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Lakers, Celtics top the list
Week 1 of the NBA season is in the books, the hype is over and now teams begin to develop their chemistry and settle in for the long haul. As week 2 got underway Monday night, the Chicago Bulls were able to record a big home win against the previously undefeated Trail Blazers behind Luol Deng's career-high 40 points in a matchup of Athlon Sports' Nos. 7- and 12-ranked teams.
Games with some of Athlon's top-ranked teams are few and far between at the front end of the week, but the action starts picking up by week's end.
The Nuggets and Mavericks highlight the early part of the week with two games against each other in two key Western Conference tilts of our Nos. 6 and 8 teams.
Dallas is getting solid play from Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood down low, while Aaron Afflalo's hot play from the preseason has carried over to the regular season as the Denver shooting guard is averaging 14 ppg while shooting 56 percent from the floor and 82 percent from the free throw line.
The two teams, both 2-1, face off in Denver Wednesday and in Dallas on Saturday. The Mavericks will be off in between, while the Nuggets play host to the Clippers on Friday night.
Another Western Conference contest has No. 10 San Antonio traveling to No. 15 Phoenix Wednesday night. This should be a high-scoring affair as both teams are scoring over 102 a game and allowing 104.
The Trail Blazers end their Midwest run to Chicago and Milwaukee by returning to the Rose Garden to play host to No. 9 Oklahoma City Thursday. Portland might have as tough a time in Milwaukee on Tuesday as it did in Chicago on Monday and could return home a 3-2 team after leaving 3-0. Oklahoma City was blown out by Utah on Sunday and will try to rebound against the host Clippers before its matchup with the Blazers.
Staying in the Western Conference for two more games, the Suns come out of their game with the Spurs and turn right back around and play an up-and-coming Grizzlies team. No. 14 Memphis has a big game tonight at top-ranked Los Angeles and heads to No. 18 Golden State before taking on the Suns.
The Warriors, meanwhile, hope to have the services of guard Stephon Curry (ankle) back in a week in which they take on Memphis and No. 13 Utah at home before a road trip to Detroit Sunday night.
No. 11 New Orleans has a three-game stretch this week that begins at No. 17 Houston Wednesday, returns home Friday to play host to No. 3 Miami and finishes at No. 16 Milwaukee. The Hornets are off to a great start at 3-0 and take on a winless but dangerous Rockets team first, and matchups with the Heat and up-and-down Bucks should give us a pretty good idea where the Hornets stand after two weeks.
Milwaukee also needs to establish itself as one of the teams in that second tier in East. There are really only three competitive tiers in the East as it stands — Boston, Miami and Orlando in tier 1, Atlanta in tier 2, Chicago and Milwaukee in tier 3 and then two of the remaining nine teams that will fight for the right to get ousted in the first round by the top tier.
The Bucks have a busy week with games against Portland tonight, at No. 2 Boston on Wednesday, at Indiana on Friday before coming back to play host to the Hornets Saturday. This will be the second and last time the Bucks and Hornets play this year; New Orleans won 95-91 last Oct. 27 in the season opener for both squads.
— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter