Each day Contest General offers you the opportunity to pick head-to-head NBA matchups from some of the league’s top games.
Friday night offers a nine-game slate, but ESPN’s doubleheader featuring Golden State visiting Milwaukee and Phoenix entertaining Houston will give fans a pair of what should be high-tempo shootouts.
The best game of the night is a Western Conference showdown between Portland and New Orleans.
Below is a guide on which teams to pick.
Golden State Warriors at Milwaukee Bucks
The Warriors seem to be injury-proof at this point because the team’s trajectory hasn’t changed no matter who has gone down. They’ll enter Friday’s tilt with Milwaukee riding a 10-game road winning streak, which includes victories over solid squads like the Heat, Pistons, Pelicans and Rockets.
Having the best road record, as well as best overall mark, in the NBA is reason enough to pick the Warriors. But, it’s also about how they’ve gotten to this point.
Golden State is easily the most potent offense in the league, but the Warriors are also fifth in defensive rating (points per 100 possessions) and are holding teams to just 43 percent shooting from the field (second only to Boston).
The lone knock against Golden State defensively is its inability to play it without fouling, allowing the ninth-most free throw attempts per game.
Some of that is due to pace, with the Warriors averaging the third-most possessions per 48 minutes in the NBA. Regardless, that could be problematic against a Milwaukee team that ranks eighth in free throw attempts per contest.
It’s not just Giannis Antetokounmpo, either. Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe also excel at creating contact and getting to the foul line. They are also big, physical guards that can give Stephen Curry some issues defensively.
It’s also worth noting that the Warriors get careless with the ball at times, as only the 76ers and Lakers turn the ball over more. Bucks opponents have the sixth-highest turnover percentage.
There are several factors to consider entering this game, and I’m not one to pick against Golden State often. But with all the injuries and with this being the first road game of a five-game East Coast swing, the Bucks will pull out a win at home.
Houston Rockets at Phoenix Suns
The Suns have the NBA’s worst scoring defense and the Rockets are averaging the second-most points in the league. That in itself tells you what kind of uphill battle Phoenix will be facing at home.
But, that’s just on the surface. Digging deeper reveals this may not be such a cut-and-dry Houston win.
The Rockets have struggled mightily as of late, losing four of their last six games on the road. In the last three weeks, Houston has lost to the Lakers and Clippers at home as well. James Harden is still out with a hamstring injury, but the Rockets are an impressive 9-6 without him since his trade to Houston.
Coming off of a win against Oklahoma City, the Suns shouldn’t be lacking confidence. Phoenix has won three of its last four at home while the duo of Devin Booker and T. J. Warren is one of the league’s highest-scoring combos. And the defensively challenged Eric Gordon could likely end up guarding one of them for extended stretches.
Ultimately, Phoenix is just too bad defensively and Chris Paul has been too good for anyone to consider the Rockets on upset alert, even with their recent struggles.
Portland Trail Blazers at New Orleans Pelicans
Something will have to give here.
New Orleans ranks fourth in scoring offense and Portland is tied for fifth in scoring defense.
These two have already split a pair of meetings in Portland, with the Blazers winning a slow-paced contest in October and New Orleans winning a shootout early in December. Anthony Davis played just five minutes in that first meeting due to injury.
DeMarcus Cousins has owned Portland’s front line, putting up 38.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in the two contests.
The Pelicans, who have the league’s third-worst scoring defense, have struggled to defend Portland’s bench. The Blazers backups have outscored New Orleans 92-59 in just two games.
However, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum have largely been kept under control in both matchups. This is just an awkward fit for Portland because of the two great bigs and increasingly healthy backcourt. Look for the Pels, who have won four of six at home, to continue their winning ways.