NBA Week 15 Preview: Five Games for the Week

Taylor SmithAnalyst IFebruary 2, 2010

ATLANTA - JANUARY 18:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder drives against Josh Smith #5 of the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on January 18, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

We're in the home stretch to the NBA All-Star break, and due to injuries or plain old fatigue, some teams are quite eager to make it there.

There are several great match-ups worthy of a viewing this week, so let's delve into what I believe to be the five most intriguing games coming up.

For Taylor's Week 15 NBA Power Rankings, go here.

Memphis Grizzlies at Cleveland Cavaliers, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 7pm ET

So, what's Memphis' reward for taking down Kobe Bryant and the Lakers Monday night?

A visit to Cleveland to face LeBron and his Cavs on Tuesday, of course!

The Grizz were able to snap a brief two-game skid by beating Los Angeles 95-93 on Monday, with 22 points and 17 rebounds from All-Star Zach Randolph.

Cleveland, on the other hand, has won eight straight, and sits alone in first place in the Eastern Conference.

James is making a strong bid to win his second consecutive MVP award, and is averaging 29.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, and eight assists per game.

James could be matched up for much of the night with Rudy Gay, one of the more underrated players in the league.

Gay has good size at 6'8" with long arms, and, although much thinner than James, should be able to put up a good fight against the King.

Atlanta Hawks at Oklahoma City Thunder, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 8pm ET

Given the struggles of the Celtics, the Hawks could be Cleveland's top competition right now out east.

They've finally managed to put all that young talent to use this season, and are 30-16 coming into this game.

Jamal Crawford is the likely front runner for Sixth Man of the Year, and Josh Smith,   finally putting everything together, is having a career year.

The Thunder have already surpassed last season's win total, and it wouldn't be much of a surprise if they were even able to double it.

Kevin Durant appears to have made "the leap" to superstardom, as he erupted in January to average 32.1 points and eight rebounds for the month. 

Durant is a lankier version of the aforementioned Rudy Gay; a player that can create his own shot and score from literally anywhere on the floor.

Considering the youth that will be running the floor tonight in Oklahoma City, these two surprise teams should be able to get up-and-down to make for an extremely entertaining ballgame.

Portland Trail Blazers at Utah Jazz, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 9pm ET

Just last Wednesday, Utah stormed into Portland and took down the Blazers 106-95.

The Trail Blazers have gotten a modest two-game winning streak going, as they look to continue on without Brandon Roy, who is battling hamstring problems.

They needed 52 points from Andre Miller to defeat the Mavericks Saturday night, but got much more of a well-rounded team effort in Monday's thrashing of the Bobcats.

Without Roy and both usual centers, the Blazers need to count on LaMarcus Aldridge to take on more of the scoring load, which is something he hasn't been used to yet during his brief NBA career.

The Jazz will come into this game one game removed from beating Dallas at home, 104-92, behind a strong fourth quarter effort.

Utah outscored Dallas 27-16 in that final frame, and were able to force several turnovers down the stretch that led to easy buckets on the offensive end.

They're currently riding a six-game winning streak, and could be without Carlos Boozer for the third straight game.

Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Lakers, Friday, Feb. 5, 10:30pm ET (ESPN)

This will be the second meeting of the season for the Nuggets and Lakers, last season's participants in the Western Conference Finals.

The first meeting was a dominating 105-79 win for the Nuggets, who held the Lakers to just eight points in the third quarter that night.

The Nuggets have been on a hot streak lately without star Carmelo Anthony, who has missed the last five games with an ankle injury.

It hasn't yet been determined if he'll be ready to play Friday.

The Lakers have been up and down of late, with Sunday's big 90-89 win in Boston being followed by Monday's loss in Memphis.

The Lakers are going to need more out of Andrew Bynum in order to contend with the strong front line of the Nuggets.

Bynum was essentially MIA against the Grizzlies, posting just five points in 26 minutes of action.

These are undoubtedly the top two teams in the Western Conference, which should make for an ultra-competitive, playoff-type game Friday night.

Orlando Magic at Boston Celtics, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2:30pm ET (ABC)

Just last Thursday night, the Magic defeated the Celtics in Orlando 96-94 on a driving layup by Rashard Lewis with little time remaining.

The Magic finally appear to have hit their stride by winning three in a row and look to start building on last season's success.

They made several significant changes to the roster in the offseason, and have struggled to integrate those players and duplicate their success from a season ago when they reached the NBA Finals.

The Celtics were perhaps able to snap out of their mini-tailspin with their 99-88 win in Washington Monday.

In order to truly contend, Boston is going to need to get more out of Ray Allen.

Allen's well-documented struggles have coincided with the Celtics', and there have even been rumors that Boston wouldn't be opposed to trading Allen before the Feb. 18 trade deadline.

Kevin Garnett and the Celtics will certainly be hungry for some revenge.

For more NBA feature article and fantasy advice, go to NBA Soup.


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