Twelve games tonight. So you can go ahead and cancel those dinner plans. Or. Not.
(As a side note, our thoughts and prayers go out to Leandro Barbosa and his family. Barbosa lost his mother recently, which is something everyone goes through and is never easy.)
Reasons to Watch the Games of the National Basketball Association Tonight:
So Michael Jordan... Has No Shot... At Beating Utah...Ironic.:
Utah at Charlotte.
Okay, Utah. You lost to the Wizards. The freaking Wizards. But I'm going to give you that one. You occasionally drop East coast road games. Which is okay. I'm not going to rag on you for that. But not back to back, kids. Not to Charlotte, which is a lost babe in the woods, asking the wolves for directions. Take care of business, so I don't have to mock you. Deal?
This is actually kind of interesting. Deron Williams is obviously not 100%. Augustin is coming on. Kirilenko is playing really well, but so is Wallace. And Koufos is playing, but Okafor is raw. So this could be pretty even.
7PM EST, FSUT
Getcha Kennel Corn Ready:
Philadelphia at Indiana
This is the game to watch tonight. I know, I know. Detroit at LA, and whatnot. Trust me.
Philadelphia finally got its sh*t together. Using Iguodala as a distributor, not a finisher, worked wonders, and he poured in the type of overall game they need. Brand got his, finally. Thad Young and Louis Williams added theirs. The team gelled and started to play defense. Finally. Now they face a surprising Indiana team that's slowly getting people excited. The forefront is going to be Granger v. Iguodala, and that in itself is a microcosm of style that only Free Darko (buy the book!) could really describe. But I'm intrigued by the frontcourt battles,too. Troy Murphy will need the game of his life and Marquis Daniels is going to have to cheat on the double leaving Iguodala open, except when they go to Williams. Foster versus Dalembert is some sort of odd tree monster battle I can't even really get my brain around. And is there a greater conceptual differential in point guards than T.J. Ford versus Andre Miller?
The Pacers are 6th in pace this season. That's pretty fast for a squad that employs and starts Jeff Foster and Troy Murphy. The Sixers, though, don't want to slow it down. They want that kind of up and down game. Because their athletic is athleticer than the Pacers' athleticer. If you athletic what I'm athleticing.
T.J. Ford is going to need to be lights out, and not in the knocked unconscious on a layup way. If Brand gets going, I don't know if the Pacers have the guns down low to keep up.
God In Heaven, The Knicks Are Going To Be 6-3... Pray. :
Oklahoma City Bad Chinese Food at New York Knicks.
You and me and the bottle makes three tonight, baby. OKCitians should learn that tune because this is not a Knicks team you want to play on the road right now.
Okay, you should sit down before I tell you this. Wait, this is a blog. You're probably sitting. Okay. Just make sure you're not in one of those weird ball chairs you can just slide right off. Ready?
Zach Randolph is averaging 19 points and 11.5 rebounds.
The Knicks will win this game because the Thunder are very, very bad. What's worse, they're not bad enough for Carlesimo to let Westbrook play full time. Earl Watson still gets minutes. What the hell's up with that? He and Marbury should switch places.
The matchup to watch tonight is Jamal Crawford versus Kevin Durant. Crawford's leading the Knicks and shooting 46% from the field. The Knicks effective field goal shooting percentage? 51.4%. The Thunder? 42.1%. For those of you not big into stats, eFG% should not be 42% unless you have cerebral palsy (and then it's just kickass that you can still ball), or start Earl Watson. Wait. FAIL.
Check this one out to see if the Knicks get a standing O.
7:30PM EST, MSG
Like Trying To Hide The Daylight From The Sun:
Hawks at Nets.
There's a lot to be excited by in this one, but mostly, if you haven't checked out the Hawks yet, tune in, smoke out, and drift away. I would never openly support drug use, but this might be the best game to get high to in the entire season. Joe Johnson is effortless. The guy just does things with ease and brilliance that he's becoming a human Cult Film. Devin Harris is back, so there will still be those pesky Vince Carter alley oops that force you to get up. The Hawks alley oops are so easy, like it's part of their offense, and watching them pursue offensive rebounds with their length and vertical is like watching brontosauruses dance.
I'm intrigued by the idea of Yi Jianlian on Marvin Williams, though, especially with Williams' improved three point shooting. Couple that with the hilarity of Josh Boone v. Zaza Pachulia (if he plays) and you have yourself a concoction better than Half Baked.
7:30PM EST, YES
Every Win Streak Begins With An Epic Vale:
Washington at Miami.
How do you feel bad if you're the Heat? You played a hot Blazers team close, are .500 early, and you're doing it without Shawn Marion, who can only bolster his trade value upon return. This Heat season is like pizza. If you're paying more than $20, you're getting hosed. Wait. That's not right.
Anyway, the Wizards finally got off the snide by beating the invincible Utah Jazz at home, and have found their source of inspiration. JaVale McGee. Or as Skeets has coined him, Epic Vale (+1 Nickname). With Antawn and Butler finally finding their stroke and the rest of the team contributing, this looked more like last year's playoff team than the dreck that's been on the floor so far. The best news for them is that the Heat have no big men. They have a power forward playing center who's older but still capable, and other than that, they play small. Antawn can carve up Beasley in the block if they put him there. 2.0 will be an issue, but if the Wizards can knock down some shots when the defense collapses, Washington might be able to start a little streak here. Which would be a nice thing to roll things back to .500 before you-know-who comes back.
7:30PM EST, League Pass
Paging Mr. West, Mr. David West To The White Contender Phone:
Portland at New Orleans.
"This is David."
"Hi, David. It's your jumpshot. I miss you. When are you coming home?"
"I miss you too. Why don't you come to me?"
"I can't do that David, you know it won't work. You have to constantly force shots and seek me out. None of this, 'Letting me come to you' crap. Don't listen to them. Keep shooting!"
This is essentially the conversation I imagine West has been having all season. He started to bust loose against the Lakers but too little too late. The Hornets' stretch doesn't get any easier with Portland coming to town. This is Must-See-TV. Rudy Fernandez, Peja Stojackovic, Chris Paul, Brandon Roy, Batum, Hilton Armstrong, and Mr. Nifty, LaMarcus Aldridge versus West. That's the key matchup. Aldridge has been superb this season and expanded his game. He's got the length to challenge West's elbow jumper and still muscle him in the post. If West can't shake his slump, the Hornets are going to find themselves in trouble.
Oh, and by the way, where the hell did Steve Blake come from?!
8PM EST, League Pass
A Disciplinarian's Nightmare:
Milwaukee at Memphis.
For me, this is heaven. Two relatively bad basketball teams with loads of potential, facing off with no one watching. Yes. Ramon Sessions and Ridnour have the advantage at point. Mayo is clearly the best small guard with Redd still out. If Redd plays, the advantage swings to the Bucks. Richard Jefferson versus Rudy Gay is like that scene in Back to the Future II where McFly sees himself. Villanueva/Allen versus Arthur/Warrick might as well be a dopeldanger battle.
I can definitely see Milwaukee pulling this one out. But at some point, the shots are going to start falling for the Grizz. And when that happens, this is a whole different team.
The big game plan here is the Memphis gamble-and-recover versus the Milwaukee guards. Sessions is playing particularly efficiently, and if he's able to make the hockey assists, the Bucks are going to get wide open looks. Marc Gasol can't leave Bogut to rotate, either. Jefferson can take anyone off the dribble. It's a tough matchup for the Grizzlies, but we'll see if they can get some offense of their own going. And we'll see if the OJ Mayo at point disaster continues.
8PM EST, FSWI
The Little Hill That Became A Starting Point Guard.
Houston at San Antonio.
George Hill. Honestly. Where do the Spurs find these people?
If the Rockets have any right to call themselves a contender for a top four seed, they need to detonate the Spurs. It's one thing to beat the Knicks at home. But the Spurs just lost to the Bucks. It's time to rethink mental gameplanning with or without Alston. The Rockets have an edge in almost every capacity, but the Spurs know how to gameplan. If Artest gets rattled by the defense, he could give away some possessions. And Aaron Brooks is going to get hammered by a press everytime he tries to work the perimeter. The good news is that Brooks has shown terrific speed in attacking the basket. We'll see if the Spurs can knock down enough shots with their three healthy wing guys to keep in it.
Oh,and Houston? If you thought those screens were bad...
Hyping the Game, Brought to You By Your Dad (Rob) :
That Allen Iverson is really something. I'm not sure that I like him, but...what? Oh...nevermind then. Who do they even have on that team, then? Caramel? What? Carmellow? That's funny because I had a friend who had a horse named Caramel back in my finer days, y'know, and boy: that horse could run. You put that thing in an open field and it would take off like a spoon in a Cadillac. Boy.
Orlando at Dallas
What is going on with the Mavs? Is it the defense? The offense? Both? Why are things suddenly falling apart? And why on earth are they making another damn Da Vinci Code movie? Your guess is as good as mine. The problem with the Mavs' offense is that there just isn't enough firepower to keep the team on top without Dirk, Josh, or JET having a great night. If everyone is just playing OK, then they have to rely on their defense to keep them in it. The problems are magnified by the fact that the interior D and the perimeter D have been spotty at best -- it's kind of what happens when you have an aging, slowed Kidd and an undersized two guard headlining your guard spots. Not to put this all on Kidd and Terry, of course, but Ben Gordon and Derrick Rose (by any other name, he would still be a badass) merely brought the flaws to light yesterday.
Phoenix at Sacramento.
10:00 EST, League Pass
You're All That Stands Between Our Universe And Oblivion:
Detroit at Los Angeles Lakers
On Monday, I looked at the Lakers schedule, and deduced one thing. The only thing standing between them and Christmas if they beat the Hornets is Detroit. They beat the Hornets. Everyone points to next Thursdays game in Phoenix. I hate the matchup. Everything about it. I like this Phoenix team quite a bit, for what it is, but I just don't think there's anyway they can hang with the Lakers if they're rolling at this clip.
So for me it came down to tonight. Now, last night's game against the Warriors has me spooked. I also didn't note when I made the predicition that the Pistons would actually win this game that it would be part of a back-to-back west coast road trip for the Pistons. That's pretty bad. I mean, like WOAH, that's pretty bad.
The reason I swung to the Pistons is because of their combination of matchups and attitude. Detroit fears no one, outside of maybe LeBron, and even then, it's a secret fear, hidden deep in the recesses fo their minds. So Bynum and Odom and Gasol and Fisher don't scare them. Kobe scares them, but no more so than any other intense scorer. It's nothing against Kobe, but after all, this is the team that vanquished his dynasty. They've seen him a time or two.
Running Tayshuan Prince at point forward creates all types of mismatches for the Lakers. Hamilton's not the most physical guy, but he can work over Fisher or Radman or Vujacic, whoever they put on him. We've seen how Sasha does against premier shooting guards (Ray Allen). Bynum's got a huge advantage, but he's not blistering people, only averaging 10.1 and 8.9. He's been terrific defensively and causes matchup problems, but this Pistons team neutralized Dwight Howard, so they probably have some tricks up their sleeves.
Sheed's the pendulum, as always. If he's not feeling it, if he's tired and wants some Cheesecake Factory and to see his kids, Gasol's going to go off. But if he gets ornery and decides to publish one of his reminder manuals on how good he actually is, he's got the physical tools and basketball skills to make Gasol's night a living hell. You have Odom coming off the bench as a huge issue, but the Pistons counter with Amir Johnson. You have the Lakers perimeter depth, but the Pistons counter with Allen Freaking Iverson.
I still think this is possible, but my faith is shaken after last night's struggle with Golden State, no matter how plucky they are, and the back-to-back roadtrip makes it equaly bleak. The Lakers could very well be undefeated headed into January 1st. And that kind of makes life not worth living.
The Lakers will now win by 30.
10:30PM EST, ESPN