Game Guide: Giannis vs. KD, DeRozan show, countdown to Klay’s return

Published January 3, 2022, 4:00 PMRenee Ticzon

Giannis and KD are set for another showdown, DeMar DeRozan has been incredibly clutch for the Bulls, and it’s only a matter of time ‘til we see Klay Thompson back.

Avoiding a freefall

Cavaliers vs. Pacers: Jan. 3, 7:00 AM on NBA League Pass

The Cleveland Cavaliers are running out of guards. First, it was Collin Sexton who sustained a season-ending injury, then Ricky Rubio followed. It was heartbreaking to see Rubio tear his ACL again, especially because he was having such a breakout year with averages of 13.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 6.6 assists. Rubio was the perfect veteran that held the young Cavs team together and helped them get to where they are right now.

It’s a good thing Darius Garland is also averaging career-high numbers with 19.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 7.3 assists. However, Garland is still in the league’s health and safety protocols. Cleveland’s offense has been left on the hands of Kevin Love, and that says a lot about the need for the team to shake things up. 

To address their guard issue, the Cavaliers traded Denzel Valentine to the Lakers in exchange for Rajon Rondo, who has yet to clear the league’s medical protocols. Rondo will be given a bigger role with the Cavs than the Lakers, so the expectations for him to deliver are also higher.

Houston, we have a problem

Rockets vs. 76ers: Jan. 4, 8:00 AM on NBA League Pass

Conflict has been brewing within the Rockets camp. In their blowout loss to the Nuggets, Kevin Porter Jr. reportedly lost his temper in the team’s dugout at halftime after assistant coach John Lucas confronted him and Christian Wood.

KPJ reportedly left the arena following the confrontation, while Wood did not play in the second half (coaches’ decision), leaving him scoreless in eight minutes of play. Rockets head coach Stephen Silas called the halftime issue a “spirited debate”. 

"I have certain demands of this team as far as playing hard. ... I wasn't satisfied with the effort," Silas said in the postgame media availability.

There is still no conclusion to this developing story. To make things worse, the Rockets won’t have much time to relax as they are scheduled to face the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday. It’s not yet clear if KPJ or Wood will play. With Joel Embiid still playing at an elite level averaging 26.3 points and 10.8 rebounds, not having Wood will definitely hurt Houston’s chances.

DeMar DeRozan show

Bulls vs. Magic: Jan. 4, 9:00 AM on NBA League Pass

If you have not kept up to date with the Chicago Bulls, you’re missing quite a lot. DeMar DeRozan delivered back-to-back game-winning 3s on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. It was the first time any player did such a feat in league history. While this may be the topic of most headlines, Zach Lavine’s performance also deserves recognition.

Lavine entered the league’s health and safety protocols on December 12. After 15 days, he returned like he never left. Some guys need time to warm up after being gone for so long, then there’s Lavine who averaged 27.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 5.2 assists in five games – numbers that are higher than his actual season averages. 

What makes this Chicago team so good is not just one player who’s hitting timely shots; it’s the team’s collective effort to work hard for wins every single night.

Is Klay back?

Heat vs. Warriors: Jan. 4, 10:00 AM on NBA TV Philippines via Smart GigaPlay app

It seems like Klay Thompson is giving Keeping Up with the Kardashians a run for its money. Why? Because everyone is watching the news about him like episodes of reality TV. He was first projected to return on Christmas Day before it was changed to the start of 2022.

Klay has played with the Santa Cruz Warriors, Golden State’s G League affiliate. He has also been practicing with the Warriors team. Even his teammates are hinting that his comeback will be a lot sooner than later.

So when is it, Klay? Everyone’s so excited to see you back on the floor.

Someone’s got to give

Bucks vs. Nets: Jan 8, 8:30 AM on TV5

The top of the Eastern Conference’s ranking is bound to change. The Milwaukee Bucks are steadily inclining with a six-game winning streak. They are practically neck-and-neck with the Brooklyn Nets as they play with a win percentage of above 65 percent. Giannis Antetokounmpo continues to improve, recently dropping 35 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists for the first time in his career against the Pelicans.

Kevin Durant and the Nets, in contrast, are coming off back-to-back losses. Durant is leading the league in points at 29.8 per game, while James Harden is topping the assist column with an average of 9.9. There’s no doubting the caliber of talent that the Nets have; it’s just that the Bucks are also playing at a high level. This will definitely be an exciting showdown between the two Eastern powerhouses.