The NBA is back. The real NBA is back with actual games that actually count. After 141 days, play will officially resume tonight when the New Orleans Pelicans take on the Utah Jazz. Then, in the nightcap, two title favorites face off as the Battle of Los Angeles makes its way to Orlando. With so much time passing since the last regular-season NBA game, it would take a genius to make any type of predictions for what could go down.
The first matchup of the resumed NBA season will be between the Pelicans and Jazz. While New Orleans eyes one of the final playoff spots, Utah sits comfortably in fourth place in the Western Conference. In other words, this shortened, eight-game season means a whole lot more to one of these teams than the other.
It’s still somewhat unclear if basketball phenomenon Zion Williamson will be available for the contest after leaving the Orlando Bubble to tend to a family matter. Williamson has not yet been cleared to play but could be prior to tipoff. With or without their young star, though, the Pelicans will be ready to win. They were one of just two teams (Oklahoma City Thunder) to go undefeated in the new preseason.
The Jazz — who received plenty of backlash when Rudy Gobert became the first NBA player to test positive for COVID-19 — will be a bit short-handed when the season resumes. Forward Bojan Bogdanovic opted out of the season restart amid concerns over the current pandemic. However, they are still led by rising star Donovan Mitchell, who will be looking to push his team further up the conference standings before the playoffs start.
If Williamson can’t go, this game could go either way. If Williamson suits up, though, it will be hard to bet against the New Orleans Pelicans. They have plenty of young talent spread across several positions, one of the brightest future stars in the entire NBA, and a fire in their gut to reach the 8th seed and make the playoffs. Too many signs point to the Pelicans winning this one and inching toward the Memphis Grizzlies in the playoff race.
Two of the three best teams in the league face off for the Battle of Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Lakers vs. the Los Angeles Clippers. LeBron James versus Kawhi Leonard. A fight for Western Conference supremacy. You couldn’t ask for a better matchup to restart the NBA season.
Prior to the NBA shutting down, the Lakers had the second-best record in the league behind the Milwaukee Bucks. The Clippers weren’t far behind, sitting at second in the West with the fourth-best record in the NBA. The two teams are the only true heavyweights in the Western Conference, and both have their eyes on the ultimate prize. This game may not decide which team goes to the NBA Finals, but it will surely fuel the hype train in the meantime.
This game will be more than just a normal bought. Whether it holds any more weight than a typical regular-season game is yet to be seen, but it will undoubtedly command the attention of the entire basketball world and ravage the Twitterverse for days and weeks to come.
Both teams will be without a few key pieces, though stars Anthony Davis and Paul George should be good to go. The Clippers will be without Patrick Beverly, Lou Williams — at the expense of wings from a gentlemen’s club — and Montrezl Harrell, while the Lakers will be missing Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo. In their wake, the infamous J.R. Smith will reunite with long-time teammate James and Dion Waiters will look to earn a spot in the Lakers’ rotation.
Typically, the Clippers are a deeper, more well-rounded team. The Lakers, though, do have two of the three best players on either roster. The injuries to Bradley and Rondo will surely hurt the Lakers, but not as bad as the Clippers’ vacancies. In a game that technically only counts for internet clout and bragging rights, I like the team with two top-five players in the league.
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