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Games to Watch: December 9-16

While the Clippers’ loss to the Warriors was disappointing, the NBA season marches on. Here are a few games this upcoming week that should be circled on the calendars of big NBA (and Clippers) fans.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Clippers Games:

The Clippers play four games over the next week, the most attention-grabbing of which is their contest against the Trail Blazers on Monday December 12. They are the only one of the four that would currently be seeded in the playoffs, albeit as an 8th seed. The Clippers and Blazers have also developed a bit of a rivalry recently, mostly based off the Clips’ loss to them in the 1st round of the playoffs last year. Portland has struggled to start the season, sitting at a record of merely .500 despite high expectations. They simply lack high-end talent outside of their star back-court, and the two wings they heavily paid this offseason, Allen Crabbe and Evan Turner, have disappointed mightily. The Clippers are certainly no stranger to disappointment lately, but still outweigh the Blazers in the talent department. Playing at home, this is an important game for the Clippers to win and regain momentum.

Nationally Televised Games:

Rockets at Thunder, Friday December 9 on ESPN at 8:00 PM ET: This game tonight is a matchup between perhaps the two leading MVP candidates through the opening 20+ games of the season. Russell Westbrook and James Harden have been insanely productive to start the season, and their statistics have translated into wins for their teams. Westbrook has dragged a Thunder team bereft of scoring talent to 14 wins, while Harden has led a potent Rockets offense that has proven to be nigh unstoppable so far. They are not complete one-man bands, however. Westbrook has been supplemented by Victor Oladipo and Andre Roberson on the wing, both of whom are shooting career highs from deep. Harden’s game has been completely opened up by the arrival of sharpshooters Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon (!!!!!) from New Orleans. The duo has started the season on fire from deep, and most importantly, remained healthy. These teams are both quite good and extremely enjoyable to watch (and both potential rivals for the Clippers in the playoffs). This game should be awesome.

Celtics at Spurs, Wednesday December 14 on ESPN at 9:30 PM ET: The Celtics are the third or fourth best team in the Eastern Conference, and should be a good challenge for the Spurs. Clippers’ fans want to see the Spurs start to drop a few games, as they currently have a nice little cushion above the Clips for the 2nd seed in the Western Conference. The Celtics aren’t necessarily the most interesting team to watch, but they do have Isaiah Thomas, one of the most explosive scorers in the NBA. He can go off at any time against any team, and the only slightly above-average Spurs defense is certainly no exception. The Spurs, a far different team than they were even two years ago, are powered by Kawhi Leonard’s MVP-caliber play and a terrific bench. Manu Ginobili is still a joy to watch at age 39, though his effectiveness is waning, and Patty Mills is one of the best reserves in the NBA. Hopefully the Celtics can drop the Spurs at home, and the Clippers make up a little bit of ground in the playoff seeding race.

Knicks at Warriors, Thursday December 15 on TNT at 10:30 PM ET: I can never really root for a Warriors win, but I wouldn’t mind if they beat down the Knicks in this one. They are one of the biggest surprises in the NBA with a 12-10 record, and I’m tired of hearing about it. Carmelo Anthony is one of my favorite ever players, and I always support him. On the other hand, Joakim Noah is annoying, and Kristaps Porzingis is just everywhere. Look, I love the ‘Zingis too, but there can definitely be too much of a good thing-- if I see one more “UNICORN!!” tweet I’m going to lose it. More importantly, the Knicks organization contains Phil Jackson and Derrick Rose, two guys who I don’t appreciate watching succeed. I hope Steph drops 50 on Rose, and that the Knicks lose big. Seriously though, the Knicks have been fun to watch this year, and while I don’t think they can keep this close, it has the potential to be an entertaining game.