Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:01 AM

Monday's Essentials

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Game of the Night - Golden State (-3.5, 225.5) at L.A. Clippers, NBATV, 10:35 ET

The Warriors open their busiest week of the season, playing five games between now and Sunday night. Stephen Curry, nursing an adductor strain, won’t play until Thursday’s game in Houston at the earliest and may miss the week entirely. Golden State will remain in Texas for a Saturday-Sunday back-to-back in Dallas and San Antonio, giving Curry an opportunity to return in one of those if he’s ready.

If you were to take a poll of the Brooklyn Nets, they would likely tell you he can afford to take the whole week off.

Cook burned them for 27 points on 11-for-16 shooting in Saturday’s 116-100 Warriors’ win that Curry watched from the bench. Draymond Green was sidelined too, dealing with a toe sprain that he can afford to take his time with. Jonas Jerebko replaced him in the starting lineup Saturday night, but head coach Steve Kerr also has Jordan Bell and Kevon Looney available in that spot.

Most important, he’s got Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson raising their level because they’re getting the looks that they typically have to share with their All-Star teammates, so expect them to be highly engaged in the short term. It’s one thing to have to be the lynchpin over the course of 82 games, but for a four-to-five game stretch, being able to find a more sustained in-game rhythm offers a great change of pace for Durant and Thompson. The duo combined to shoot 20-for-35 against Brooklyn, which had come into Oakland on a three-game winning streak and looks much improved. They hit exactly half of their six 3-pointers and sat out most of the fourth since Cook bested them both in filling Curry’s role, finishing 11-for-16 and hitting 3-for-5 from 3-point range in scoring a season-high 27 points despite not being utilized much this season.

Count on him being a big part of the Warriors’ week, which begins against the team currently running second in the Pacific, the L.A. Clippers. Doc Rivers has done a nice job with his new-look group in the early going, working in center Boban Marjanovic and impressive rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Forward Tobias Harris and wing Danilo Gallinari have been consistent go-to scorers, but L.A. relies heavily on its depth to wear teams down due to the presence of reigning top Sixth Man Lou Williams and physical power forward Montrezl Harrell on the second unit.

Those two made the difference in the Clippers’ most impressive win of the season, a 128-126 OT upset of a Bucks team that crushed Golden State 134-111 on Thursday night in the game where Curry suffered his groin injury. Milwaukee rebounded from the loss at Staples by taking down the team that currently has the third-best record in the West, the Nuggets, defeating them in Denver on Sunday night.

Harrell led the way with 26 points and nine boards, dominating with his tenacity. Williams, who said afterward that he played terribly, won it with an impossible-looking floater just before the final buzzer to end up with 12 points and 10 assists. The Clippers may not be among the teams you think of when listing off Golden State’s biggest challengers out West – they’re second in their own city – but this group they’ve assembled doesn’t back down easily. This contest should be just as difficult as their endeavor into the NBA’s “Texas Triangle,” which has presented a major obstacle for decades given the sustained strength of the Spurs, Mavericks and Rockets all these years.

The Warriors-Clippers rivalry no longer has the same feel with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin now elsewhere, so we’ll see what effect that has on their first meeting of the 2018-19 season. This used to be a game Golden State had circled on its schedule, which is why it has won 13 of 14 in the series since the start of 2015. Without Curry and potentially Green in the mix, the Dubs should still be favored, but the number shouldn’t be more than a couple of points. The ‘under’ has prevailed in three the last four games for both teams.

The card
Orlando at Washington, 7:05 p.m. ET: The Magic just beat the Wizards on Friday night, but have since lost Aaron Gordon to an ankle sprain sufferered in practice that could keep him out here. Orlando's top forward was held out last night's 115-89 win in New York that was over after a 30-10 first-quarter posted by the visitors. Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier led the way, but it was a collective effort that stifled the Knicks throughout. Rookie Mo Bamba has begun to find some consistency and is fortifying a second unit that has the potential to really become a factor.

The Wizards trailed by as many as 25 points in Orlando despite strong play from Kelly Oubre and Jeff Green off the bench but bounced back with a win in Miami on Saturday and saw Austin Rivers contribute 18 points off the bench. It's imperative that the Wizards get their top eight to find some consistency, but Otto Porter, Jr. continues to underachieve and the talk of moving John Wall to shake things up and pull the plug on this current group has intensified.

Philadelphia at Miami, 7:35 p.m. ET: Jimmy Butler has been acquired by the 76ers in a move we'll dissect more over the coming days in terms of long-term impact and short-term betting advantages, but he's out of the equation tonight. The 76ers will have to play shorthanded once again after doing so on Saturday night when they squandered a late lead in Memphis. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons led the way while guards J.J. Redick, T.J. McConnell and Landry Shamet enjoyed heightened roles setting the table, so look for that to again be the case tonight. Notice you didn't read Markelle Fultz's name. He got less than 25 minutes of playing time despite the opportunity to carve out more. Furkan Korkmaz and Jonah Bolden were dusted off to absorb some of the loss with starting forwards Robert Covington and Dario Saric dealt, but it appears Philly will go small until Butler is set to join the lineup.

The Heat are cautiously optimistic that the Hassan Whiteside who showed up last week will continue to dominate without sabotaging himself via bad shots or stupid fouls, but there's no question the team has an edge when he taps into his vast potential. Dwyane Wade has been away from the team after becoming a father again, while Goran Dragic has been in and out of the mix with a sore knee but looks healthy enough to be counted on here. Josh Richardson has taken advantage of the absence of Dragic and Wade to take more of an ownership role in the offense that will hopefully carry forward.

New Orelans at Toronto, 7:35 p.m. ET: The Pelicans have missed point guard Elfrid Payton and could get him back tonight for this test with the NBA’s best team, record-wise. Losses and turnovers have gone up since Payton badly sprained an ankle, but he’s questionable and could rejoin the lineup despite Alvin Gentry saying after shootaround that it’s looking doubtful. While his return may have to wait another night, Nikola Mirotic will definitely be returning with an ankle injury that kept him out over the weekend.

Anthony Davis is playing through shoulder issues, so New Orleans will be testing itself after posting home wins over the Bulls and Suns. The Pels have dropped five straight road games after opening the season with a win in Houston. The Raptors have only lost at the Bucks and are perfect at home, so get used to laying double-digits or close to it against most teams when taking the floor at the newly renamed ScotiaBank Arena. Toronto is 6-2 ATS and unbeaten through its first eight home dates, averaging 117.6 points per game.

Dallas at Chicago, 8:05 p.m. ET: Luke Doncic hopes to play through a knee contusion suffered against OKC over the weekend after finishing out the win he helped fuel via 22 points, six boards and eight assists. With Wesley Matthews ruled out, Dallas would be thin on the wing if he can't go, presumably riding Dorian Finney-Smith for longer stretches while giving Dennis Smith, Jr. and Harrison Barnes more opportunities.

The Bulls have been the Zach LaVine show for a few weeks now, so without Matthews to defend him, Finney-Smith’s length will likely be a weapon Rick Carlisle relies upon. Jabari Parker has been more active of late as well and will likely see plenty of Barnes, while rookie Wendell Carter, Jr. has quickly proven he’s going to be a fixture in the lineup even when Lauri Markkanen and Bobby Portis return from injuries next month. The Bulls had a run of five straight covers snapped in Saturday's night's 1-point win over the Cavs, .

Utah at Memphis, 8:05 p.m. ET: The Grizzlies have seen Marc Gasol and Mike Conley re-emerge as catalysts who can take over any game at any time. Because of their history of injuries, you always need to see that with these two, but Conley completely changed this past weekend's game against the 76ers with a huge third quarter and finished with 32 points in a season-high 42 minutes. Gasol has averaged 14 points and over 10 boards and five assists over his last five games, so the Grizzlies apparently have their best two players healthy again with most of the rust off.

The Jazz come off a wild week where they lost to Toronto without Donovan Mitchell and then watched him come back to lead the group to wins over the Mavs and Celtics, spoiling the return of Gordon Hayward. Utah will now be the team hearing the boos on the road as it opens a season-long five-game excursion. The Jazz are 4-2 (3-3 ATS) away from home this season but have dropped the last two and will want to get this road trip off to a good start, not to mention keep from dropping three games to the Grizzlies in four-weeks time. They've averaged just 92 points in the losses but swept last season's meetings at the FedEx Forum by surrendering an average of 83 points.

Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA or e-mail him at [email protected]m

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