CLE @ MIA: Both teams played elsewhere last night and won easily. LBJ is not 100% physically, but he’s tough to get out of the lineup. Miami needs Chris Bosh to assert himself after three quiet games; he was a monster just before the break. Something tells me the Heat will try to win this with defense, so I’m looking elsewhere in daily leagues.
SAC @ NOH: You hear coaches say it in huddles all the time. “Whoever plays defense first will win.” Well, it’s not likely to be the Kings. As a loyal Patrick Patterson owner, I’m optimistic that he will play big minutes eventually, maybe even sending Jason Thompson to the bench. DeMarcus Cousins may enjoy playing alongside his former Kentucky teammate. For New Orleans, Greivis Vasquez is consistent, and Eric Gordon is more than capable when healthy and in the mood. How well their bigs play might decide this; Anthony Davis has a tender knee and Robin Lopez has cooled off recently.
MEM @ BRK: Part One of the ESPN doubleheader, this won’t be easy for Brooklyn. Joe Johnson (foot) is questionable; C.J. Watson would start again if JJ can’t go. Deron Williams got cortisone shots in both ankles on Thursday then tweaked one in Friday’s loss. Memphis has won six in a row, with their 1-2 punch of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph leading the way and a strong commitment to team D.
PHI @ NYK: Shorthanded from injuries and tired from playing the Heat last night, the 76ers should be just the tonic for the slumping Knicks to snap out of their funk. Carmelo Anthony will be on a mission, and Tyson Chandler is much better than any Philly big man. Kenyon Martin might eventually be useful, but let’s see what kind of shape he’s in first.
SAS @ PHO: The long rodeo road trip ends tonight, and even without Tony Parker (arm), the Spurs should take care of business. Gary Neal (calf) is also questionable, but Manu Ginobili can step up as a ballhandler and rookie Nando De Colo is like a mini-Manu. The Suns are in disarray, with whispers about coach rookie Lindsey Hunter’s qualifications, some front-office squabbling and a serious lack of talent. Reuniting the Morris twins is theoretically a good idea, though Marcus and Markieff play the same position as starter Luis Scola. My hunch is that Marcus, who can shoot the three, will soon take minutes from P.J. Tucker.
BOS @ POR: After losing the first two on this five-game Western trip, Boston won easily in Phoenix. This begins a difficult back-to-back that concludes tomorrow in Utah. Kevin Garnett will be fresh after getting a night off. Jeff Green was fantastic in a spot start and should continue his recent surge. Portland added Eric Maynor at the deadline; he can only improve the second unit. The Blazers, as always, will ride their starters hard. Fatigue may be taking its toll, as they have dropped seven in a row.
CHI @ OKC: The nightcap (also on ESPN) could decide a lot of Head-to-Head weeks and daily leagues. The Bulls will try to slow down Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, but nobody can stop them. Chicago could get Kirk Hinrich (elbow) back, which would send Nate Robinson to the second unit. Their best hope is to keep feeding Joakim Noah in the paint. Newcomer Ronnie Brewer might not play for the Thunder until Wednesday.