The second-best teams in their respective conferences — The Los Angeles Clippers (31-14) in the west and the Miami Heat (31-13) in the east — are gearing up for for a weekend showdown. Plus, the NBA is experiencing Zion Mania. Zion Williamson plays on Friday and again on Sunday. Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks will have a fun meeting in Utah against Donovan Mitchell and the hot Utah Jazz, who recently jumped into first place ahead of the Denver Nuggets in the difficult Northwest division.
Both Los Angeles teams are on the road playing on the East Coast, and playing some of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, including the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers. The Clippers are struggling without Paul George in the lineup (hamstring), while the Lakers are pumped to have Anthony Davis back after he missed five games with a bruised tail bone.
Friday, Jan. 24
Denver Nuggets at New Orleans Pelicans
LA Clippers at Miami Heat
Saturday, Jan. 25
Dallas Mavericks at Utah Jazz
LA Lakers at Philadelphia 76ers
Sunday, Jan. 26
Houston Rockets at Denver Nuggets
Washington Wizards at Atlanta Hawks
Boston Celtics at New Orleans Pelicans
Zion Mania continues with two home games over the weekend. Zion dazzled fans with 22 points in his NBA debut, including a flurry of scoring in the fourth quarter that showed the world a glimpse of what the #1 pick in the NBA draft is capable of doing on a nightly basis.
Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets will be in New Orleans on Friday night. Then on Sunday, the Boston Celtics will be in the Big Easy to catch a peek at Zion.
NBA Friday: Clippers and Heat Clash
Denver Nuggets (30-14) at New Orleans Pelicans (17-28)… The Pelicans lost in Zion’s debut, but the rookie is seeking his first victory of the season. The Nugs dropped two out of their last three game, including losses to playoff teams like the Houston Rockets and Indiana Pacers. The Nugs lost their #2 spot to the surging Utah Jazz. Jamal Murray has been sidelined with a sprained ankle. The time frame for his return is unknown. That means Willie Barton will have to increase his scoring output.
LA Clippers at Miami Heat (31-13)… The Heat boast the best home record in the NBA with a 20-1 clip in Miami. The Clippers are beatable on the road with only a 12-10 record. The Clips are fresh off a shocking loss to the lowly Atlanta Hawks, but Paul George has been nursing a hamstring injury. Doc Rivers’ Clippers will be playing their fourth game on this lengthy road trip, which includes one more game in Florida against the Orlando Magic on Sunday. The Heat recently overcame a speed bump when they went 2-3 and lost to non-playoff teams (e.g., Knicks, Nets, Spurs). Jimmy Butler’s squad won two in a row to get back on track.
NBA Saturday: Jazz Soaring, LeBron in Philly
Dallas Mavericks (28-16) at Utah Jazz (31-13)… The Jazz had a 10-game winning streak snapped by the Pelicans, but they’ve won 13 out of their last 14 games to seize the #2 seed in the west. Donovan Mitchell recently exploded for a career-high 46 points. The Mavs won five out of their last six games. Doncic leads the Mavs with 29.1 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 9.0 assists per game.
LA Lakers (36-9) at Philadelphia 76ers (29-17)…. The Sixers are 20-2 in Philly, which is one of the best home records in the NBA behind the Heat. LeBron James is thrilled to have Anthony Davis back in the lineup after a nasty fall. The Lakers had an embarrassing blowout loss against the Celtics, but bounced back with two more wins. The Lakers will finish out their five-game road trip against a Sixers squad that will be without Joel Embiid, who had surgery to repair torn ligaments in his hand.
NBA Sunday: Zion Reprise
Houston Rockets (27-16) at Denver Nuggets (30-14)… The Rockets have been in rough shape the last couple of weeks. They sunk to the #6 seed overall during a 1-5 streak. They finally snapped a four-game skid with a tremendous win over the Nuggets in Houston. But even though the Nugs are without Murray, they’ll have a chance to avenge the loss in the thin air of Colorado.
Washington Wizards (15-29) at Atlanta Hawks (11-34)… Two of the worst defenses in the NBA will meet, which means we can expect a lot of scoring and Swiss cheese defense all night. The Wizards average 114.9 points per game, which is ranked #5 in the NBA in scoring. Bradley Beal and Trae Young will be a fantastic matchup to watch because both players could drop 50 against each other.
Boston Celtics (29-14) at New Orleans Pelicans (17-28)… The Celtics recently overcame a couple of three-game losing streaks in which they were 2-6 over an eight-game span. They won two games since then, including a 32-point blowout over the visiting Lakers. The Celtics have the third-best defense in the NBA, allowing only 105.4 points per game, head down to New Orleans for the Zion Williamson Show.