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Here’s a look at the best battles in the National Basketball Association this week.
Thursday, Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. ET
There’s always a little extra emotion when the Sixers and Celtics play each other, but this game should be interesting for the divergent storylines. The Celtics are rolling: they’ve won eight of their last 10 games and sit in second place in the East. The Sixers are struggling: they’ve lost seven of their last 10 (as well as four straight games) and are dealing with player discontentment and chemistry issues. The Sixers have the chance to overcome all that and rise to the challenge — or the Celtics could assert their dominance right in their faces.
Friday, Jan. 10 at 9:45 p.m. ET
The Lakers and Mavericks played each other in the waning days of 2019, and the Mavericks want to avenge that 108-95 loss. They’ll have a great chance with the outstanding Luka Doncic, but the Lakers have been flat out dominant. LeBron James and company have lost just seven games this entire season and have been rolling over the competition like a runaway barrel. Luka and LeBron — two of the league’s best players at opposite ends of the age spectrum — facing off again is a must-see.
Friday, Jan. 10 at 10:30 p.m. ET
The Clippers are trying to get back on track after an embarrassing loss to the Grizzlies and a nail-biting win against the Knicks. The Warriors, on the other hand, are just trying to win their 10th game. There’s a lot more at stake for the Clippers, who are four games behind the Lakers and trying to keep pace while Kawhi Leonard deals with a knee issue. Don’t underestimate the Warriors, though. The Clippers recently got blown out by a team that’s barely better than the Warriors, so anything could happen.
Saturday, Jan. 11 at 10 p.m. ET
The Bucks have certainly asserted themselves in the East, and that’s due in no small part to Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is playing ball at a whole other level right now. Watching him is a treat and a delight, and while the Trail Blazers have underperformed this season, they’ll still be a challenge. Damian Lillard is putting up All-Star numbers and the Blazers have something to prove — that there’s still time for them to turn their season around.
Sunday, Jan. 12 at 3:30 p.m. ET
The Heat normally wouldn’t sweat a meetup with the Knicks, one of the least threatening teams in the NBA, but the Knicks actually showed some life over the weekend. They came within a hair’s breadth of beating the Clippers, and that kind of performance could energize them. Plus with Jimmy Butler and Justise Winslow both dealing with injuries, the Heat shouldn’t sleep on the Knicks.