WAS @ MEM: No less a witness than coach Lionel Hollins called the Grizzlies “shell-shocked” last night. Down to just nine players, they might not have their three new additions available tonight, which would make them vulnerable, even against a 3-19 road team. If Z-Bo takes out his frustration on the opponents instead of pouting, that will help. Marc Gasol will also need maximum effort, as Emeka Okafor is playing very well for the Wizards. I am bullish on Tayshaun Prince in a playoff environment, and Ed Davis will certainly contribute, but they won’t be able to play unless Gay passes his physical in time, and without them, this game will be another struggle.
DAL @ PHO: Having lost a close one in Oakland last night, and with Dirk sidelined, this is a very tough matchup for the Mavericks, who are one of the league’s oldest teams. Meanwhile, the Suns are rested, at home and enjoying a renaissance since Lindsey Hunter took over as coach. In particular, Michael Beasley is on fire. The 24-year-old, drafted second overall, had worn out his welcome in three cities with inconsistent play and erratic behavior. He’s averaging 18 points a game as the sixth man for Hunter. Marcin Gortat should feast on the Dallas centers tonight, and Goran Dragic is another must-start.
CLE @ DET: Make no mistake, the Pistons franchise got better with the dumping of Prince and the addition of Calderon, more specifically his expiring contract. The current season was a lost cause anyway. Brandon Knight may take on a dual role as backup PG and part-time SG; Rodney Stuckey might also play alongside the Spaniard and Will Bynum will be squeezed for minutes. The big problem is SF, where rookie Kyle Singler will start, with Jonas Jerebko now in the rotation. Though the Cavs don’t win many road games, they have an excellent chance, with Kyrie Irving likely to bounce back (he was ill last game) and Tristan Thompson averaging a double-double (15,1 PTS, 10,9 REB) in January, but far the best month of his pro career.
POR @ UTA: The Jazz bounced back from possibly the worst game they have ever played at home (a 45-point drubbing by Houston) with a solid win on Wednesday. The Blazers staged a huge comeback the same night, and both teams are very strong in the paint. Let’s assume J.J. Hickson holds his own against Al Jefferson and LaMarcus Aldridge at least cancels out Paul Millsap. That leaves Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum for Utah to stop, and they will probably be without Gordon Hayward (shoulder) for a third game, eroding some of the second unit’s advantage. If it’s high-scoring, I don’t care who wins — all five Portland starters are worth using.
NOH @ DEN: While the Nuggets were playing 22 of their first 32 games on the road, they were slightly disappointing to fantasy owners. At home, they are 19-3 and capable of beating anyone. They should score at least 110 against the Hornets, cellar-dwellers of the West. Greivis Vasquez and Ryan Anderson are good fantasy starts, and Eric Gordon will return — he was held out of a back-to-back last game — but will be closely covered by Andre Iguodala. The most consistent Denver players lately have been Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari, but Kenneth Faried and several bench guys are also capable of big numbers.
LAL @ MIN: Among many questions for L.A. is the health of Dwight Howard, whose shoulder will be a problem all season. If he can play tonight, Nikola Pekovic will have his hands full. If not, Pek becomes a stronger play, and the Lakers’ PF platoon of Earl Clark and Pau Gasol will both see plenty of action. Minnesota has four good guards; Ricky Rubio and Luke Ridnour start, then J.J. Barea and Alexey Shved take over. None of them can stop Kobe Bryant, who is a decent bet for a triple-double with his new focus on passing.
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