For the TNT Tuesday night double-header slate on December 6th, there are a pair of games that could turn out to be fantastic matchups.
First, the Los Angeles Lakers will fly to Ohio to take on LeBron James’ former team in the Cleveland Cavaliers. Will the Lakers keep winning games behind incredible performances by Anthony Davis or will the team-oriented attack of the Cavaliers be too much for the Lakers to handle on the road?
After that game, the Denver Nuggets will take on the Dallas Mavericks in Texas for what could be a preview of a Western Conference playoff matchup between the two postseason hopefuls. The Nuggets have glaring issues, but still have locked in quite a few wins; good enough for the third seed in the Western Conference. The Mavericks have statistically produced at a high level, but do not have the wins to show for it.
Let’s dive into each game.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs Los Angeles Lakers
Tuesday, 10/25 at 5:30pm MST on TNT in Cleveland
The first game of the TNT Tuesday night double-header will be between LeBron James and his streaking Lakers in LeBron’s home state of Ohio against the Eastern Conference’s third seed Cleveland Cavaliers.
Somehow, after a start about as despicably bad as could be imagined, the Lakers are 8-2 in their last 10 games and have pulled their record to 10-12 and just one game outside of the play-in tournament. Anthony Davis has been incredible over this stretch of games, LeBron has returned from his injury absence, and Russell Westbrook is surprisingly thriving in his bench role. Is this just a nice stretch of games by the Lakers or proof that they can be a tough NBA team as constructed? That question will be answered when the Lakers head to Cleveland to take on the Cavaliers.
Within their home area, the Cavaliers are 10-1 this season. They have already ripped out 15 wins on the season and sit in the third seed in the Eastern Conference at 15-9. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games, Donovan Mitchell has been everything they could have hoped for, Kevin Love has been the veteran leader of the group, Evan Mobley continues to show the league just how good he is on a nightly basis, and Darius Garland is still getting into a flow after missing the first portion of the season due to injury. At the time of this writing, the Cavaliers have the fourth-best net rating in the league at +6.3. Regardless of how someone analyzes the game of basketball, the Cavaliers are a formidable team. It is safe to say that the Cavaliers have quite the upside for the future and a potential to make a leap this season.
- Cleveland will be favored entering their home game against the Lakers, but only by four points according to DraftKings Sportsbook. I know the Lakers have played better as of late, but the Cavaliers are just simply better and they are at home. Seems like the line should more heavily favor the Cavaliers.
Denver Nuggets vs Dallas Mavericks
Tuesday, 10/25 at 8pm MST on TNT in Denver
Until the Denver Nuggets figure out how to defend consistently, it will continue to deter many from having faith in their ability to win deep into the playoffs. Yes, the Nuggets are third in the Western Conference at 14-9 after 23 games and they are one of a select group of teams without double-digit losses, but their defense has been abysmal and, even with a seemingly improved bench unit, the floor gives out whenever Nikola Jokic exits the court for a short spell of rest.
Jamal Murray has looked more and more like himself as the games continue to fly by, but that is only on offense. He, like the rest of the roster, is failing to execute on defense even if the offense has been strong. Denver is fifth in offensive rating (115.7), but a horrid 26th in defensive rating (114.4) which has cratered their ability to string together wins. It does not help that their games lost due to COVID-19 or injuries continue to stack up higher and higher. The Nuggets have the makings of a truly elite team, but that group has not been seen in their entirety so far this season.
Things are much different for the Mavericks; who are already looking like they have maxed out their roster despite sitting at 11-11 after 22 games. They have waived Facundo Compazzo and brought in Kemba Walker in an obviously desperate attempt to add some improved guard play alongside Luka Doncic, but the truth of the matter is that this roster is not much better than a middling team around a true superstar in Doncic who is being asked to carry far too much of the burden.
This can be seen statistically when you compare the hard truth that, despite being 11-11, the Mavericks are one of the few teams who are top-10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Dallas is ninth in offensive rating (113.2) and eighth in defensive rating (110.8) with a net rating of +2.4 which is eighth-best in the league. Thanks to Doncic, Dallas is statistically very strong, but with so many other issues around Doncic, their record is right at .500 which is just not good enough in the Western Conference.
- Despite being on the road and in a funk, the Nuggets are starting out as 4.5 point road favorites according to DraftKings Sportsbook. Considering Denver has not been great away from the Mile High City and still have no ability to defend pick and rolls, this might be a good chance to grab the Mavericks as home underdogs at a good value.
- Both teams will feature a possible MVP candidate. Luka Doncic is currently tied with Jayson Tatum for best odds to win MVP at +270 according to DraftKings Sportsbook while Nikola Jokic sits at +2000 despite being the back-to-back winner of the MVP award the past two seasons.