Definitive Guide to Bulls vs. Sixers and Saturday's Top NBA Games
This isn't exactly basketball's all-you-can-eat buffet, but Saturday's eight-game NBA menu has a dish for every hoops appetite.
If star power pleases your palate, you're more than well-covered. Kyrie Irving and Paul George kick off the night's festivities, with Derrick Rose following shortly thereafter. James Harden and Dwight Howard help set the table as the main course, and there's even some Stephen Curry bombs for dessert.
Maybe you're not one for crowded restaurants, though. Maybe your best meals come well off the beaten path.
Good news: You're still in luck. A number of unheralded, overlooked talents are yours to be had.
Anthony Davis has yet to disappoint through his first two runs of the 2013-14 season. The young guns of the Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz have been cooking up some delicious offerings well beyond their years. And the undefeated (!) Philadelphia 76ers have sent basketball scribes scrambling through the dictionary to find their meaning of tanking.
I hope you hoops heads are hungry, because we're all feasting on brilliant balling tonight.
Take a look at what games have captured our attention, and let us know which ones you'll be watching in the comments section below!
Saturday Night Lineup
Indiana Pacers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers, 7 p.m. ET
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Chicago Bulls, 7:30 p.m. ET (NBATV)
New Orleans Pelicans vs. Charlotte Bobcats, 8 p.m. ET
Dallas Mavericks vs. Memphis Grizzlies, 8:30 p.m. ET
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Toronto Raptors, 8:30 p.m. ET
Utah Jazz vs. Houston Rockets, 9 p.m. ET
Portland Trail Blazers vs. San Antonio Spurs, 10 p.m. ET
Golden State Warriors vs. Sacramento Kings, 10:30 p.m. ET
*All injury information used courtesy of CBS Sports unless otherwise specified.
Best Matchup of the Night: Pacers vs. Cavaliers
All across the board, this Pacers-Cavs tilt gives you ample reason to stay glued to your TV tonight.
Will Pacers coach Frank Vogel harass Kyrie Irving with Lance Stephenson and Paul George, or is George Hill up for the challenge? Is the right-handed Tristan Thompson ready for the Pacers' massive frontcourt? Can Anderson Varejao provide more on-court entertainment than Andrew Bynum will bring from the sideline?
The playoff-hopeful Cavaliers have managed to look both like playoff locks and lottery participants already this season. Cleveland outlasted the $200 million Brooklyn Nets in its opener, but then dropped a head-scratcher in Charlotte two nights later.
The Pacers might be undefeated, but they've needed second-half rallies against both the Pelicans and Orlando Magic to keep their record unblemished. Style points don't necessarily matter, but Indiana has yet to put anything on the floor resembling a championship-caliber effort for the full 48 minutes.
Indiana swept this four-game season series a year ago, but Vogel told Pacers.com's Mark Montieth that this isn't the same Cleveland team. "I think our guys understand this Cleveland team is a lot better than last year’s team—a lot better," Vogel said.
The Pacers, who fell one game shy of an NBA Finals appearance last season, aren't too shabby either. Go ahead and schedule this one on your DVR now.
Must-See Individual Matchup: Derrick Rose vs. Michael Carter-Williams
A rookie point guard matched up with a former MVP who has something to prove. Sounds a bit one-sided, no?
The stat sheet suggests that it is, although not in the way we all would have thought.
Michael Carter-Williams has looked more like a seasoned vet than a wide-eyed rookie. The Syracuse product is averaging 18.0 points, 8.5 assists, five rebounds and five steals through his first two NBA games.
Not known as a shooter, Carter-Williams has connected on 48 percent of his field goals and 50 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.
Derrick Rose, who missed all of 2012-13 while recovering from a torn ACL, is still shaking off the rust. He's putting up just 15 points a night—his career average is 21—on 19 field-goal attempts. His field-goal percentage looks more like a batting average (.289).
But his last made basket, a game-winning floater over former Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler, should give him something to build on.
"He'll be fine," Thibodeau said. "There are going to be some bumps, but he'll get there."
Before the season started, this looked like the perfect matchup to get him going. But with Carter-Williams and his 76ers shattering preseason expectations, this battle could be far more of a struggle than anyone could have imagine.
Who Has the Most on the Line?
It's far too early to go around bursting playoff bubbles, but still, this hasn't been the kind of start the new-look Pelicans had in mind.
New Orleans gave Indiana a scare in its opener, but looked completely out of sync during Friday's 20-point drubbing in Orlando.
Charlotte has been a place where struggling teams have gone to get their groove back in seasons past, but Steve Clifford's Bobcats aren't pushovers.
This is not good news for New Orleans. Outside of 2012 No. 1 pick Anthony Davis (23 points and 14.5 rebounds), coach Monty Williams' offense has been a mess. Tyreke Evans looks lost (2.0 points in 20 minutes a night), and no one has stepped up to replace Ryan Anderson (out with a chip fracture in a toe on his right foot).
The Pelicans have the bodies to be playoff contenders, but Williams has yet to figure out how to put these pieces together.
Nakia Hogan of The Times-Picayune thinks Williams will push down on the gas pedal tonight to kick start his team's attack:
The Pelicans will try to push the pace against the Bobcats and set the tempo offensively. Since the first half of the season opener against the Indiana Pacers, the Pelicans offense has been out of sync.
My suggestion? Feed the Unibrow early and often. Davis looks like the kind of player who can carry a team on his shoulders, if has the opportunity to do so.
Al Jefferson, ankle: Officially, he's listed as questionable, but it's hard to imagine Coach Clifford letting him go tonight. Charlotte might need his offense, but the thought of him chasing Anthony Davis on pick-and-rolls makes my head hurt.
Andrew Bynum, knee: Bynum's been a surprise healthy body in each of Cleveland's first two games, but Jason Lloyd of the Akrong Beacon Journal says the big man is "not expected to play" tonight. It sounds more precautionary than anything, so no need to panic.
Golden State Warriors
Harrison Barnes, foot: Barnes was originally ruled out for "at least" the first two games of the season, via NBA.com, and he's predictably listed as questionable for tonight's game. Golden State's bench could use a spark, but this title contender needs to make sure he's at 100 percent before bringing him back.
Danny Granger, calf: Who had Bynum making an appearance before Granger this season? At least its his calf bothering him and not that troublesome knee.
Brandon Knight, hamstring: Another possible play, as he's listed as questionable, but I'm crossing my fingers that he sits this one out. The Nate Wolters experience has been a blast.
Nerlens Noel, knee: Wouldn't it be fun if coach Brett Brown scrapped his plan to rest Noel all season and brought the rookie back for a playoff push? Wishful thinking, though. I don't think we'll be seeing his flat top any time soon.
San Antonio Spurs
Tim Duncan, chest: Questionable must be the word of the day, as it's also found its way to this future Hall of Famers. It wouldn't surprise me if Gregg Popovich just bought Duncan an extra day of rest last night to get him ready for this playoff-hopeful Portland squad.
Pop-in Potential: Kings vs. Warriors
Even when these teams are bad, they're fun to watch.
As the Warriors made an impressive leap last season, they still had trouble with this Pacific Division rival. Golden State dropped three games out of four in this season series in 2012-13, with all four games being decided by a total of 17 points.
Now that the Kings have stolen some of the Warriors' pieces—new owner Vivek Ranadive and head coach Michael Malone were both in Golden State last season—this series has a new compelling twist.
The Kings always seem to lure the Warriors into playing junk ball, where shot selection and crisp ball movement are both foreign concepts.
Even if this contest shows the on-paper disparity between both sides a little more clearly this time around, it's still worth watching. Between the three-point barrages of the Splash Brothers and the potential for DeMarcus Cousins and Andrew Bogut to engage in some fisticuffs, this is one you won't want to miss.
Cousins' preseason jab at Stephen Curry being a fake tough guy not only gives us even more reason to watch, it also drew a response from Draymond Green, via Marcus Thompson II of the San Jose Mercury News.
Curry's not the kind of guy who's going to (talk trash) to you. I've never seen him back down. But he's not going to get in your face and start stuff. That's not who he is. But that's why we have guys like me.
If you're not ordering League Pass right now, I hope you're searching for someone who has it.
Fantasy Stock Watch
Sure, this is a demanding time of the year for fantasy players. You're on a day-to-day management schedule with your basketball roster and on constant watch for waiver pickups in your football league.
But really, how long does it take to set an active basketball roster? Scan the injury news, gloss over the matchups and you're ready to go.
Still, I'll help you speed up the process with three must-starts for tonight.
The Pelicans' problems haven't seemed to bother Davis, and they won't start to tonight. He's on tap for a steady diet of Josh McRoberts and Cody Zeller. If that doesn't excite fantasy owners, then nothing will.
His mid-range game is still coming along, but he's a threat on both pick-and-rolls and the offensive glass. Throw in the fact that he's the most complete defensive prospect the league has seen for some time, and we're looking at a potentially monstrous evening for the big man.
He's sometimes the forgotten man in Toronto, but his teammates know better. They get him involved early and often, as last night's 31-point explosion showed.
But I'm almost willing to set his basement at 31 points tonight. He'll start the night against the offensive-minded O.J. Mayo, and the matchups shouldn't get much scarier than that. If Caron Butler throws Rudy Gay off his game, then DeRozan could take on an even more active role in Dwane Casey's offense.
Milwaukee's burned us before with the kid gloves it keeps on Henson, but last night's game looked promising. The Bucks extended Henson's leash to 25 minutes—a number he cleared just eight times in his rookie season—and he responded with 14 points, nine rebounds and a block.
The matchup isn't ideal, but you know he'll find his way to the foul line when Tyler Hansbrough (career four fouls per 36 minutes) takes the floor. Henson's hit 8-of-13 from the field this season; he'll be as good as Milwaukee allows him to be.
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