Game Guide: Matchups to catch heading into the New Year

Published December 27, 2021, 4:00 PMJon Carlos Rodriguez

Devin Booker vs. Jayson Tatum, Nikola Jokic vs. Steph Curry are just some of the battles to look forward to as we usher in the New Year.

Future-proofing the West

Grizzlies vs Suns: Dec. 28, 10:00 AM on NBA TV Philippines via Smart GigaPlay app

The relatively young Phoenix Suns (sorry CP3, this doesn’t include you) have established themselves to be in the high-tier of teams that are dangerous. The Memphis Grizzlies, on the other hand, are in the process of establishing that.

Nearly midway into the season, the Grizzlies have accumulated big win after big win. They’ve survived a rough stretch without Ja Morant. They’re developing young talents. If the season ended today, they’d finish in the top four in the West. If someone said they’d predicted that would happen, that person is lying. Grizzlies games are a must-watch.

Former MVPs face off

Nuggets vs Warriors: Dec. 29, 11:00 AM on NBA TV Philippines via Smart GigaPlay app

It’s a battle of former MVPs when the Denver Nuggets play the Golden State Warriors. Last season’s MVP Nikola Jokic has been quite literally doing it all for the unlucky Nuggets. Without Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., Jokic has been forced to carry the load. We all know that when push comes to shove, Jokic won’t back down.

The Golden State Warriors are a shove. The top team in the league will surely give Jokic and the Nuggets all types of problems. First item on the list is two-time MVP Steph Curry. It would be interesting to see two teams with contrasting styles like the Warriors and the Nuggets clash. How do you contain Steph? Who can stop Jokic? 

KD back?

Nets vs Sixers: Dec. 31, 8:00 AM on One Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers are 0-2 against the Brooklyn Nets this season. Kevin Durant dropped a triple-double in their first matchup, then followed it up with a 34-point, 11-rebound game. He seems to like playing against Philly.

It remains to be seen if KD will be available for part three, and this might just be the opening the Sixers need. Bad news for them, James Harden and Patty Mills don’t mind playing without Durant. The Sixers are outside of the top four in the East, where they usually are, while the Nets are sitting comfortably at the top of the conference standings. Add that to the list of motivating things Philadelphia needs to finally get one over Brooklyn. 

Book vs Tatum

Suns vs Celtics: Jan. 1, 2:00 AM on NBA League Pass

The last time these two teams met, the shorthanded Phoenix Suns defeated the shorthanded Boston Celtics by 21 points. The Suns did it without Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton and had to rely on–get this–a monster game from JaVale McGee. The Celtics, meanwhile, terribly missed Jaylen Brown.

Fans were robbed of a classic cook-off between Booker and Tatum, but we’ll all get a chance this time–health permitting. Both Book and Tatum can light it up with a flick of a switch, so that’ll be fun to watch. The Celtics may want to avenge their previous loss to the Suns, but more than that, they’re on a quest to climb back to elite status. 

The defending Western Conference champs Suns would be a good barometer for that.

“Defensive Player of the Year”

Jazz vs. Timberwolves: Jan. 1, 10:00 AM on NBA League Pass

The last time the Utah Jazz and Minnesota Timberwolves played, Rudy Gobert’s defensive capabilities were questioned by both Anthony Edwards and Patrick Beverley. Former Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert naturally responded with his own brand of spice.

Should Gobert, Edwards, and Beverley all be available for this game, it would be an exciting matchup for pettiness alone. Outside of that, the Jazz and the Wolves are two teams known to heat it up on a good night. Watch out for Gobert, who might be extra motivated to make sure it won’t be one for the Wolves.