Each day Contest General offers you the opportunity to pick head-to-head NBA matchups from some of the league’s top games. Wednesday night presents an ESPN doubleheader with Boston hosting Cleveland and the Lakers entertaining Oklahoma City.
Below is a guide on which teams to select in those matchups.
Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics
By now, their first meeting has become Boston lore, a game that’ll be remembered for the catastrophic injury to Gordon Hayward and the night Danny Ainge and the Celtics realized several first-round picks were going to be extremely solid NBA players sooner rather than later.
But, since Opening Night, the question has been whether this team is capable of beating Cleveland four times in two weeks if they were to meet in the postseason. And while no regular season win will be overwhelming evidence, it would be a nice start.
Boston’s roster has been overhauled from last year, but the franchise has lost eight of 12 to the Cavs since LeBron James left South Beach for Cleveland with six of those 12 meetings being decided by six points or less. This matchup will come down to a battle of styles with Boston owning the league’s best defense rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) and the Cavaliers trailing only Houston and Golden State in offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions).
Cleveland ended 2017 by losing four of its last five games. The return of Isaiah Thomas should provide a boost, though he’s already been ruled out versus Boston. This is yet another statement game for the Cavaliers, who are undefeated against the other top four teams in the Eastern Conference.
King James and company will walk out of Boston with a win that solidifies their dominance in the East.
Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Lakers
From a style standpoint, this is another intriguing matchup.
Oklahoma City has the third-best scoring defense in the NBA, while the Lakers rank 29th in points allowed. The fact that the Thunder participate in playing defense and the Lakers seem allergic to it isn’t the only noticeable disparity – these two teams play at vastly different paces.
Los Angeles leads the league in possessions per 48 minutes, while OKC ranks 26th in that metric.
Fortunately for NBA fans, typically the Lakers win the battle of tempo, forcing other teams to play at a quicker pace. But what does that do for the Lakers chances to win the game?
Russell Westbrook is 16-4 vs. LA in Oklahoma City’s last 18 meetings with the Lakers. It must be said that all four losses have occurred in Hollywood. The Thunder have struggled mightily on the road this season, posting just a 6-11 mark in their first 17 games.
Los Angeles is just 1-10 in its last 11 games overall. Oklahoma City won nine of its last 13 games to end 2017, seemingly becoming the team NBA pundits expected to see this season.
It’s hard to pick the Thunder to lose this game, even though it is on the road against a lesser team, a situation OKC has struggled with this season.
The Fighting Russell Westbrook’s should win rather easily.