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NBA: Resurgent Kawhi Ready for Battle of LA

Two of the marquee rivalries in the NBA are renewed as the Lakers and Clippers collide in the Battle of LA, while the Heat and Celtics clash in the East.

The Clippers – currently the No 6 seed in the West – are six spots up on the Lakers in the NBA standings, but the latter are only two games behind, so a win would cut the Clippers’ lead in half.

Meanwhile, the East-leading Celtics, who are currently dealing with a number of injuries to key players, travel to Miami to face a Heat team that is hoping to gain some momentum, while the West-leading Denver Nuggets pay the struggling New Orleans Pelicans a visit.

Read on below as SBOTOP previews these three upcoming marquee NBA matchups.

Boston Celtics @ Miami Heat

The league-best Boston Celtics saw their nine-game winning streak come to an end last night as they lost to the Orlando Magic, 113-98.

Star forward Jayson Tatum returned from a one-game absence to drop 26 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists, but he was unable to make up for the absence of three key players in guards Marcus Smart and Malcolm Brogdon, as well as centre Robert Williams.

While Smart and Williams are dealing with injuries, Brogdon missed the game due to personal reasons and it remains to be seen whether he will be able to return.

Stars Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who have only just return from injuries themselves, could also be given a rest on the second night of a back-to-back against the Miami Heat.

The Heat are looking to build some momentum after going just 2-2 in their last four games. After suffering a 115-90 defeat to the Mavericks, they edged the Pelicans 100-96 on the road last time out. Tyler Herro led the way with 26 points while Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo both had 18.

Herro and Adebayo have been the Heat’s stars against Boston this season. Herro is averaging 24.3 points on 51 per cent shooting and Bam is averaging 23.3 points on 58 per cent shooting in three games against the Celtics.

Denver Nuggets @ New Orleans Pelicans

Like the Celtics, the West-best Denver Nuggets had their nine-game win streak snapped by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the Oklahoma City Thunder, 101-99. But despite the loss, Denver still have a 2-game lead atop the West with the Grizzlies suddenly slumping.

The Nuggets were without superstar centre Nikola Jokic, who sat out due to a hamstring injury. Jokic remains questionable to play against the Pelicans, while Michael Porter Jr is also questionable due to personal issues.

Nikola Jokic’s absence might affect Nugget’s performance in their next NBA game against the Pelicans
Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic vies for a rebound with the Minnesota Timberwolves players during their NBA game at Ball Arena

Jokic’s return would obviously be huge for the Nuggets. The two-time defending MVP has recorded a triple-double in five of his last six games.

The Nuggets will like their NBA 2023 odds of getting back to winning ways against the slumping Pelicans, who have lost four straight games and nine of their last 12.

With All-Star forwards Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram still out of the lineup, the Pelicans simply haven’t had enough firepower to keep up the positive start they’ve had to the season.

Although, Ingram has been upgraded to doubtful to return from his two-month absence due to a toe injury.

LA Clippers @ Los Angeles Lakers

The Clippers finally have their first winning streak of 2023 after beating two Texas teams in the Spurs and Mavs. And to the delight of Clippers fans everywhere, Kawhi Leonard seems to be getting back to top form.

Kawhi has averaged 30 points on 54 per cent shooting over the last seven games he’s played. That includes a season-high 36 points on 13-of-18 shooting against his old team, the Spurs.

Kawhi’s return to form comes at the right time for the Clippers, who play seven of their next eight games on the road. Although, they will in essence be at home at crypto.com Arena when they take on the Lakers.

The Lakers are in the midst of their own two-game win streak after amazing comebacks against the Grizzlies and Blazers.

LeBron James, who struggled with his shot against Memphis (8-21 FG), bounced back with 37 points on 14-of-24 shooting against the Blazers. However, James is questionable to play against Kawhi and the Clippers due to left ankle soreness.

The Lakers made NBA 2023 news as they traded for forward Rui Hachimura, but he is unlikely to be ready to make his debut against the Clippers. Anthony Davis, who is closing in on his much-awaited return, is also still not ready to play.

Russell Westbrook will lead the Lakers offence in LeBron’s potential absence. After a sustained run of consistent production, Westbrook had his worst game in a while as he finished with just 6 points on 3-of-13 shooting in Portland.




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