More bad news for the Pelicans as star forward Zion Williamson will continue his rehab away from the team as he tries to return from a fractured foot. After there was initial optimism that Williamson would be back for the start of the season, his return has been delayed several times. That Zion is away from the team isn’t good news for his playing status this year. Here’s a look at two intriguing NBA matchups this weekend. Check back for NBA odds.
Best NBA odds of the weekend
Bucks at Nets, Friday
It’s a rematch of last season’s terrific Eastern Conference semifinal series won by the Bucks. Brooklyn star Kyrie Irving made his season debut Wednesday night but will not be allowed to play in this game because of New York City’s COVID vaccine mandate.
Will the Bucks have superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo and/or coach Mike Budenholzer? Both missed Wednesday’s game vs. the Raptors, with Budenholzer entering the NBA’s health and safety protocols and Giannis out with a non-COVID illness. The Bucks also have guards Grayson Allen and Pat Connaughton sidelined in health and safety protocols.
Antetokounmpo has scored 30+ points in a season-high three consecutive games after putting up 31 points with 10 rebounds and seven assists in Monday’s game against the Pistons. In five games since returning from the health and safety protocols, Antetokounmpo has scored 30+ points four times and is averaging 32.6 points, 11.2 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game while shooting 57.3% from the field.
The Nets’ Kevin Durant leads the league in ppg (29.7), is third in the league in 30-point games (14), trailing only LeBron James (15) and Trae Young (15). James Harden is second in the league in triple-doubles (seven), trailing only Russell Westbrook (nine). Harden has posted a league-leading three 30-point triple-doubles this season.
The Nets are 7-0 this season when scoring 120+ points. The Nets have won 27 straight games when scoring 120+ points (last loss: 149-146 on 1/31/21 at Washington), which marks the longest active streak in the league and the longest streak in franchise history.
The Bucks hosted the Nets on the opening night of the season, got their championship rings and won the gam 127-104. The Nets scored the first two points of the game, but after that it was all Bucks as they regained the lead and never trailed the rest of the game. Antetokounmpo led the Bucks 32 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists while Khris Middleton added 20 points and Pat Connaughton came off the bench to chip in 20 points of his own. Durant led the Nets with 32 points.
Heat at Suns, Saturday
Could be an NBA Finals preview. Will the Heat have Jimmy Butler? Butler injured his right ankle late in the third quarter of Monday night’s 115-108 loss to the Golden State Warriors and missed Wednesday’s game at Portland.
Butler had 22 points and five rebounds before his latest ankle injury. The Heat star has missed 15 games this season because of injuries. He missed four games from Nov. 29 to Dec. 4 because of a tailbone injury. He returned for one game and then banged his tailbone again, forcing him to miss eight straight games in December. Star big man Bam Adebayo is already out with a torn UCL in his right thumb.
Suns point guard Chris Paul currently leads the NBA in assists per game (9.9) and ranks fifth in steals per game (1.9) this season. Only six players in NBA history have led the league in both categories for a season, with the last coming by Paul during the 2013-14 NBA season.
Phoenix remains without center and former No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton. Ayton entered the health & safety protocols on Dec. 27, so he should be on the cusp of clearing quarantine, but then he might need a few practices to build back up his conditioning.
The Heat and Suns meet for the first of two matchups this regular season. Last season Phoenix won both matchups as the Suns have currently won three straight overall. The Heat are 29-36 all-time vs. Phoenix during the regular season, including 14-18 in road games.
- Nets and Suns