LBJ Turns Up The Heat; Showtime A Big Hit In L.A.

DEN @ LAC: I didn’t expect the Clippers’ 14th straight win to be quite that easy. Blake Griffin (16 PTS, 6 REB, 6 AST) played less than 26 minutes and Chris Paul (14 PTS, 8 AST, 4 REB, 3 STL) only 32 as the bench took over again. Jamal Crawford (22) and Matt Barnes (20 PTS, 8 REB, 3 AST, 3 STL, 2 BLK) are better to own than a lot of starters. We can assume that Ty Lawson (15 PTS, 5 AST) is not 100% after leaving Denver’s last game with an Achilles issue, but Danilo Gallinari (1-for-10) is in a miserable shooting slump and offense comes and goes for Andre Iguodala.

December 26 Games

MIA @ CHA: This could be a ‘letdown’ game for the Heat, where they play to the opponent’s level. They lost a game to the lowly Wizards that way. I’m not suggesting the Bobcats will win after 15 consecutive losses, only that LBJ and D-Wade will do no more than necessary. Byron Mullens has a sprained ankle that could keep him out for a month, so Hakim Warrick gets an opportunity. Gerald Henderson (shin) should play and Kemba Walker is a must-start.

CLE @ WAS: Though the Cavaliers will again be without Anderson Varejao — that bruised knee is a lot worse than it looked at the time — ant they aren’t great on the road, they can beat the lowly Wizards. Kyrie Irving will be the only true NBA point guard on the floor, rookie Dion Waiters is getting back up to full speed and Tristan Thompson is doing his best to fill the frontcourt void, along with Tyler Zeller. After sitting out the first game of Washington’s home-and-home losses to Detroit, Nene started the second and played over 26 minutes. Things could be looking up for his owners, but he’s always questionable. Keep an eye on PG Shelvin Mack, who had been tearing up the D-League to warrant a callup. Jordan Crawford remains the safest fantasy play and the primary ballhandler.

CHI @ IND: The last thing a team wants to do after getting crushed at home is travel and play again the next night. The courageous Luol Deng is so banged up, he may have to take a night off. This is the perfect time for the Pacers to meet the Bulls. Paul George and David West are always worth starting, and George Hill could have a big night. Gerald Green (ankle) is doubtful, which could mean extra run for Lance Stephenson.

NOH @ ORL: Apart from the return of Ryan Anderson to Orlando, and the possibility he’ll rediscover his shot, there’s not much hype around this matchup of sub-.500 teams. Hedo Turkoglu (hand) has been spotted at practice, but remains sidelined. It’s a similar story with Eric Gordon (knee) who could finally rejoin the Hornets this week. Gustavo Ayon is the main beneficiary of the Glen Davis shoulder injury, but I like how Arron Afflalo has responded and have become a believer in Nikola Vucevic.

DET @ ATL: The Pistons are not a great road team and the Hawks are very good at home. There’s also a talent disparity to consider. Assuming that Al Horford cancels out Greg Monroe, that leaves Josh Smith to wreak havoc at both ends of the floor. Louis Williams got a rare start last game but is just as dangerous as the sixth man.

HOU @ MIN: This isn’t the easiest back-to-back for the Rockets, though they handled Chicago last night with ease. If Kevin Love (eye) can play as expected, Minnesota will be hard to beat. Nikola Pekovic and Alexey Shved are must-starts. Toss out the last line for Andrei Kirilenko, who fouled out while guarding that Carmelo fellow. AK-47 gets Chandler Parsons tonight and will be more prominent.

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