Definitive Guide to Lakers vs. Warriors and Wednesday's Top NBA Games
Give yourself a round of applause and supersize your dinner. You've earned it.
The days of meaningless NBA action are over. Games finally have a purpose again. You survived. Be excited.
But not too excited, because we've all got some work to do. Only three games were played on the Association's opening night, meaning there's a full slate of tilts available for your viewing pleasure Wednesday—14 to be exact.
Cancel your dinner plans. You can supersize your colon on Thursday. Wednesday is not the time for relaxation. That comes later, when teams like the Charlotte Bobcats and Philadelphia 76ers play one another (Dec. 6).
Now's the time for intricate planning. Purchasing bigger TVs. Finding that butt-shaped groove in your couch. Explaining to your significant other why your phone is turned off.
Strap yourself in. It's going to be a wild Wednesday.
Wednesday Night Lineup
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Brooklyn Nets, 7 p.m. ET (NBATV)
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Miami Heat, 7 p.m. ET
Toronto Raptors vs. Boston Celtics, 7 p.m. ET
Detroit Pistons vs. Washington Wizards, 7:30 p.m. ET
New York Knicks vs. Milwaukee Bucks, 7:30 p.m. ET
Houston Rockets vs. Charlotte Bobcats, 8 p.m. ET
Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Orlando Magic, 8 p.m. ET
New Orleans Pelicans vs. Indiana Pacers, 8 p.m. ET
Dallas Mavericks vs. Atlanta Hawks, 8:30 p.m. ET
San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies, 8:30 p.m. ET
Utah Jazz vs. Oklahoma City Thunder, 9 p.m. ET
Phoenix Suns vs. Portland Trail Blazers, 10 p.m. ET
Sacramento Kings vs. Denver Nuggets, 10 p.m. ET
Golden State Warriors vs. Los Angeles Lakers, 10:30 p.m. ET (NBATV)
*Note: All injury information was obtained from CBS Sports unless otherwise attributed.
Best Matchup of the Night: Golden State Warriors vs. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers should be entering this game 0-1. An opening-night loss to the Los Angeles Clippers should've preceded this. Stephen Curry's Warriors should be preparing to send the Lakers home 0-2.
Instead, the Lakers are coming off an improbable 116-103 romping of the Clippers. Though it's still early, they put the NBA on notice: They're here. And while Kobe Bryant isn't, they're going to compete.
This will be Golden State's first game of the season, and Mark Jackson's crew will look to start it off right. The Warriors have spent years living in the Lakers' shadow, and for the past two seasons, the Clippers' too. Now they'll be looking to make a statement of their own.
Beating the Lakers wouldn't necessarily mean anything. Again, they don't have Kobe, and the season is only just underway. A Pacific Division title isn't guaranteed to follow a victory Wednesday night.
But for their own purposes, taking down the Lakers will be a sign of how far they've come. For a brief moment, they'll have also done what the Clippers couldn't.
Find a better possible way for the Warriors to begin 2013-14. I dare you. Then find a better way for the Black Mamba-less Lakers to potentially start their season than by beating two supposedly superior division rivals. I dare you.
You can't, on both fronts. Because there isn't one.
Must-See Individual Matchup: Tim Duncan vs. Marc Gasol/Zach Randolph
For one, it won't be as entertaining a game if the Grizzlies get blown out following a triple-double-esque performance by the The Big Fundamental. Mostly, we just need to see Duncan battle Gasol.
The reigning Defensive Player of the Year vs. Old-Man Awesome. You want to see that.
At 37, Duncan is nine years older than Gasol. This could be the season Duncan regresses and plays his age. This could be the year Duncan fades.
Or this could be the game he puts Gasol's defensive chops to the test.
Bet on the latter. Duncan has tailored his game to fit his aging body: Finesse on the offensive end, rugged aggression on the defensive side. That's how he plays. Kind of like Gasol, only with less hair.
Two of the league's best bigs will go at it Wednesday, even if they don't play the same position. They'll find each other. Trust me. And you won't want to miss it when they do.
Who Has the Most on the Line?
The Rockets. More specifically, Dwight Howard.
Superman couldn't ask for a better regular-season debut as a Rocket. While the Bobcats got a little deeper over the offseason, they're still the Bobcats.
Beginning his tenure in Houston with a victory is paramount. Howard left a Lakers organization prepared to give him the world, once Kobe was done spinning it on his pointer finger. After watching them torch a projected powerhouse like the Clippers, who the Lakers lost to four times last season with Howard, the need for him to start off 2013-14 with a win grew in importance.
There's also that whole Howard playing power forward thing. He's a center with limited offensive range, playing a position commonly earmarked for floor spacers nowadays. And he's playing next to an even more offensively challenged center in Omer Asik. Together, they figure to clog the paint like a kid who doesn't eat enough roughage does his parents plumbing.
Oh, James Harden is banged up as well, putting even more pressure on Howard. Houston brought him in to be its second superstar. If Harden isn't Harden, Howard will have to be Howard and Harden, minus the facial hair.
Once again, it's only the Bobcats, so this should end better than 500 Days Of Summer did. Yet, since it's only the Bobcats, imagine the criticism Howard and the Rockets will face if it doesn't.
Rajon Rondo, knee: When will Rondo return to action? When he's healthy. Or when the Celtics decide he won't ruin their grand tanking plans.
Andrew Bynum, knee: At least he's practicing. Sort of. Maybe sometime soon he'll play in an actual game. You know, before he goes down again.
Brandon Jennings, tooth: Trust me, Jennings' injury is more serious than it sounds. But it's nowhere near as interesting as it sounds, since to the best of my knowledge it wasn't the result of a disagreement between him and the tooth fairy.
Golden State Warriors
Harrison Barnes, foot: Hopefully Barnes gets right soon, because Golden State's bench needs him. Unless Mark Jackson plans to start him over Klay Thompson. Then it's the starting lineup that needs him.
Los Angeles Lakers
Kobe Bryant, Achilles: At some point, Kobe is going to surprise us all and just play. Might even rise up from below center court or chopper himself into the arena when he does. No such treats await us on Wednesday night, though.
New York Knicks
J.R. Smith, utter stupidity suspension: One game down, four to go. Unless Smith goes out this Saturday, that is.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Russell Westbrook, knee: Thankfully, the Thunder are only playing the Jazz.
Pop-in Potential: New Orleans Pelicans
Seriously, what are the Pellies? Darlings of the preseason or the next great playoff sleeper?
New Orleans went 7-1 during the preseason, never failing to score at least 90 points. Exhibitions typically traipse the line of useless, but this team has already proved to be fun to watch because it's built to score.
Everyone is healthy too. That's not a typo. Anthony Davis is going to play against the Pacers, as will Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers and Tyreke Evans. They're all healthy. Christmas has come early in The Big Easy.
The best part is that Jrue Holiday, an All-Star point guard, will be going up against a Pacers team with no true floor general in the starting lineup. Lance Stephenson, Paul George and George Hill all fancy themselves playmakers, but can they defend the incisive dribble attacks Holiday will employ? I've got my doubts, even about George, the self-proclaimed best perimeter defender in the game.
Going up against a stifling Indy defense will be the ultimate test for New Orleans' young gunners. The Pacers held the Magic to under 90 points on opening night, because that's what they do. But scoring is what the Pelicans are built to do.
See for yourself, Wednesday night.
Set your fantasy lineups. Right now. No one likes a last-minute Miley. And you'll hate yourself if you don't plan your lineups according to certain matchups.
Some players are always going to put up big numbers, but how ridiculous their stat line is projected to be impacts other decisions. You'll get the point soon enough.
The Big Guns
The Heat are playing the Sixers. The Heat. Against the Sixers. Need I say more? Probably not, but I'm going to anyway.
LeBron is a must-start every day. No exceptions. Wednesday night especially figures to be a big night for The King.
Philly might lose to teams in 50-and-over leagues. That's how bad the Sixers are. So LeBron could have a triple-double by the third quarter. That's how good he is. He'll pad your docket with points, rebounds, assists and powder tosses, so tonight, of all nights, you're free to start a shot-blocking specialist who can't score or pass. Or the injured Andris Biedrins, if you're feeling cocky.
Who on the Mavericks will stop Al Horford? Answers ranging from "no one" to "only himself" to "Dirk Nowitzki in his dreams" are all acceptable.
Dallas likes to think it has a pair of interior stoppers in Samuel Dalembert and Brandan Wright. It doesn't. Wright is also listed as doubtful, leaving Dalembert to defend Horford on his own.
Horford can score in a variety of ways, rebound in excess and is an underrated shot-blocker. The Mavs aren't going to have an answer for him. Few teams will actually, but the Mavs are especially light on defensive talent.
Andrew Nicholson absolutely torched the Pacers on opening night. And I mean destroyed them.
In 19 minutes of action, he went 8-of-10 from the field for 18 points. He pitched in four rebounds and a steal as well.
Against a staunch Pacers defense lauded for its size, that's incredible. Against a relatively small, defensively mediocre Timberwolves team, it's safe to expect an encore.
Think of all he could do if Jacque Vaughn gives him 25 minutes.