10 Most Underrated Home Games
BOSTON – All of the buzz surrounding Wednesday night’s NBA schedule release has been attached to the league’s marquee games. It’s time to change that.
We’re all excited to see LeBron James come to town with the Cavs, and to see Kevin Durant do his thing at the Garden with the Thunder. That’s a given. But there are plenty of games on Boston’s schedule that are flying under the radar. Here’s 10 of them, in order of date.
November 17 vs. Phoenix
Remember that loaded Western Conference last season? All eight of the teams that made the playoffs won at least 49 games. Only two teams reached that mark in the East. Falling just below that mark were the Suns, who notched 48 wins and narrowly missed the postseason.
This young Suns team is now one year older. It added two first-round picks in scorer T.J. Warren and point guard Tyler Ennis, as well as former Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas. If Eric Bledsoe returns, this is going to be a very entertaining – and good – basketball team.
December 3 vs. Detroit
Laugh at this choice if you must, but don’t be surprised if the Pistons make some noise this season.
There is talent across the board on Detroit’s roster, and it added solid players in D.J. Augustin, Caron Butler and Jodie Meeks this offseason. More importantly, Detroit hired Stan Van Gundy as its head coach and president of basketball operations. He’s one of the best coaches around, and he’ll get the best out of Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings and Co.
December 17 vs. Orlando
Orlando isn’t going to win a title this season but it will be a fun team to watch. The Magic have stocked up on young, athletic talent over the past two drafts by bringing in Victor Oladipo, Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton. Along with Nikola Vucevic and veteran additions Luke Ridnour, Channing Frye, Tobias Harris and Ben Gordon, this Magic team is primed to surprise some people.
January 2 vs. Dallas
First of all, Dirk Nowitzki. He alone is enough to put this one on your radar. But when you start putting pieces like Monta Ellis, Chandler Parsons, Tyson Chandler, Jameer Nelson, Richard Jefferson, Devin Harris and Al-Farouq Aminu around the future Hall of Famer, you’ve got yourself one heck of a team.
Dallas won 49 games last season and took the eventual champion Spurs to seven games without Parsons, Chandler, Nelson, Jefferson and Aminu. Just imagine how good they could be this time around.
January 5 vs. Charlotte
As the surprise team of the East last season, the Hornets (formerly known as the Bobcats) made the playoffs thanks to an MVP-type season from Al Jefferson. The former Celtic averaged 21.8 points per game and 10.8 rebounds per game while leading Charlotte to 43 victories.
The Hornets were active in free agency and added Lance Stephenson, Marvin Williams and Brian Roberts to their core. The ESPN NBA Summer Forecast chose them to finish fifth in the East – ahead of the Heat, Nets and Pacers.
January 12 vs. New Orleans
You want entertainment? Get to the Garden to watch Anthony Davis this season. This guy is the next big thing in the NBA.
“The Brow,” as many call him, averaged 20.8 PPG and 10.0 RPG last season. He also dropped 40 points and 21 rebounds on the Celtics during an overtime win on March 16. Watching him go at it with Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk will be extremely entertaining.
February 1 vs. Miami
LeBron took his talents back to Cleveland, but that doesn’t mean there’s now a dearth of talent in South Beach. Miami still has perennial All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and it also added two-time All-Star Luol Deng, Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts while retaining Mario Chalmers, Chris Andersen and Udonis Haslem.
The Heat no longer have the top player in the world, but they’re still going to be very, very good.
March 1 vs. Golden State
Golden State is a team everyone should want to watch after winning 51 games last season in entertaining fashion. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, also known as the Splash Brothers, might be the top backcourt in the league. Curry is now an All-Star and Thompson very well may be in the next few years. Who doesn't want to watch Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley try to slow them down?
March 11 vs. Memphis
The Grizzlies seem to be a second version of the Spurs; they win about 50 games every year, yet there’s no buzz around them. Let’s put it this way: if you love great basketball, come watch this team play.
Marc Gasol, who might be the best all-around center in the league, is the leader of this pack. Mike Conley, who is probably the most underrated point guard in the league, isn’t far behind him. And don’t forget about former Celtic and defensive stalwart Tony Allen, as well as two-time All-Star Zach Randolph.
April 14 vs. Toronto
Toronto is the defending Atlantic Division champs that nearly advanced to the Conference Semifinals last season. This is another team that people don’t get excited about, but they should. The Raptors are one of the rising teams in this league.
With all of its key parts returning, highlighted by Kyle Lowry and All-Star DeMar DeRozan, Toronto is eying a much deeper trip into the playoffs this season. In the second-to-last game of the season, both the Celtics and the Raptors could be fighting for playoff positioning.