Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:55 AM

Weekly Essentials

Editor's Note: NBA Totals leader Antony Dinero (+1250) is on an 8-3 run on over/unders. Don't miss out on NBA winners from him on this season. Click to win!

Games to Watch

Tuesday – Nuggets at 76ers

Joel Embiid has revenge on his mind after Nikola Jokic knocked down a jumper to help complete a 21-point fourth-quarter comeback when these teams met on Nov. 8. Jokic outplayed him too, getting help to force Embiid into eight turnovers while finishing with 26 points, 11 boards and six assists.

That loss is tied for Philly’s second-lowest scoring output of the season, while the under is on a 7-2-1 run in Sixers’ games and has connected in five of six involving the Nuggets, who allow an NBA-low 101.9 points per game. Denver has been struggling to score itself and is in danger of dropping three of four on its current road trip. It has been held to 102 points or fewer in four of five.

Wednesday - Celtics at Pacers

Gordon Hayward returned on Monday in Boston’s blowout of the Cavs, making seven of 10 shots in 26 minutes. It’s always special for him to play in his hometown, so this should be a fun night for him against a Pacers team coming off a blowout loss thanks to Paul George blowing their doors off on his return to town. Indy point guard Malcolm Brogdon returned from his hand issue in Monday’s loss to the Clips, while Celtics’ glue guy Marcus Smart has been dealing with an eye infection and would be missed greatly on the defensive end if he can’t go.

Wednesday - Clippers at Raptors

Kawhi Leonard won’t take the night off here and will have an experience that will be completely different from returns to San Antonio where he’s booed lustily by fans who used to cheer him. A hero’s welcome awaits the 2019 Finals MVP, who will have to deal with a talented defensive front line he knows quite well when the action tips. L.A. will be looking to get to .500 on the road while the Raps aim to improve to 10-2 at the Air Canada Centre. Raps guard Fred VanVleet missed Monday’s win in Chicago with a swollen knee. His presence here would be crucial.

Thursday - 76ers at Celtics

Boston will look to remain perfect at home and will be seeking revenge after a 107-93 loss in Philly in the Oct. 23 season opener. Kemba Walker had a forgettable C’s debut in shooting 4-for-18, while Ben Simmons toyed with all defenders in finishing 11-for-16 from the field. The 76ers have a two-game winning streak in this series, the first time they’ve been able to say that since 2014 since their division rival had won 21 of 24 matchups between the teams. Hopefully Smart and Josh Richardson (hamstring) can get back in the mix for this one.

Thursday -Mavs vs. Pistons

Viva Mexico City, site for this one as the league continues to grow the game globally. Luka Doncic and the Mavs come off a loss in part because referees missed a foul call that could’ve gotten the Dallas star to the free-throw line to tie in a 110-106 loss to Sacramento that snapped the team’s five-game win streak on Sunday. Backup guard Delon Wright, who has quietly been a terrific asset for most of the season, was sorely missed as the bench struggled, so maybe the time off will allow him to return from a groin sprain. Derrick Rose helped the Pistons edge the Pelicans in New Orleans on Monday, giving Detroit three wins in four contests for the first time all season. Rick Carlisle and Dwane Casey are tight, so this should be a fun one south of the border.

Thursday - Blazers at Nuggets

Portland is really sliding and could use an upset, so it will be looking to catch Denver on its heels upon returning to town from its East coast swing. After losing Rodney Hood to a torn Achilles, the Blazers are really hurting for depth and will need kids like Anfernee Simons and Nassir Little to continue making strides without hitting the wall. Carmelo Anthony has struggled after his Player of the Week nod and Kent Bazemore’s energy has been called upon in the starting lineup to replace Hood. A favorable schedule should help Portland put together a win streak before Christmas, but it would help its cause to come up with an upset here since the team won’t play again until playing at Phoenix on Monday .

Friday – Rockets at Magic

Orlando was competitive in a loss at Milwaukee on Monday and has to host the Lakers on Wednesday, so this is a grueling week for a group still without center Nikola Vucevic. The Magic have dropped 11 of 14 against the Rockets since 2013, but all three wins have come at the Amway Center. Following a game in Cleveland on Wednesday to wash the stench of getting beat at the buzzer by Sacramento on Monday night away, Houston will be looking to straighten out following a shaky start on the road that has it behind the rest of the West’s top contenders.

Friday – Lakers at Heat

LeBron James returns to Miami to face former nemesis Jimmy Butler in what should be a great test for both teams. L.A. has raced out to a better start than anyone expected, while the Heat have similarly excelled beyond the wildest dreams of both. There will be great individual matchups to monitor here beyond James-Butler since Bam Adebayo has great defensive metrics and will look to stop Anthony Davis from getting going. The Heat got rocked at Staples Center when the teams played on Nov. 8, losing 95-80 in producing a season-low scoring output. This will be only Miami’s second outing as a home underdog and it beat the Rockets 129-100 the lone time it played that role. So long as the Heat hold serve against the Hawks on Wednesday, they’ll be 11-0 at home for the season entering this one.

Saturday - Heat at Mavericks

Both teams will have to move on quickly from their big games, so resiliency will be the key as we see Doncic try and deal with Butler and likely Justise Winslow on the wing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like Slovenian national teammate Goran Dragic will return from a groin injury in time for this matchup.

Saturday – Thunder at Nuggets

Chris Paul and OKC will take a run of wins of five of six into Sacramento on Wednesday and will close out its fantastic road trip here. The Thunder will be playing the Nuggets for the first time and could be a difficult matchup since they protect the paint well and are led by excellent guard play.

Sunday – 76ers at Nets

Kyrie Irving could finally be back from his shoulder impingement, but Brooklyn has fared just fine without him, earning wins in nine of 12 entering Wednesday’s game against Charlotte that they’ll be favored to win. This will close out a tough back-to-back since the Nets have to play in Toronto on Saturday night, but the Sixers will also be closing out a challenging week as these Atlantic Division rivals meet for the first time this season.

Injuries to Monitor

Beyond the bumps and bruises mentioned above, the biggest question marks surround Jazz point guard Mike Conley, who is being cautious with a hamstring injury, and Lakers guard Rajon Rondo, who is acting similarly towards the same affliction. Avery Bradley has also been cleared to return to full-contact practices after suffering a hairline fracture in his leg, so L.A. could finally be at full strength towards the end of the week… Hornets rookie forward P.J. Washington is trying to return from a high ankle sprain… The Grizzlies saw star rookie point guard Ja Morant return from his back issue and lead them to victory at Golden State on Monday night, but small forward Kyle Anderson (heel) and rookie power forward Brandon Clarke (hip) remained sidelined. Guard Grayson Allen tweaked an ankle at the Chase Center and failed to return… New Orleans center Derrick Favors is still taking his time returning after losing his mother, working his way back emotionally to get up to play. After warming up on Monday, the expectation is that he’ll be back this week… Orlando’s Vucevic is back on the court as he attempts to return from a nasty ankle injury but the Magic are likely to be extremely cautious with him and aren’t likely to rush him back simply because the schedule is intensifying… Suns center Aron Baynes returned from a calf injury that had kept him out a few weeks, celebrating his birthday with Monday’s win over the visiting Timberwolves… Minnesota has Andrew Wiggins and Jeff Teague back in the fold after nagging injuries… Wizards center Thomas Bryant is out for a few weeks due to a foot injury and is sporting a walking boot. Point guard Isaiah Thomas strained his calf and will likely miss the week’s action, which is a shame because he was finally getting going.

Free Winner

Friday – Knicks at Kings

Sacramento is just 3-3 in a favorite’s role and hasn’t been as heavy a ‘chalk’ as it will be in this game against visiting New York, but this is too good a situation to pass up. Fans will back Golden 1 Center on Friday night with their team suddenly surging and Marvin Bagley, Jr. back from his thumb injury to help fill out a front line that has been fortified by Nemanja Bjelica and Richaun Holmes delivering career years in his absence. Although point guard De’Aaron Fox remains out, the dysfunctional Knicks will be overmatched and will almost certainly drop this contest by at least a dozen points. I’d doubt the spread closes over 11.

Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA

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