Orlando needs the return of Grant Hill to get over its foes

Nov 28, 2000 8:03 AM

The NBA season begins its second month. Injuries play a major part in the early season performances of many teams.

Orlando’s Grant Hill has appeared only briefly for his new team. The Magic begin the week struggling at 5-9 and looking up the standings at New Jersey and Boston. The New Jersey story is interesting, with new coach Byron Scott having to deal with injuries as well. Might he do as good a job this season with the Nets as Doc Rivers did last season with Orlando?

Miami is slowly adjusting to the loss of C Alonzo Mourning for the season. Heat coach Pat Riley will suffer his first losing November in almost 20 years of coaching. Philadelphia continues to lead the Atlantic Division, suffering its first losses of the season over the past week. Cleveland continues to pace the Central Division, playing very well with many new faces and healthy bodies. Their early-season highlight was their back-to-back, home-and-home sweep of Miami last week.

In the West, Utah leads the Midwest Division by a game over San Antonio, which is no surprise. However, Dallas has been a major early season surprise and trails the Jazz by just 1½ games. Coach Don Nelson’s faith in Dirk Nowitski a few years ago is being justified. The Dirkster has been a major factor in the Mavericks’ 9-5 start.

In the Pacific Division, Phoenix is setting the pace behind the efforts of former UNLV standout Shawn Marion, with Sacramento just a half game back.

The Los Angeles Lakers and Portland are just a game out of first. Then there’s already a significant dropoff to the rest of the division, including struggling Seattle. The SuperSonics are not so super, with coach Paul Westphal and star Gary Payton at odds. That continues to be reflected in the team’s poor overall play.

Here’s a look at some attractive matchups this weekend.

Friday, Nov. 1

Charlotte at Philadelphia: Philadelphia upset Charlotte in last season’s playoffs. Charlotte responded a week and a half ago by dealing the 76ers their first loss of the season, 88-73, snapping Philly’s 10-game streak.

Charlotte has been playing well despite some key injuries early, most notably Derrick Coleman, a significant contributor last season. Philly’s Allen Iverson hasn’t been asked to score as much this season, but he still has some awful shooting nights, especially in losses.

The 76ers have received solid front court play. Charlotte’s strength is in the back court, where both Baron Davis and David Wesley are off to fine starts. Expect the 76ers to place an emphasis on this game. Look for Philadelphia to get off to a quick start and play with the lead. The projection is for the Sixers to win by from 10 to 13 points.

Saturday, Nov. 2

Utah at Charlotte: Charlotte is returning home from Philly. Utah also played the previous night in Miami. In fact, this is Utah’s fifth game in seven nights as they wrap up a five-game road trip. Charlotte had three days of rest earlier in the week, but this is their third game in four nights.

Both teams figure to be fatigued. We might see many shots clanking off the rim with both back courts content to force a deliberate pace. The off-season addition of P.J. Brown enables Charlotte to match up well under the boards with Utah. Charlotte should be a slight favorite. The better play might be on the UNDER with the winner most likely struggling to reach 85 points.

Sunday, Nov. 3

Portland at Phoenix: These teams met in the season’s first week at this site, with Phoenix walloping the Trailblazers, 108-82.

The Suns have continued to play good basketball since then. Portland has been inconsistent and has struggled to win several games in which they were clearly the more talented team. Portland should be focused for this game. Whether they can give a full 48-minute effort is questionable.

Neither team has one "go-to" guy, but Phoenix seems to be able to better handle this situation than Portland. The Blazers have the edge up front, but Phoenix may have the two best players on the court in Jason Kidd and the ever-improving Shawn Marion. Portland is loaded with talent, but still hasn’t gotten over their playoff loss to the Lakers.

Phoenix is rested, while Portland just played last night in Houston. Look for Phoenix to be a small favorite, but for them to get the win by from 6 to 8 points.

John Bennett’s NBA Picks


Fri., Dec. 1
Char @ Phil Phil by 6
LAC @ Tor Tor by 9
Utah @ Mia Utah by 7
Minn @ Bst Bst by 3
NJ @ Orl Orl by 7
Clev @ Det Det by 2
NY @ Chi NY by 11
Ind @ Van Ind by 5
SA @ LAL LAL by 3
Phx @ Sac Sac by 5
Sat., Dec. 2
Milw @ Atl Milw by 3
Mia @ Wash Wash by 2
Minn @ NY NY by 5
Utah @ Char Utah by 3
Phil @ Clev Cleve by 6
Orl @ NJ NJ by 3
Port @ Hst Hst by 2
Sea @ Den Den by 4
Dal @ GS GS by 3
Sun., Dec. 3
LAC @ Bst Bst by 8
Ind @ Milw Milw by 5
SA @ Van SA by 7
Port @ Phx Phx by 3
GS @ Sea Sea by 4
Dal @ LAL LAL by 12
WEEK: 12-12-2
SEASON 35-30-5