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Five 1-on-1 matchups to watch this week: Karl-Anthony Towns vs. Rudy Gobert

The Houston Rockets finished last week as the NBA’s second-hottest team behind the Boston Celtics, and they figure prominently in this week’s most highly-anticipated one-on-one matchups, starting with a showdown Monday between Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook, followed by a clash Sunday between James Harden and Luka Doncic.

Here, we take a look at five of this week’s most intriguing head-to-head battles:

1. Karl-Anthony Towns vs. Rudy Gobert

Last regular season meeting: March 14, 2019

Gobert owns this matchup if we’re looking at this purely from a win-loss perspective. The back-to-back Kia NBA Defensive Player of the year has captured victories in 11 of the 14 times he’s matched up with Towns, but the Timberwolves’ star ripped the Jazz for a double-double (26 points, 12 rebounds) the last time they met. In fact, Towns enters the week having scored 25 points or more in five consecutive games and in six of his last seven contests, while draining three or more 3-pointers in six of his last seven games. Towns logged a double-double vs. Utah in three of last season’s four Jazz-Wolves games and, overall, he’s averaging a career-best 26.8 ppg this season.

Most of the damage inflicted by Towns in this matchup has come near the rim, where he shot 66.8% from fewer than five feet from the bucket. With Gobert protecting the rim, Towns’ shooting percentage from that distance falls to 46.7%. These players averaged a double-double against one another over the 14 games they’ve played.

Head-to-head stats below are via Basketball Reference.

Karl-Anthony Towns 3 11 22.5 11.0 2.4
Rudy Gobert 11 3 13.6 12.0 0.9

2. Damian Lillard vs. Russell Westbrook

Last regular season meeting: March 7, 2019

The last time these players faced off, Lillard produced one of those all-time memorable NBA moments. In that instance, Lillard sank a buzzer-beating 37-foot 3-pointer to punctuate a 50-point night as Portland ousted Westbrook’s Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5 of the teams’ 2019 first-round playoff series.

This time, we’re dealing with different teams and different supporting casts. The struggling Trail Blazers capped last week with a come-from-behind win against the San Antonio Spurs, while Westbrook’s new team, the Houston Rockets, got their seventh consecutive victory as he rested. Westbrook has improved his field goal percentage from last season and he’s playing 32.8 minutes per game — his fewest since 2013-14. The Trail Blazers expect to receive some help with the reported recent addition of Carmelo Anthony, but it’s unknown whether he’ll be available for this matchup. The last time Lillard and Westbrook faced off in the regular season, Lillard had 51 points, nine assists and five rebounds while Westbrook tallied 37 points, seven rebounds and three assists.

Head-to-head stats below are via Basketball Reference.

Damian Lillard 11 12 24.1 3.9 6.9
Russell Westbrook 12 11 30.2 7.2 8.0

3. Terry Rozier vs. Kyrie Irving

Last regular season meeting: April 5, 2017

The numbers point to Irving dominating this matchup, but don’t put too much stock into it. The last time these two matched up regularly was during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, when Rozier was playing in his first and second NBA seasons. Those two seasons, Rozier averaged just 1.8 and 5.5 ppg, respectively, over 17.1 mpg.

Rozier is the starter (and replacement for Kemba Walker) in Charlotte and is averaging 16.9 ppg in 32.2 mpg. The Nets, meanwhile, just completed a five-game road trip Saturday with a 117-111 win over the Chicago Bulls without Irving, who missed the first game of his Brooklyn tenure due to an injured shoulder. This matchup represents the second in a three-game homestand for the Nets, and Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson has said he doesn’t know whether Irving will return for the club’s next three games. If Irving can’t play, this matchup loses some of its luster. But Irving’s absence could pit Rozier against Spencer Dinwiddie, who collected 20 of his 24 points Saturday against the Bulls in the game’s final nine minutes.

Head-to-head stats below are via Basketball Reference.

Terry Rozier 1 3 3.3 2.0 0.8
Kyrie Irving 3 1 22.5 2.5 4.0

4. Jimmy Butler vs. Tobias Harris

Last regular season meeting: January 1, 2019

Two former teammates for half of last season square off. Butler’s teams win the majority of the time in matchups against squads featuring Harris, despite the latter’s teams capturing victory in two of the last three showdowns. Miami capped last week with a 109-94 win against New Orleans with Butler fighting through an illness to help the Heat to a 9-3 start, which ties for the club’s best-ever start. Harris, meanwhile, missed 23 consecutive 3-pointers over six games before bouncing back on Nov. 15 in an overtime loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Harris hit 3 of 4 from deep that night, marking the first time he connected on a 3-pointer since Nov. 4.

In his last three games, Butler has tallied 32 assists to 10 turnovers. While efficiency hasn’t necessarily been Butler’s game as of late, you can’t discount the plays he made on Saturday when it counted. Butler had four points, three rebounds and four assists in the fourth quarter and finished with a plus-nine. Overall, the Sixers have lost five of their last eight games. As a Clipper, Harris dropped 21 points the last time he matched up with Butler, who was a member of the 76ers back then.

Head-to-head stats below are via Basketball Reference.

Jimmy Butler 14 8 16.1 5.6 3.9
Tobias Harris 8 14 13.5 6.0 1.4

5. Luka Doncic vs. James Harden

Last regular season meeting: March 10, 2019

We know, we know … Doncic is in just his second season. But something about this matchup makes you wonder how and whether the outcome might affect the Kia MVP race. Doncic put together a triple-double (31 points, 13 rebounds and 15 assists) in a Nov. 1 showdown against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. Roughly two weeks later, he became the second player in NBA history to log a triple-double at Madison Square Garden before turning 21.

Harden, meanwhile, lit up the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday for 49 points on a career-high 41 shots to lead the Rockets to their seventh consecutive victory. He entered the week having scored at least 42 points in four of his previous five games, and just missed 40 points when he had 39 against the New Orleans Pelicans on Nov. 11. The series between these two is even (2-2), with Harden winning the last time they met. Interestingly, Doncic and Harden both average nearly a triple-double against one another.

Head-to-head stats below are via Basketball Reference.

Luka Doncic 2 2 20.3 9.5 5.0
James Harden 2 2 27.8 7.0 9.0

Underrated matchup of the week

Derrick Rose vs. Coby White

Last regular season meeting: November 1, 2019

White put together quite the week last week, lighting up the New York Knicks for 27 points and walking off the court in Chicago to chants of, “Coby, Coby” after setting a franchise record for 3-pointers made in a quarter (seven) to set a franchise record. White followed that up with a 26-point night in a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. Interestingly, White has the Bulls’ fan base buzzing the way it did when Rose was still the city’s beloved son.

Rose, meanwhile, presided one of the more bizarre losses you’ll see. The Pistons hit 50% from the field and 43% from deep on Friday, yet still fell 109-106 at Charlotte. Rose took responsibility for the loss, in part, because of a late turnover that paved the way for Malik Monk’s game-winning shot. In all, Rose committed six turnovers in the loss. A four-day layoff should help Rose and the Pistons refocus after losing four in a row. We all know Rose will be motivated to perform against his hometown team (which took him No. 1 overall in the 2008 Draft). This matchup of Bulls past vs. present should contain plenty of fireworks. These two have met before, with White’s squad winning on Nov. 1.

Head-to-head stats below are via Basketball Reference.

Derrick Rose 0 1 23.0 1.0 7.0
Coby White 1 0 9.0 1.0 0.0