Top 5 Bold Predictions for Week 21 in the NBA
My first bold prediction is that nowhere in this piece will I mention a certain team from Los Angeles—and I can tell you right now that prediction is going to be correct. While every other piece of NBA literature bloviates about those guys, this one won’t fall into the trap. What (or “what else” would perhaps be more accurate) will transpire throughout the upcoming week in the association? Let’s touch on some other pretenders and also some very real contenders in order to find out. Here are 5 bold predictions for week 21 in the NBA.
Miami will make its move
Dwyane Wade and company are currently tied with Charlotte for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference (the Hornets hold the tiebreaker with a 2-0 lead in the head-to-head series)—a half-game ahead of Orlando. The two teams collide again on Wednesday for an absolutely crucial contest in the Queen City. Although the Hornets are solid at home (20-13), the Heat are actually better on the road (15-16) than they are in Miami (14-18). With Wade producing heroics on a nightly basis and his team having won two in a row, look for a minor upset to take place. The Heat follow that one up with a friendly schedule in the form of Cleveland on Friday.
Denver will take over the West’s No. 1 seed
The Warriors often go through regular-season doldrums, but this is bad even by their standards. They are 3-5 in their last eight games after getting humiliated at home by a struggling Boston side 128-95 on Tuesday. That has kept Denver just 1.5 games out of first place in the Western Conference heading into Friday’s head-to-head showdown. Don’t be surprised if the Nuggets win, while also taking care of Minnesota and some other lowly opponent that I’m not going to mention on their upcoming schedule. Home-court advantage out West might slip away for the Warriors…but they also might not care.
Trae Young will go for 40—this time without four OTs
Young went wild to the tune of 49 points in Atlanta’s quadruple-overtime loss to Chicago last Friday. His team faced Chicago again two days later and he had 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting (3-of-4 from three-point range) midway through the third quarter before being ejected for staring down Kris Dunn following a three (they each had one technical already stemming from a prior skirmish). The rookie out of Oklahoma endured an off night—finally—on Monday, so for multiple reasons he will have a chip on his shoulder this week. Count on Young heating back up, especially against one of the worst defensive teams in the league (New Orleans) at home on Sunday.
Dallas will find a way to keep losing
As predicted, the Mavericks found the win column last week to end a five-game losing streak (beat visiting) Indiana. But they promptly lost to Memphis by 30 at home and fell at Brooklyn by 39. This team is in shambles—and it doesn’t care that it is. Dallas, which must give its first-round pick to Atlanta as part of the Luka Doncic-Trae Young trade if it isn’t in the top five, won’t become one of the five worst teams in the NBA no matter what happens down the stretch. But with each place it falls in the standings, the percentage of landing a top-five selection grows. Even with Washington and Orlando coming up on the schedule, expect the Mavs to continue losing…and losing big.
Russell Westbrook and Damian Lillard will have an epic duel
Oklahoma City vs. Portland on Thursday could be a 4-vs.-5 Western Conference playoff preview, and it won’t disappoint. Westbrook has delivered two straight triple-doubles against the Trail Blazers and in the first head-to-head meeting this season he went for 31 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists during a 111-109 road victory. Paul George just returned from a shoulder injury and looked rusty in Tuesday’s loss at Minnesota, giving Westbrook every reason to take matters into his own hands and go off. Lillard is averaging 29.6 ppg in three outings against OKC.