Definitive Guide to Brooklyn Nets vs. LA Clippers and Saturday's Top NBA Games
After an exhaustive workweek, we're all given a free pass for fighting some heavy eyelids today.
But for the 22 teams in action tonight and the global fanbase glued to these contests, we all must remember that Saturday was never meant to be a day of rest.
If this plays out as a sleepy Saturday, then upsets could rain down from the basketball heavens all night long. Championship contenders dot tonight's 11-game slate, most of which are matched up with teams from the opposite end of the NBA landscape.
The Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors won't polish any title resumes tonight, but they could send out some alarm signals by not filling the win column. The Indiana Pacers and Los Angeles Clippers both square off with preseason championship hopefuls, but the standings suggest their opponents are not actually in the same class.
So, toss back a few Red Bulls—or whatever you crazy kids need to stay awake—and keep your focus off the fact that you might own the world's most comfortable recliner. A few yawns here and there are forgivable, but don't let the Sandman spoil what should be a sensational Saturday night.
Saturday Night's Lineup
Miami Heat vs. Charlotte Bobcats, 7 p.m. ET
Dallas Mavericks vs. Orlando Magic, 7 p.m. ET
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Washington Wizards, 7 p.m. ET
Atlanta Hawks vs. New York Knicks, 7:30 p.m. ET
Indiana Pacers vs. Chicago Bulls, 8 p.m. ET
Denver Nuggets vs. Houston Rockets, 8 p.m. ET
Boston Celtics vs. Minnesota Timberwolves, 8 p.m. ET
Philadelphia 76ers vs. New Orleans Pelicans, 8 p.m. ET
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Milwaukee Bucks, 8:30 p.m. ET
Utah Jazz vs. Golden State Warriors, 10:30 p.m. ET
Brooklyn Nets vs. Los Angeles Clippers, 10:30 p.m. ET (NBATV)
Best Matchup of the Night: Brooklyn Nets vs. Los Angeles Clippers
Jay Z might have severed his ties with the Brooklyn Nets, but some of his lyrics are still floating around this franchise.
No, the team's sluggish 3-5 start hasn't racked up "99 Problems" just yet. But, it has left fans pleading with players: "Show Me What You Got."
Despite a $200 million investment from owner Mikhail Prokhorov, this team is struggling to be seen as a poor man's contender. The Nets look old and slow—save for Brook Lopez (20.5 points on 57.4 percent shooting) and Shaun Livingston (8.5 points on 59.1 percent shooting)—two potentially damning traits when matched up with the explosive Los Angeles Clippers (league-leading 110.0 points per game).
So, if the stat sheet has this being so one-sided, what makes this the game of the night? Because, contrary to popular belief, games aren't actually played on paper.
Brooklyn will be motivated, as Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce get their first cracks at former coach Doc Rivers. The Nets are riding a relative high after last night's 100-98 overtime win over the Phoenix Suns, even though it may have put Deron Williams back on the shelf (ankle, more on that later).
After an early playoff exit last season wrapped the soft label around this team, first-year Nets coach Jason Kidd liked the fight he saw in his players last night.
"The tough times that we’ve been through, this would have been an easy one to let go,” Kidd said, via Andrew Keh of The New York Times. “It just shows the character of our guys, how they fought."
Superstars will be out in full force in this contest, and that's not a reference to the Staples Center faithful. This could still be an NBA Finals preview with the talent on these rosters.
Must-See Individual Matchup: Kyrie Irving vs. John Wall
John Wall got his max-money stack this summer, and a jackpot payday will be coming in the near future for Kyrie Irving. Even amid the incredible NBA depth at the point guard position, these are two of the best in the business.
But, talent isn't the only reason this matchup promises to deliver. Both of these players and their respective teams have plenty to prove.
Two trendy preseason playoff picks have looked like anything-but through the early portion of the season. The Washington Wizards (2-6) and Cleveland Cavaliers (3-7) each carry a three-game losing streak into this contest.
This might be marketed as a superstars' league, but one player can't save a team on his own. That being said, neither Wall (37.9 percent shooting, 3.4 turnovers per game) nor Irving (38.0, 3.3) have done a lot to reverse their franchises' fates.
But all of that could easily change tonight. Wall's an Olympic track star on the hardwood; Irving has yo-yo handles to go along with a deep bag of fundamentally sound tricks.
The box scores are slowly, but steadily, turning in these players' favors. Wall has eight or more assists in five of his last six games, while Irving has dropped a double-double in two of his last four.
Maybe this game doesn't have the postseason ramifications we expected it would, but we might still be talking about this head-to-head battle at season's end.
Who Has the Most on the Line?
Moral victories are about as important as long-two proficiency. Trying to put a positive spin on something that at the end of the day we all know is wrong makes no sense.
But moral celebrations could haunt the Dallas Mavericks tonight if they're not careful.
The Mavs had a solid performance last night, falling by just six points to the two-time defending champion Miami Heat inside AmericanAirlines Arena. If not for an overabundance of self-inflicted wounds (24 turnovers), Dallas could have escaped with a win.
But, I'm interested to see how much the Mavs have left in the tank when they take on a scrappy Orlando Magic squad tonight. Complacency, or any after effects from the always alluring South Beach, could put Dallas in a trap.
Even if the Magic are keeping an eye on the vaunted crop of 2014 draft candidates, this team has been a handful on its home floor. Orlando is 4-1 at the Amway Center this season, with the lone blemish coming by way of a two-point loss.
The Mavericks know how good they can be—they saw it firsthand on Friday night. "If we go out and compete every night at this high level and turn our turnovers down, we can beat anybody in this league," Monta Ellis said after the game, via the Associated Press (h/t ESPN).
But, overlooking Orlando would be disastrous. Mavs owner Mark Cuban might have missed out on Plans A, B and C in free agency, but Plan D (Ellis, Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert) looks surprisingly sound.
Looks can be deceiving, though, so Dallas needs to break out its Sunday best for this Saturday night clash.
With plenty of food for thought to digest about the players in action tonight, here's a look at some notable names who may not see the floor.
Boston Celtics: Rajon Rondo (knee)
The 27-year-old found his way back to the All-Star ballot. But putting together an All-Star campaign before February will be tough as Celtics team president Danny Ainge said Rondo may not even be a "week-to-week" consideration before the middle of December, via ESPN Boston's Chris Forsberg.
Brooklyn Nets: Deron Williams (ankle)
Kidd said he plans to "see how [Williams] feels" after the point guard sprained his left ankle on Friday night, via ESPN New York's Mike Mazzeo. He's officially questionable, but rest sure seems preferable to having him chase the ankle-breaking Chris Paul all night.
Charlotte Bobcats: Al Jefferson (ankle)
Chicago Bulls: Derrick Rose (hamstring)
Officially, he's questionable, but Rose expressed some "hope" that he could give it a go tonight, via Aggrey Sam of Comcast SportsNet Chicago. The Chicago Bulls don't want to rush him. This isn't even a real rivalry game after all.
Denver Nuggets: JaVale McGee (leg)
It will be awhile before he gets back in the mix, as Nuggets.com's Aaron J. Lopez reported that a stress fracture in his left tibia has sidelined McGee indefinitely. On a related note, Shaqtin' A Fool is officially accepting applications if anyone's interested.
Miami Heat: Ray Allen (illness)
Allen's officially questionable, but Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported that Allen was not expected to travel to Charlotte. I have this sneaking suspicion that the Heat might be OK without him.
New Orleans Pelicans: Ryan Anderson (foot)
A rare bit of good news on the injury front. According to Pelicans.com's Jim Eichenhofer, Anderson will make his 2013-14 debut tonight. New Orleans has started just 3-6 without him, but the league's fourth-best three-point shooting team (42.3 percent) will only be bolstered by the return of Anderson (career 38.4 percent).
*Unless otherwise noted, injury information used courtesy of CBSSports.com.
Maybe it's nothing more than train-wreck appeal, but something about this New York Knicks-Atlanta Hawks game has captured my attention.
For as poorly as this season has started in the Big Apple, any team with a healthy Carmelo Anthony is capable of putting on a good show. The reigning scoring champ is coming off his best performance of the season (45 points on Thursday night), and Atlanta may struggle to match his quickness in the post.
At the other end, the Hawks have two of the best shows you're somehow still not watching.
Al Horford feels almost underrated to the point of being overrated, yet it still seems like casual fans are failing to take advantage of his true talent. Horford's enjoying the best scoring season of his career (19.4) and maintaining his efficiency (55.1 field-goal percentage).
If you're ready to wake up on Horford, then don't forget to watch the surging Jeff Teague in the process. Teague has averaged 29 points over his last two outings and has reached double-digit assists in six of his nine games.
There should be a steady stream of wow moments in what could be a quite compelling contest.
Fantasy Stock Watch
Even if you have your basketball blinders on, Saturday night in the NBA world can be tough for fantasy owners.
You're still scanning the injury reports for tomorrow's NFL action, and now, you're doing it with just weeks to clean up your postseason resume.
The fact that 22 teams are on the floor tonight doesn't help. You have so many options to consider, so many matchups to weigh.
So, take this small trinket of advice and get these players into your lineup. You'll be thanking me tomorrow.
The Big Guns
Good for you, Howard owners. You were willing to deal with the sideways glances and verbal jabs from your rivals. As public perception put a dent in Howard's stock, you knew that his move to H-Town would help build it right back up.
You're probably still waiting for that moment to happen. But there's great news—you've been waiting for a moment like tonight.
Howard has no doubt strengthened your defensive categories (14.9 rebounds, 2.5 blocks), but his offense has been a work in progress (17.1 points, 52.2 percent shooting). A date with the offensive-minded J.J. Hickson should be just the prescription Howard needs for a monstrous offensive night.
If your league gives points for Mozgoving the competition, that's just an added bonus.
Wait a minute, isn't Griffin slated for a matchup with Kevin Garnett? He certainly is, and that's precisely the reason Griffin's hot streak should continue.
Remember, this is the 37-year-old Garnett we're talking about. The same one that has allowed opposing forwards to post a mammoth 22.9 player efficiency rating against him this season, via 82games.com.
Griffin has at least 22 points in his last five games, and he's grabbed double-digit rebounds in four of those five. He's even helped your passing game as he's dished out 12 total assists over his last two games.
He's a must-start on any night, but he could have a really special performance on Saturday.
The Sleeper: Ryan Anderson
Anderson owners, your time has come. And your patience shall be rewarded tonight.
Maybe Anderson will come back with a bit of rust, but he'll have every opportunity to scrape it off. The Pelicans are 18th in bench scoring (29.1 points per game, via HoopsStats.com) and in dire need of the kind of spark Anderson can provide.
But quantity is only half the equation. You need quality to help your percentages.
Guess what? You're in even better position in that regard. No team has defended the three-point line worse than the Philadelphia 76ers (40.3 percent allowed) this season.
But Anderson's only as good as his fantasy owners will allow. After giving him time to get healthy, don't forget to plug him in tonight and start seeing your scoring, rebounding and three-point shooting categories soar.