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NBA on MLK Day: Three key matchups

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There’s a packed NBA schedule on MLK Day. The Bucks and Nets meet in an Eastern Conference showdown. Stephen Curry and LeBron James go head-to-head once again in the final game of the night.

Kevin Durant and James Harden play their second game together for the Nets. Victor Oladipo is in line for his first appearance as a Rocket. The MLK day games are loaded with storylines and star power. For fans in Europe, there’s the added bonus of a healthy slate of games before midnight.

As we preview the MLK Day games, we’ve identified three key matchups that will define the marquee games.

Lakers perimeter D on Curry

The Warriors are 1-5 when Steph Curry scores less than 30. They are 5-1 when he scores 30 or more. That’s some neat symmetry, but it’s also representative of how reliant Golden State is on the two-time MVP. Only one other Warrior, Andrew Wiggins, is averaging more than 11.7 per game. Wiggins has been good since a poor start, but he’s still inconsistent and shooting just 43.2% from the floor.

Curry faces a Lakers team which owns the best defensive rating in the NBA. Opponents are shooting under 34% from three, and they are doing a good job of not fouling. LA has size to trouble Curry on drives, and in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Wesley Matthews and Alex Caruso, they have perimeter defenders who can make Curry’s life difficult.


Frank Vogel is unlikely to deploy box-and-one defenses or aggressively trap Curry like others have. The Lakers’ attempts to slow his scoring will be more reliant on individual defense and squeaky clean rotations.

The Warriors will fall under .500 with an MLK Day loss. Curry must get the better of the Lakers’ perimeter defense if the Warriors are to avoid a three-game losing streak.

Jrue guards The Beard

Brooklyn and Milwaukee are the two favorites to come out the East. There’s every chance this is a preview of a Conference Finals meeting. The blockbuster trade for Jrue Holiday was for matchups like this – he is among the best perimeter defenders in the game, and will get the majority of reps against James Harden on Monday.

Harden and Durant’s partnership started with a win over Orlando. The Beard posted an historic triple-double against a depleted Magic squad. His conditioning will be tested much more sternly by the Bucks and Holiday. These are two teams who have gone all in, two teams who have sold their future for a shot at a Championship this year or next.

This is not Holiday and Harden’s first meeting, nor will it be the last between the two on their new teams. It is an important marker in the development of both franchises, however, and an early indicator of where the balance of power lies in the East.


Oladipo vs LaVine

Victor OIadipo is in line for his Rockets debut on MLK Day. Houston faces the Chicago Bulls, who got an impressive win over the Mavericks on Sunday. Oladipo will matchup with Zach LaVine – the former Timberwolves guard has been playing great basketball of late.

Both have been the subject of trade rumors. Oladipo is apparently unhappy that he has ended up in Houston, while LaVine has become the trademark imaginary third star for many a contender.

They’re different players, but the similarities are plentiful. Both have been through major injuries. Both are trying to prove they are All-Star caliber stars.

This MLK day matchup might be between two teams under .500, but it’s an interesting storyline of two guards still searching for their place in the NBA hierarchy.

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