Top 5 Bold Predictions for Week 20 in the NBA
The trade deadline has come and gone, all-star weekend is a thing of the past, James Harden’s 30-point shenanigans are over…. It’s time to move on from distractions and get down to business for the stretch run to the playoffs. That’s exactly what LeBron James is telling his teammates, at least. Will the Lakers get things going in time to right the ship? Will the Bucks keep winning? Will the Mavericks keep losing? Let’s dive 5 Bold Predictions for Week 20 in the NBA season.
Luke Walton will get fired if L.A. loses two of three
Lakers head coach Luke Walton continues to get votes of confidence from Magic Johnson and the rest of the front office. There is no way Walton is going to last beyond this season barring a miracle turnaround that includes some kind of playoff run, but can he at least get through this 2018-19 campaign? Johnson says yes. That “yes” may turn into a “no” if things don’t get better in a real hurry. Los Angeles hasn’t won two game in a row since Jan. 15-17, falling to 29-31 and three games out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. There are clearly issues both on and off the court. If the Lakers lose to either New Orleans or Phoenix (and presumably to Milwaukee in between), something needs to change and needs to change now.
Milwaukee’s winning streak will end
The Bucks have won five games in a row and they are 17-2 in their last 19 to take a two-game lead over Toronto in the Eastern Conference. They probably won’t give up all of their advantage—not this week and perhaps not at any point throughout the regular season—but they will lose at least once during the next seven days. That may not be an especially bold call given that Giannis Antetokounmpo’s knee is acting up and Milwaukee plays four more in a row on the road, but three of the upcoming opponents are out of the current playoff picture and the best of the four is an unspectacular Utah team. Still, the Bucks (perhaps without the Greek Freak) are due for a setback.
Dallas’ losing streak will end
Dallas has absolutely no incentive to win basketball games. It is out of postseason contention at 26-34 and it only keeps its 2019 first-round draft pick if that pick ends up being top five. The Mavericks would have to lose a lot more to be in good shape for a top-five selection, otherwise it goes to Atlanta as part of the Luka Doncic-Trae Young deal. All of that is to say that Dallas might continue losing despite a soft schedule. But Doncic is probably to good to let that happen—whether the Mavs want him to be or not. Look for Dallas to victimize either Indiana, Memphis, or Brooklyn on the upcoming slate.
Philadelphia will take over the East’s No. 3 seed
The 76ers getting the East’s third seed ahead of Indiana isn’t a bold call at all; they are the much more talented team. But for it to happen this week? That’s going out on a limb. Next up on Philly’s schedule are Oklahoma City and Golden State; Indiana has upcoming dates with Dallas, Minnesota, Orlando, and Chicago. But the Sixers won at Golden State on Jan. 31 and they generally get up for big games. As for the Pacers, sooner rather than later Victor Oladipo’s absence is going to be crippling.
James Harden will have two more games under 30
Given Harden’s propensity to be unable to throw it in the ocean at times during his 30-point streak, he finally got what he deserved on Monday. The 32 games in a row with at least 30 points did not become 33 when Houston beat Atlanta, as the favorite for NBA MVP finished with 28. Harden went 0-for-10 from three-point range, making him 2-for-20 from deep in his last two games and 6-for-33 in his last three, He has gone eight straight outings without shooting better than 50 percent from the floor. The Rockets’ next four opponents (Charlotte, Miami, Boston, and Toronto) are all solid defensively.