NBA January Preview
Stephen Curry is now the clear favorite to win the NBA regular season MVP award after setting some impressive records in recent weeks. The Golden State Warriors superstar broke Ray Allen’s all-time record for 3-pointers before Christmas, and he set another record by making a 3-pointer for the 158th straight game on Saturday.
He is now the +125 favorite for the award with several sportsbooks, while former teammate Kevin Durant has drifted out to +250. Both men are poised to blaze a trail of destruction across the league once more in January. We have rounded up the biggest games to look out for and provided a futures betting update.
Miami Heat vs. Golden State Warriors
Monday, January 3, at Chase Center
The Dubs will bid to consolidate their lead at the top of the Western Conference when they host Miami on Monday. They have a .800 win percentage this season, the best mark in the league, but they are still just one win clear of a talented Phoenix Suns team. Curry has excelled, but Draymond Green has also been magnificent, Andrew Wiggins continues to exceed expectations, and Klay Thompson is on the brink of a return to action.
The Heat are up to fourth in the east after embarking upon an impressive five-game winning streak. They missed Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo for a tough 10-game stretch, but they still came out with eight wins and just two defeats. The Covid-19 outbreak has impacted Miami’s frontcourt, but there is now light at the end of the tunnel in that regard, and it has also allowed the likes of Gabe Vincent and Max Strus to prove their worth.
Miami has enough quality to cause the Warriors plenty of problems at Chase Center. This will be the Warriors’ first home game of 2022, so there should be a great atmosphere. These teams split the series last, but Golden State should ultimately prevail this time around.
Phoenix Suns vs. New Orleans Pelicans
Tuesday, January 4 at Smoothie King Center
The Suns have the second-best record in the NBA this season, but they are now preparing to play eight of their next 10 games on the road. They recently suffered a couple of tough clutch defeats to the Warriors and the Grizzlies, but they remain an elite team, led by Devin Booker, who is putting up 25.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 4.0 made threes since returning from injury.
Phoenix should be capable of beating the Pelicans, but they will need to be at their best against a team that recently won five out of six games. The Pelicans are up to the giddy heights of 14th in the west after going 6-4 in their last 10, and they now have the Thunder, OKC, the Spurs and the Kings in their sights. They are becoming one of the feel-good stories of the season, underscored by the way they overturned a 23-point deficit to beat the Cavaliers, and they could claim another major scalp on Tuesday.
Boston Celtics vs. New York Knicks
Thursday, January 7, at Madison Square Garden
Former Celtics backcourt duo Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier combined to devastating effect on their return to Boston in the week before Christmas. Both Knicks guards scored season-highs – 29 for Walker and 32 for Fournier – but it was still not enough to lead their short-handed team to victory, as the Celtics won 114-107.
These teams are now neck-and-neck in the Eastern Conference standings with 17-19 records. They both need to improve if they hope to reach the playoffs, and it will be fascinating to see which team prevails at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks’ defense has regressed badly this season, while the Celtics are dreadful in clutch situations, so anything could happen in this game.
Denver Nuggets vs. Dallas Mavericks
Tuesday, January 11, at Crypto.com Arena
A three-game winning streak has carried the Nuggets up to fifth in the Western Conference. They have a horrendous injury list, but the individual brilliance of reigning MVP Nikola Jokic has still inspired them to some great performances. Jokic put up 26 points, 22 rebounds, eight assists, two steals and two blocks to put the Clippers to the sword last Sunday, and he managed 22 points, 19 boards, five assists, four steals and a game-winning block against the Dubs.
It will be interesting to see if Jokic can do enough single handedly to lead his team to a win against the Mavericks. Dallas is very much in the hunt for a playoff place in a wide-open Western Conference. The Mavs are by no means championship contenders, but a team featuring Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis has enough talent to beat a depleted Denver.
Brooklyn Nets vs. Chicago Bulls
Wednesday, January 12, at United Center
The Bulls have stormed to the top of the Eastern Conference after winning seven games in a row. Chicago fans are starting to dream of glory this year, but the Bulls will need to prove themselves against the Nets, who remain the favorites to win the NBA Championship.
This could be the game in which Kyrie Irving makes his debut for the season. He will be eligible for away games after winning his tug-of-war with the franchise and clearing Covid-19 protocols, so his debut will either come against the Pacers on January 5 or the Bulls on January 12. It will be exciting to see him combine with Kevin Durant and James Harden, and to see if Brooklyn deserves its status as the favorite.
Golden State Warriors vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Thursday, January 13, at Fiserv Forum
The Dubs will come up against the reigning NBA champion in Milwaukee next Thursday. It could be a preview of the NBA Finals, as Golden State is the favorite to win the Western Conference and Milwaukee is the second favorite in the Eastern Conference.
The Bucks are starting to look like the team that swept aside all of its rivals last year. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday combined for 80 points in last week’s win against Orlando, and a six-game winning streak has carried the Bucks up to third in the east. This should be a fascinating contest between two elite teams.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Utah Jazz
Thursday, January 13, at Vivint Arena
The Cavs are enjoying their best season since LeBron James left, but an ACL injury to reserve guard Ricky Rubio dented their momentum. He had become a vital player following a season-ending knee injury to Collin Sexton, but the arrival of four-time All-Star Rajon Rondo should plug the gap to a certain extent.
The Jazz have the best offense in the NBA this season, with 118.3 points per 100 possessions. They still need to prove they are an elite team in the playoffs, but they have been crushing it in the regular season, and they could go on to win the first title in franchise history. They should beat the Cavs in this game.
Chicago Bulls vs. Memphis Grizzlies
Saturday, January 17, at FedExForum
Memphis looks like a legitimate contender in the west this year. The Grizzlies are currently on a four-game winning streak, and Ja Morant continues to delight with his acrobatics and his all-round talent.
This game against an impressive Chicago Bulls team could prove to be an interesting litmus test for the Grizzlies’ ability to go deep into the postseason. DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine have been on fire for the Bulls, and if their key players are healthy, they can compete with anyone. However, there is not a great deal of depth within the roster, so Chicago fans will have to hope the likes of DeRozan, LaVine, Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso can stay healthy.
The game takes place on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, in the city that houses the National Civil Rights Museum, so it should be a stirring occasion.
LA Lakers vs. Miami Heat
Sunday, January 23, at FTX Arena
It is always fun to see LeBron James return to Miami. The Heat are surging with momentum right now, having won eight of 10, and they could be a lot more dangerous if key players are back in business by the time the Lakers roll into town.
It has been a difficult season for the Lakers, who are 18-19 and languishing in seventh place in the west. LeBron scored 30-plus points in four consecutive games recently, and the Lakers still lost all four. Miami looks like a more complete team, and it should overwhelm the Lakers in this game.
LA Lakers vs. Philadelphia 76ers
Thursday, January 27, at Wells Fargo Center
The Lakers recently tried to send Russell Westbrook to Philadelphia in exchange for wantaway star Ben Simmons, but they were met with a swift rebuttal. That could add another layer of intrigue to this game.
The Sixers are coping reasonably well without Simmons, and they are currently sixth in the east after winning their last three games. No team has been in more clutch games than the 76ers this season – they are 11-11 in the 22 games in which the winning margin was 5 points or less in the final 5 minutes – and they are typically involved in entertaining clashes.
Futures Betting Update
The Nets are the +155 favorites with FanDuel to win the Eastern Conference this year. The Bucks are now priced at +300. The Heat are third in the betting at +650 with Caesars Sportsbook, followed by the Sixers at +1200.
The Dubs are best priced at +260 to triumph in the west, followed by the Suns at +350, the Jazz at +550 and the Lakers at +700. FanDuel makes Brooklyn the +260 favorite for the title, with the Warriors best priced at +550 with Caesars, the Bucks at +750, the Suns at +800, and the Lakers the +1300 outsiders.