It was a Thunder-ous statement in Orlando. Kevin Durant had 38 points, Russell Westbrook 29 as OKC rallied to win. KD poured in 18 in the fourth quarter alone. Dwight Howard, the subject of countless trade rumors, scored 33 in defeat. I’m chalking up a quiet night for Serge Ibaka to his covering Ryan Anderson on the perimeter. It’s hard to block a 3-pointer.
MIN @ PHO: Kevin Love was back with a double-double (23 & 10) and Luke Ridnour had a very nice 15 PTS, 8 REB and 3 STL, but it wasn’t enough. Michael Beasley, now being connected to Boston in trade rumors, all but vanished in 19 minutes. For the Suns, a 17-assist performance by Steve Nash was the difference. Grant Hill scored 20 and Shannon Brown added 12 off the bench.
LAC @ SAC: Just another night at the office for Chris Paul — 22 PTS, 9 AST, 3 STL, as the Clippers won on the road. The fantasy story here is the L.A. bench. Kenyon Martin played 23 minutes, suggesting he might be healthy again, and Bobby Simmons scored 13 points in just his second game of the season. For the Kings, DeMarcus Cousins had 23 & 10 with 3 BLK, but Isaiah Thomas was no match for CP3, which should be no surprise.
MIA @ POR: The Blazers were simply overpowered. Jamal Crawford had 4 AST and 5 TO, Raymond Felton just 3 PTS in less than 16 minutes off the bench and you can’t beat the Heat without a point guard. Joel Pryzbilla saw his first action all year; he’s a good add for deep leaguers in need of a C. LeBron James had 38 and Dwyane Wade 33 for Miami as Chris Bosh was away (and will miss at least one more game) because of a death in the family.
MEM @ TOR: Nobody is saying anything definite about Andrea Bargnani. There was a flurry of speculation just because he went on a road trip, but he still hasn’t practiced. This means more minutes for Amir Johnson, James Johnson and Linas Kleiza. The Grizzlies are not the greatest road team and can’t afford another stinker from Marreese Speights while waiting for Zach Randolph to return soon.
MIL @ ATL: Joe Johnson now has a game under his belt, and we hear Josh Smith was sick during that last disappointing effort. After scoring in single digits in 11 of 12 previous games, Zaza Pachulia had 13 PTS and 16 REB in his latest. For the Bucks, Drew Gooden is far from healthy, so it could be a long night.
CHI @ CLE: Love the matchup between Derrick Rose and Kyrie Irving, not so keen on the rest of the Cavs against a stifling Bulls defence. Who is going to stop Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer?
NJN @ BOS: Don’t look now, but the Nets have won three straight on the road and this may not be easy for the Celtics. Brook Lopez is 100%, Kris Humphries keeps grabbing rebounds and Deron Williams has been terrific. It’s been made “official” that Brandon Bass is a Boston starter, even if/when Jermaine O’Neal returns. Kevin Garnett will be playing center from now on.
DAL @ NOH: Dirk Nowitzki is questionable. He tried to play with a sore back, lasted less than ten minutes and will not be at his best if he does play. I’ve been a Rodrigue Beaubois fan for some time; as long as Delonte West is out, Roddy Buckets is getting a chance to show off his athleticism. For the Hornets, Emeka Okafor is still not ready, but there’s encouraging news about Carl Landry, who I just picked up in a league where he’d been dropped.
DEN @ HOU: The Nuggets will soon add a lot of talent. Rudy Fernandez might return tonight, Danilo Gallinari and Nene will be back soon, and Wilson Chandler is still a possibility. Not sure they can win this evening, but if Kevin Martin doesn’t bounce back from a terrible game, you never know.
GSW @ PHI: I’m assuming Stephen Curry won’t play. Neither team has a legitimate C, so they can both play small. Sounds like a good night to use Monta Ellis, Andre Iguodala and Jrue Holiday. Don’t sleep on the Sixers bench; Thaddeus Young is better than many starters.
CHA @ SAS: Not exactly a night off for the Spurs, but with an opponent that’s 2-17 on the road, it’s going to be a lot easier than their last game. There is a chance that Manu Ginobili will play limited minutes. His surgically-repaired shooting hand will be stronger, it’s an oblique strain that’s cost him the last four games. Still waiting for more details about Bismack Biyombo, his shoulder and a return date.
MIA @ UTA: In the absence of Chris Bosh, you can expect Udonis Haslem to play extended minutes. Because he never took time off, not everyone knows Haslem was playing through a broken rib for several weeks. I’m predicting a second straight double-double. Paul Millsap (heel) may not play for the Jazz, so Derrick Favors should get extra run.
LAC @ PHO: CP3 vs. Nash should be fun, and I’m always a fan of Marcin Gortat, just not sure the Suns are deep enough. That Clippers bench, led by Mo Williams, is dangerous.
SAC @ LAL: The remarkable pain threshold of Kobe Bryant will be on display again as the Masked Mamba battles a broken nose, wrist ligament damage, headaches, neck pain and nausea. As Monty Python’s Black Knight said, “It’s only a flesh wound.” The Kings suffered a tough home loss last night and may have trouble bouncing back.
Tonight there’s another Freeroll, a chance to win cash with no entry fee. If you haven’t tried it before, it’s easy. Pick eight players, for tonight’s games only, with a salary cap. The team with the most points will win $350. I’ll be sharing my picks later on Twitter; give me a follow.
On Monday, I’m going to start playing on Draft Street “for real” (mostly $2 and $5 games) and will keep you posted here on those adventures in prognostication.