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5 NBA things to know for Jan. 8
Some key storylines and NBA tidbits to know for the day ahead
Jeff Case, NBA.com
The last time James Harden saw the Hawks, he lit them up for a career-best 60 points on Nov. 30. Even more amazing? He pulled off the feat in just 31 minutes with a shooting performance that included 16-for-24 overall, 8-for-14 on 3-pointers and 20-for-23 on free throws. As the Hawks host the Rockets tonight (7:30 ET, League Pass), there could be reason for concern for another Harden outburst. From Oct. 22 to Nov. 29, Atlanta ranked 26th in Defensive Rating, a category they rank 28th in since the Harden 60-point game. The good news for the Hawks? At least Russell Westbrook is out for this game.
Indiana hosts Miami (7 ET, League Pass) and, frankly, needs to fare better against winning teams this season. The Pacers are 6-9 against teams over .500 with their last such win coming on New Year’s Eve vs. the (Joel Embiid-less) Sixers. The Heat, on the flip side, are a stellar 14-7 against teams over. 500 — which is one of the best such records in the NBA. Pacers point guard Malcolm Brogdon is questionable with a lower back injury and keep an eye on an excellent in-the-paint matchup between the Heat’s Bam Adebayo and the Pacers’ Domantas Sabonis.
A mere two games separate the sixth place Mavericks from the second place Nuggets in the Western Conference. A looming showdown (7:30 ET, ESPN) in Dallas means all eyes will be on Kia MVP types Luka Doncic and Nikola Jokic. Denver’s Jokic is rounding into form of late and, since Dec. 1 is averaging 21.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game. As for Doncic, he already has 11 triple-doubles this season, including two straight and three in his last six games. Denver is looking to end its five-game road trip with a win, having logged victories in Atlanta and Indiana on the trip.
The West chase often provides little room to advance. Case in point? Try Utah. It has won six in a row, hosts the Knicks next (9 ET, League Pass) … and has only moved from sixth to fifth place in the West during that time. The Jazz are seeing some serious improvement on offense during the win streak, though, which began on Dec. 26. Since then, Utah ranks No. 2 in Offensive Rating, No. 1 in Effective Field Goal percentage, No. 2 in True Shooting percentage and No. 2 in 3-point percentage.
The Bucks got their season series with the Spurs out of the way, falling short in Monday’s matchup in San Antonio. But beyond that hiccup, things have been superb for Milwaukee since Nov. 14 (it is 26-3 in that span). Draymond Green will be back for the Warriors tonight as they host the Bucks (10 ET, ESPN) and will likely draw the unenviable task of guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo. Last season, Antetokounmpo had his way with the Warriors on the road (24 points, nine rebounds, four assists) and has been hot of late (27.8 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 4.8 apg in his last five games).