LAC @ HOU: In the fourth quarter, Jamal Crawford was unconscious. Using his patented moves to get open, J-Crossover scored half of his season-high 30 points on a variety of long bombs (5-of-7 from 3-point range) as the Clippers won again without their best player. Chris Paul (bruised kneecap) was barely missed, as Eric Bledsoe (19 PTS, 7 REB, 5 AST, 2 STL) filled in quite capably. The Rockets got blown out in the third but never gave up; James Harden (23) missed 12 shots and committed 5 TO, as the L.A. big men filled the lane.
MIL @ LAL: Led by a healthy-looking Dwight Howard (31 PTS, 16 REB, 4 BLK) and an inspired two-way game from Kobe Bryant (31 PTS, 6 AST), the Lakers pulled away to a convincing win. Monta Ellis (17) led the Bucks, but Kobe absolutely smothered Brandon Jennings (12 PTS, 1 AST, -22) which affected everyone else. Milwaukee shot 35.8% as a team, as L.A. would appear to be heating up just in time to face Miami on Thursday in the nightcap of the TNT doubleheader.
January 16 Games
CHI @ TOR: Third-stringer John Lucas is the only healthy PG for Toronto; Calderon may try to play and Lowry is a warrior, but neither will be at his best if they do appear. Meanwhile, the Bulls rediscovered their defensive intensity, allowing a team-record 58 points in crushing Atlanta by 39 at home on Monday. The Raptors will try immobile Aaron Gray, injured Amir Johnson and slender Ed Davis against Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer. Good luck with that. Luol Deng might also have a big game.
IND @ ORL: Winning with a ferocious defense, the Pacers can’t afford a letdown in this road back-to-back. Orlando got destroyed by the Wizards on Monday and must regroup. Glen Davis is back from a sprained shoulder and will soon replace Andrew Nicholson as the starting PF. Jameer Nelson is averaging 22 points and 8.8 assists in six January games and Nikola Vucevic has had seven consecutive double-doubles.
BRK @ ATL: You may not believe in ‘team chemistry’ but the Nets mix is bubbling and effervescent right now and Atlanta is more like sludge, with a foul odor. Having hit rock bottom in that humiliating loss to Chicago, there is only one direction the Hawks can go. This is a gut check and a pride check for Josh Smith and Al Horford. It will be interesting to watch Joe Johnson return to the arena where he was a standout for seven years.
HOU @ DAL: The Rockets have lost four straight and will be tired. The timing is right for Dallas to win its fourth in a row, with Darren Collison dishing off to O.J. Mayo and Dirk Nowitzki. One thing you can count on is a high score, as Houston likes to run. Even some of the Mavs’ reserves like Vince Carter and Elton Brand might be worth using.