Each day Contest General offers you the opportunity to pick head-to-head NBA matchups from the league’s slate of games.
Friday night offers an ESPN cross-conference doubleheader with Boston hosting Minnesota and Memphis entertaining Washington. Below is a guide on which teams to select.
Minnesota Timberwolves at Boston Celtics
No team in the NBA has played more games than the Celtics, which could be a good thing because of the roster turnover and inexperience this group had.
Boston has the best defense in the Eastern Conference, holding opponents to fewer than 100 points on 23 different occasions. But the thing that the Celtics do better than almost anyone else is force teams into low percentage shots. Boston’s 43.6 percent opponent field goal percentage is second only to the Warriors.
Seeing a Minnesota team that ranks fifth in field goal percentage and fourth in free throw attempts per game should present a nice challenge for Boston.
However, for as great as the Timberwolves – who rank fifth in offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) – are offensively, they struggle mightily from the three-point line. On a per game basis, only the Knicks make fewer three-pointers.
It’ll be imperative for the Wolves to make perimeter jumpers to help alleviate the pressure on Karl-Anthony Towns in the post and Jimmy Butler, who will see as many different and versatile defenders from Boston as any other team in the NBA.
For Boston, the Wolves offer the worst field goal percentage defense in the NBA. Something’s gotta give and it’s unlikely to be Boston’s fundamentally sound defense. Celtics win.
Washington Wizards at Memphis Grizzlies
This one is a John Calipari special with two of his best point guards ever going head-to-head. Tyreke Evans has moved off the ball moreso than in his Memphis Tigers days, but he’s actually outperforming John Wall from a PER standpoint.
However, it’ll be tough for Evans and the Grizzlies to compete in this one.
The Wizards rank eighth in the NBA in opponent field goal percentage and are the league’s best at defending the three-point line. Offensively, the backcourt of Wall and Brad Beal might be the league’s toughest to defend. It also doesn’t help that they’re coming in hot, with wins over the Rockets and Celtics in the last 12 days.
But, if there’s a saving grace for Memphis, it has to be the Wizards’ well-documented road woes.
Washington is below .500 away from home, which has been the case in 18 of the last 19 seasons. Its inability to win on the road is the glaring resume hole that keeps the team from being a legitimate contender in the East.
The win over Boston was on the road, but the Wizards have lost four straight away from home aside from that game.
The tempo of this contest will also be important. Grit and grind is alive and well in Memphis, whose 93.9 possessions per 48 minutes is the slowest pace in the NBA. If they can keep the game out of transition and allow Marc Gasol to get touches, the Wizards might struggle.
Ultimately, Washington is just better and this should be one of those games that is a no-brainer win.