Game Guide: Doncic-Booker face-off, Jazz on the heels of Warriors

Published January 17, 2022, 8:00 PMMiguel Flores

Luka Doncic and the Mavericks are set to clash with Devin Booker and the Suns, while the Jazz are hoping to catch up to the Warriors in the West standings as they battle it out this week.

North versus South

Raptors vs. Heat: Jan. 18, 8:30 AM on NBA League Pass

The current Eastern Conference playoff picture looks like a Jenga tower ready to collapse in any direction. Just look at where the two participants in this highlighted matchup are standing.

The Miami Heat (27-16) are tied in the win column with the Chicago Bulls (27-14), Brooklyn Nets (27-15), and Milwaukee Bucks (27-18) for first place, while the Toronto Raptors (21-19) are at eighth place, just three games away from the sixth seed and just one game ahead of 11th place.

This stack will fall gloriously one day and Tuesday's game will be one of the first pieces to be wiggled out of place. The best news is that both sides will be at their best health-wise.

The Miami Heat have been unlucky with both Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo missing big chunks of this season. Butler has played the last two games, while Adebayo is finally set to return against the Raptors.

Toronto has also been unlucky. They started the season without Pascal Siakam. Just when Spicy P was getting into his groove in December, they got hit with COVID-19 protocols up and down the roster. Luckily, Fred VanVleet has been playing like a legitimate All-Star. Don’t let the fan vote fool you: VanVleet is having a better season than both James Harden and Trae Young, despite being down in votes.

The Heat and Raptors play very specific styles of basketball, but they share a quality of always going hard. This game should feature plenty of 3s and hard-nosed defense.

Young Bucks against Champion Bucks

Grizzlies vs. Bucks: Jan. 20, 9:00 AM on NBA League Pass

The Milwaukee Bucks (27-18) were the Memphis Grizzlies (30-15) once: young and full of potential with the most exciting up-and-coming star on their roster. Now, the Bucks have aged out of that and blossomed into champions. Giannis Antetokounmpo has evolved from a fascinating anomaly to a perennial MVP contender.

Memphis wants some of that smoke. They've shown that they have what it takes to baffle some of the best teams in the league. In this game, they will try to take it to the defending champs. They may not have a massive win streak behind them anymore, but they’re still every bit as dangerous.

There’s a good chance the Bucks will turn this into a one-sided affair. Their roster is deeper, and the Grizzlies don’t have a clear answer for Giannis rampaging down the lane. But as we’ve learned from their previous games, we can never count the Grizzlies out.

All-Stars showdown

Mavericks vs. Suns: Jan. 21, 8:30 AM on One Sports

If we stopped the counting of All-Star votes and if only fan votes mattered, Devin Booker and Chris Paul wouldn’t be All-Stars. That’s a true travesty since Carmelo Anthony and Klay Thompson have more votes than Phoenix's backcourt. Russell Westbrook, the bane of the Lakers’ season, has also compiled more votes than CP3.

Do yourself a favor and watch the Phoenix Suns (33-9) as they face the Dallas Mavericks (24-19). Luka Doncic getting an All-Star slot always seems to be an easy consensus, but is he that much better than Booker? The numbers indicate that they aren’t that far off.

With Phoenix having the eternally reliable Chris Paul on their side, this game should show why the Suns have been the best team in the league. Even if it does end up being close, the prospect of the Suns testing their endgame execution against Dallas’ give-the-ball-to-Luka approach already sounds like loads of fun.


Grizzlies vs. Nuggets: Jan. 22, 10:00 AM on NBA League Pass

Nikola Jokic has been breathing fire onto the league in the last month. Has the scorched earth resulted in more wins for the Denver Nuggets (22-20)? Not really. But that’s more on the Nuggets getting the worst injury luck among contenders over the past three seasons.

In over four games last week, Jokic averaged a triple-double of 20.8 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 10.5 assists per game. He’s the only player leading his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, and field goal percentage. He’s single-handedly keeping the Nuggets alive in the standings.

The Nuggets have not won in two games against Memphis this season. Both games were close, with one coming down to a late blunder from the Nuggets. Look for Jokic to get some revenge against the explosive Ja Morant and the Grizzlies.

Best of the West

Jazz vs. Warriors: Jan. 24, 9:30 AM on NBA TV Philippines via Smart GigaPlay app

By the time this game happens, the Warriors might have already broken out of their slump. Since Klay Thompson’s return, the Warriors have lost three of their five games, with a couple of shocking blowouts stuffed in between. Plus, Steph Curry is shooting like a Monstar took his powers.

Should we be worried about the Warriors? Not really. This is just what happens when a team tries to reintegrate a player that hasn’t been with them for more than two years. They also didn’t have Draymond Green for most of those games.

The Jazz, for their part, won’t be interested in letting the Warriors get back into their groove. This game can pull the Jazz closer to leap-frogging Golden State for second in the standings, which could be important for determining home court advantage for a potential second-round clash in the playoffs. 

This will be a statement win for whoever comes out on top.