The Schedule: Underrated Matchups
When the schedule comes out every year, the first thing most fans do is quickly parse through it to find games against the league’s premier teams – the Thunder, the Cavaliers, the Spurs… But sometimes in doing so, we overlook compelling storylines going on around the league. Here are some sneaky interesting matchups to look forward to next season:
On Friday, November 7, the Chicago Bulls come to Wells Fargo Center for the first of two games in Philadelphia this coming season (Wednesday, March 11 is the other). The Bulls hope that a healthy Derrick Rose, who has battled injuries in each of the last two seasons, will be able to stay healthy and lead the team to its first 50-win since 2011-12. In addition to the 2011 MVP, who’s played only 10 games since injuring his left ACL in April of 2012, the Bulls will also add veteran big man Pau Gasol to their veteran roster. The 34-year-old Gasol was signed as a free agent this summer and averaged 17.4 points (48.0 FG%), 9.7 rebounds, and 3.4 assists with the Lakers last season.
Perhaps no team had a more surprising 2013-14 campaign than the Phoenix Suns, who rallied behind rookie head coach Jeff Hornacek en route to a 48-34 record. That record left them just shy of earning a playoff berth in a tough Western Conference in April. Their 48 wins were nearly double their total from a season prior (25) and nearly 20 wins greater than the win total projected by oddsmakers on the eve of the season (19.5). Like Sixers head coach Brett Brown, Hornacek embraced a high-tempo, transition-heavy offense that averaged a league-high 18.7 fastbreak points per game; Philadelphia ranked fourth with 17.4 per game. Phoenix makes its only trip to Wells Fargo Center on Friday, November 21.
It’s easy to forget that the Dallas Mavericks were just one game away from knocking out the eventual-champion San Antonio Spurs in the opening round of the 2014 Playoffs, evening the series at three apiece at home before falling on the road in Game Seven. This summer, they added versatile swingman Chandler Parsons, defensive-minded center Tyson Chandler, and veteran point guard Jameer Nelson to their inside-out combo of Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis. Dallas comes to town on Saturday, November 29.
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