Each day Contest General offers you the opportunity to pick head-to-head NBA matchups from some of the league’s top games.
Friday offers a seven-game slate with ESPN featuring some of the brightest stars in the Eastern Conference when Detroit hosts Washington and New York visits Utah.
Below is a guide on which teams to pick.
Washington Wizards vs. Detroit Pistons
The Wizards are shooting up the standings in the East thanks to winning eight of 11 games entering MLK Day. Some of the victories during that stretch were at Boston, at home against Houston and against a gamut of non-playoff teams.
Meanwhile, the Pistons have been hot and cold, depending on where they’re playing.
On the road they’ve struggled mightily, losing six of seven games, with some of those losses coming to non-contenders like Dallas, Orlando and Chicago. However, Detroit has been great at home, winning five of its last six with victories over the Spurs and Rockets included.
Washington resides in the top-10 in both scoring and opponent scoring, while Detroit has been atrocious offensively (25th in scoring) but stellar defensively (t-5th in opponent scoring).
Their first two meetings this year – both in Washington – ended in Wizards wins with wildly different scripts. John Wall and Brad Beal combined for 51 points on 30 shots, with Otto Porter adding 28, in the first clash.
Wall didn’t play in the second meeting and Beal scored just 10 points, suggesting that the Wizards should’ve been run out of the gym, but four other players landing in double figures – as well as 41 bench points – did the Pistons in.
If Detroit doesn’t get more from the bench, it will likely be headed toward an 0-3 start against a conference rival. The biggest key might be the play of Ish Smith. If he can defend better than Reggie Jackson did in the first two meetings — he averaged a defensive rating (points per 100 possessions) of 116 — the Pistons will be much more formidable.
Detroit will be more competitive, but Washington is playing great basketball right now and being healthy is a huge reason why. Wizards win.
New York Knicks vs. Utah Jazz
Both teams have seen better days and injury problems have been a major reason why.
Exiting the MLK holiday, Utah had lost 15 of its last 19 games. Not far behind, New York had dropped 11 of 15 and that includes an MLK Day win over rival Brooklyn.
So, the good news is one of these squads is going to get a win that has been difficult to come by over the last six weeks.
Utah being at home is huge, as Salt Lake City is still one of the premier home-court advantages. The Jazz are 13-8 at home this season, which is a better mark than current playoff teams like New Orleans, Portland and Miami.
Meanwhile, the Knicks have been a train wreck on the road, posting a 5-15 record including that win over the Nets. It gets worse for New York, which is in midst of a seven-game, 11-day road trip.
It also helps that Utah is so good defensively. The Jazz play at a slow pace, ranking 28th in possessions per 48 minutes, which is part of the reason they rank sixth in opponent scoring.
Even with all that, Utah is playing without Rudy Gobert and Thabo Sefolosha, two of the best defensive players in the NBA. Kristaps Porzingis is averaging 24.2 points over his last five games. Utah has no matchup for him, so the Knicks should pick up a much-needed road win.