Rockets, Celts making statements

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The NBA season is one month old and Golden State is atop the standings in the Pacific Division, rolling along at 10-3. But Warriors do not have the best mark in the West, albeit due to playing one game less than 11-3 Houston, leaders in the Southwest.

No other Western Conference team has more than 8 wins and one of them, Denver, is the surprise leader in the Northwest at 8-5, a half game better than Minnesota. San Antonio is the other 8-5 team which has them second to Houston in the Southwest.

That start would normally be considered disappointing until you consider the Spurs have been without both Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker since the season began and neither is set to debut in the immediate future.

If Cleveland does not lead the Eastern Conference it would be considered a stunner and indeed the Eastern leader is a surprise. Not that Boston sits atop the Conference (which they won last season due to Cleveland’s indifference down the stretch in gaining the top seed). Rather, the surprise is that the Celtics began the week 12-2, having won 12 in a row following an 0-2 start.

After losing Gordon Hayward to injury five minutes into the season opener the prospects for Boston were diminished. Now their other off season prized acquisition, Kyrie Irving, has missed a game due to injury but the Celtics continue to thrive. Close on the heels of Boston is a true surprise as Detroit leads the Central Division at 10-3. Cleveland sits third in the Division, 4 games behind the Pistons at 6-7. Only one other Eastern team has as many as 8 wins, the 8-5 Orlando Magic who lead the Southeast Division, a half-game ahead of Washington.

Three franchises that had enjoyed varying degrees of success in recent seasons appear destined for high positions in next season’s draft lottery.

Dallas has started the season 2-12 while Atlanta has opened the season 2-11 and Chicago was 2-9 through Sunday.

Fortunes can change quickly in the NBA where just 5 players participate in the game at any one time and thus a single player, or combination of 2 or 3 can and often has made a significant difference in just the first season of change.

Several teams are integrating multiple new key players into their rotations and often it does take a month or so for those assimilations to bear fruit So let’s wait a bit before suggesting that 6-7 Oklahoma City’s offseason moves will not work out.

Here are three interesting matchups this weekend.

LA Clippers at Cleveland (Friday): Both teams have losing records a month into the season with Cleveland 6-7 and the Clippers 5-7 through Sunday. The concern is greater for Cleveland whose roster has several new aging faces expected to play key roles. The Clippers are adjusting to life without CP3 and that should work out nicely within the next few weeks. But the concern is that the Clippers started the season 4-0 but had lost 5 straight and 7 of 8 through Sunday, indicating there may be other issues in play.

Cleveland will pace itself and pick its spots for putting forth its best effort and this should be one of those spots. The Clippers may have had too much rest after last playing on Monday. Cleveland played on Wednesday but has not played on back to back nights since the end of October and the Clips play Saturday in Charlotte. LA CLIPPERS

Houston at Memphis (Saturday): In one of the most unusual oddities of this NBA season the Rockets and Grizzlies are meeting for the fourth and final time with all four meetings occurring within a span of three and a half weeks. Memphis won the first two meetings, one and home and one in Houston and the Rockets took the most recent meeting at home just this past Saturday. All three games stayed UNDER the Total with the total points ranging from 188 to 207.

Houston has been a streaky Totals team this season, playing 6 straight UNDERs followed by 5 straight OVERs and entering this week having stayed UNDER in its last two games. Memphis has been a defensive oriented team for several seasons and hast started this season playing 8 UNDERs, 3 OVERs with 1 push. Let’s not buck what has been a profitable play for both teams this season even when not facing one another. UNDER

Washington at Toronto (Sunday): This is a revenge situation for the Raptors who lost, also on this court, to the Wizards 107-96 two Sundays ago. It has been the Raptors’ lone home loss in five games this season through Sunday. Both teams started the week 7-5 and remain among the favorites to challenge for the Eastern Conference title.

Toronto does not play again until Wednesday and having already lost to the Wizards on this court make this a bigger early season game for them should tie breakers come into play for the Playoffs. The Raptors may be favored by less than the 6.5 they were asked to lay in their first meeting and the revenge angle works well when the second meeting occurs not too long after the first. TORONTO

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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