SAC @ TOR: One team is short of big men, the other missing several wing players. Toronto has won eight of nine, six in a row at home, playing unselfish team basketball. With Ed Davis and Amir Johnson the main contributors up front, they have nobody who can stop DeMarcus Cousins if Boogie is in the mood. However, without Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton, Sacramento will have trouble slowing down red-hot DeMar DeRozan and rapidly-improving rookie Terrence Ross. If wagering, I’d take the Raptors and the over.
BRK @ WAS: As bad as the Nets looked getting blown out in San Antonio, I gave them no chance at all in Oklahoma City. Wrong again, as Brooklyn played its best game of the season in a dominant win over the Thunder. Whether Deron Williams and Joe Johnson are as inspired tonight remains to be seen, but they should win their fourth game in five tries for coach P.J. Carlesimo. The return of a fitter, more consistent Andray Blatche to an arena where he was booed constantly against a team that used the amnesty clause to get rid of him is an interesting sidebar, and with Kris Humphries (ankle) doubtful, Blatche might extract some revenge.
ATL @ DET: At first glance, it’s a mismatch between a playoff contender and an also-ran. However, the Hawks needed double-OT to beat the the Pistons in Atlanta on Dec. 26, and Detroit has won three straight at home since then. Sixth man Rodney Stuckey (ankle) is expected to return, but Will Bynum has been so good filling in that he should remain in the rotation. The bench, also featuring Andre Drummond and Charlie Villanueva, has become a strength. I’ll be using Josh Smith and Louis Williams, hoping it’s high-scoring. Sweet Lou will remain the #1 SG for a while, as Atlanta is 5-1 since he became the starter.
POR @ MEM: The Blazers can’t play any worse than they did in Toronto the other night. A team that needs to score big to win, they are up against the league’s best defense. Mike Conley will be hounding Damian Lillard, and Wesley Matthews is less than 100% healthy, so it’s up to LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum if Portland has any chance. The Grizzlies should win, but this definitely isn’t the most fantasy-friendly game of the night.
HOU @ MIL: The Rockets are the best team nobody knows. OK, everyone is aware of James Harden, but underappreciated guys like Omer Asik and Patrick Patterson are fantasy gold. Not quite as explosive away from Houston, they still play fast-paced, high-scoring games. Monta Ellis might trade buckets with Harden all night. Off the bench, Mike Dunleavy and his former teammate Carlos Delfino often put up starter-like numbers. It’s hard to know which Milwaukee big men will show up; Larry Sanders gets a double-double with a handful of blocks on his best nights, but Ersan Ilyasova has become annoyingly inconsistent and rookie John Henson is beginning to pressure him.