January 8 Games
MIA @ IND: Having won seven straight at home, the Pacers will be confident. Both teams play good D, so I’m not looking at this game for my daily league investments. LeBron James is playing through injuries to an ankle, knee and shoulder, but he’s incredibly tough. We’ll see how many of his own rebounds Chris Bosh gets to count; if Roy Hibbert plays like he did last game (20 PTS, 15 REB) it won’t be many.
BRK @ PHI: The Nets are 5-1 since P.J. Carlesimo took over for Avery Johnson. The Sixers are finally back home after a tough 2-6 road trip. The PG matchup is terrific; Jrue Holiday was clearly tired last weekend, possibly sore, but might bounce back on his home court against Deron Williams, who has been much improved since the calendar hit 2013. Brook Lopez is on a tremendous roll, and Philly will need Spencer Hawes to play very well to contain him.
PHO @ MIL: Don’t expect interim coach Jim Boylan to do anything dramatic; just getting off the players’ backs, ending the constant mind games and letting them play will liberate his team. Obviously, there’s no threat to Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, but every other position is up for grabs, which should inspire extra effort. The Bucks have some gifted offensive players who have been stifled; the leash on rookie John Henson just got longer and sophomore Tobias Harris could be rejuvenated. Guys like Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Ekpe Udoh will take a back seat if the team philosophy shifts from defense-first.
ATL @ MIN: All we know about Kevin Love is, he’s seeing a hand specialist to discuss surgery. There’s no timetable, and he’ll probably miss a month, if not more. Nikola Pekovic (hip) won’t be 100% if he plays; he’s as tough as he looks but it’s not entirely his decision. Andrei Kirilenko and Dante Cunningham are going to have their hands full with Josh Smith and Al Horford. The Hawks blew a 19-point lead in their latest and will be determined to play a full 48 minutes. While Louis Williams will continue to start at SG, Devin Harris (foot) is nearing a return. The Wolves will have Ricky Rubio (back spasms) but he’s nowhere near the player he was before knee surgery; that will take more time.
LAL @ HOU: A nightmare season is turning into a disaster for the Lakers, who will be missing their three best big men. Dwight Howard (shoulder) is out for at least a week, probably longer. Pau Gasol’s bloody nose also led to a concussion, and Jordan Hill has a sore hip. Large rookie Robert Sacre has been called up from the D-League to start at C, undersized Metta World Peace will play some PF and ineffective Antawn Jamison will be dusted off after playing less than eight minutes (total) in the last eight games. Kobe Bryant might score 60, but James Harden & Co. will force the pace and use their depth to match him. Chandler Parsons (flu) is questionable, so Carlos Delfino is a good spot start.
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