possessions per 48 minutes, but that’s where the similarities end.
The Rockets lead the league in 3-point attempts while no team has shot fewer triples than the Knicks.
As expected, Houston is among the best teams in the NBA and the Knicks are looking at summer starting early for the fifth straight season, which would be the franchise’s second-longest playoff drought in the last 50 years.
Unfortunately for Knicks fans this game will offer very little to get excited about besides the opportunity to see Harden in The Garden.
Harden’s 32.8 points per game against the Knicks is his second-most against any team since being traded to Houston prior to the 2012-13 season. There isn’t a team that Harden shoots the ball better from 3-point range against than the Knicks.
The Rockets are 9-1 against New York since acquiring Harden and a perfect 5-0 at Madison Square Garden. The last time Harden was in MSG, he became the first player in the last 30 seasons to have a 30-point, 15-assist double-double in the historic venue.
The question isn’t so much will the Rockets win, but how many points will be scored. Houston has registered 100 or more in nine of the last 10 meetings, averaging nearly 113 points per contest. New York has also averaged more than 100 points in that span. This might be a game to shoot for the over, even despite the slow pace of play.
Dallas Mavericks at Los Angeles Clippers
This game is a little lopsided on paper.
Since the start of the 2011-12 campaign, the Clippers have the fourth-best home record in the NBA, trailing only the Spurs, Warriors and Thunder. Dallas is just 12-31 away from home since the start of last season.
It gets worse.
The Clippers are the best defensive team in the league and could be one of the best in decades with a defensive rating of just 95.1 (points per 100 possessions). No team has posted a sub-96 defensive rating since the 2003-04 Pistons, who won an NBA title. It’s still early, but the Clippers have an elite defense.
And then there’s the Mavericks offense, which has the lowest field-goal percentage in the Western Conference as Dallas is one of just a handful of teams scoring fewer than 100 points per game.
The Mavs have also struggled to defend power forwards in particular, mostly due to starting Dirk Nowitzki. There’s no doubt that he’s a future Hall of Famer, but at this stage of his career he’s not mobile enough to defend hybrid fours and he’s not physical enough to defend centers on the block. The Mavericks have posted a defensive rating of 112 when Nowitzki is on the floor, which is by far the worst of his career.
Dallas struggled with the 76ers over the weekend and you can make a case that the combination of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid is like that of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in terms of physical gifts.
The Clippers have won 13 of the last 19 series meetings and eight of the last 10 matchups in Los Angeles. That’s unlikely to change on Wednesday.