Complete Guide to Pacers vs. Nets and Monday's NBA Action
Christmas is coming early for you hoops heads.
Strike that, I mean early and often, because the NBA's Christmas Day slate is actually quite Christmassy.
But that's besides the point here. Just know that Monday has plenty of action worthy of a dietary cheat night in store for us.
The Indiana Pacers will bring their ridiculously awesome act to the shorthanded Brooklyn Nets. The Golden State Warriors will meet the Denver Nuggets to determine who is more playoff ready. And the New York Knicks look to do something out of the ordinary (win) against the Orlando Magic.
That's just the beginning. There are eight other games deserving of your attention.
Grab that tub of full-flavor ice cream and get your saturated fat-eating pants on. It's going to be that kind of awesome in the NBA Monday night.
Monday Night's Lineup
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Charlotte Bobcats, 7 p.m. ET
Detroit Pistons vs. Cleveland Cavaliers, 7 p.m. ET
New York Knicks vs. Orlando Magic, 7 p.m. ET
Indiana Pacers vs. Brooklyn Nets, 7:30 p.m. ET
Atlanta Hawks vs. Miami Heat, 7:30 p.m. ET
Dallas Mavericks vs. Houston Rockets, 8 p.m. ET
Utah Jazz vs. Memphis Grizzlies, 8 p.m. ET
Toronto Raptors vs. San Antonio Spurs, 8:30 p.m. ET
Golden State Warriors vs. Denver Nuggets, 9 p.m. ET
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Phoenix Suns, 9 p.m. ET
New Orleans Pelicans vs. Sacramento Kings, 10 p.m. ET (NBATV)
*All stats used courtesy of Basketball-Reference unless otherwise noted.
Best Matchup of the Night: Indiana Pacers vs. Brooklyn Nets
Could these two teams be any more different?
Brooklyn went all in on this season in a big way, and the results have been disastrous. The Nets rank in the bottom 10 of points scored, points allowed and rebounds per game, and at 9-17 currently sit with the 11th-best record in an Eastern Conference where your high school basketball team was (probably) good enough to make the playoffs.
Learning that Brook Lopez is done for the season has only compounded Brooklyn's woes. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are no longer aging gracefully, Joe Johnson's contract is an albatross and Deron Williams is one slight breeze away from joining Brolo on the bench.
Meanwhile, the Pacers continue to dominate, riding a top-ranked defense and 12th-ranked offense to the second-best winning percentage in the NBA. Correct, a team that ranked 19th in offensive efficiency last year is suddenly approaching top-10 stature and is still destroying teams defensively.
In other words, Brooklyn, losers of two straight, is in trouble.
Must-See Individual Matchup: Stephen Curry vs. Ty Lawson
Point guard fun for everyone.
This is the first time Curry and Lawson will meet this year, and marks the 12th time these two have played in the regular season since entering the league. Lawson's Nuggets are 9-3 in those contests, but it's been Curry who has stolen the individual show, averaging 20.7 points on 56.3 percent shooting from deep.
Both point men are already having sensational campaigns this year, as they look to keep their respective teams relevant in a viciously competitive Western Conference. Lawson is averaging a career high in points (17.6) and assists (7.9), while Curry is doing the same (24.3 and 9.2, respectively).
Which floor general will have the bigger night in hopes of pitting their team in that eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot?
Wouldn't you like to know. And you can. Later tonight.
Who Has the Most on the Line?
This is becoming a familiar appearance.
Injuries have crippled the Knicks this season, but they're running out of excuses. Tyson Chandler is back, Carmelo Anthony is playing, Amar'e Stoudemire has gone more than 25 percent of the year without ending his season and against the Grizzlies, J.R. Smith's jump shot didn't make you want to gouge your eyes out.
Most teams would call that progress; the Knicks call it chaos.
New York is just 8-18, and continues to blow invaluable opportunities. With the Nets struggling and now unlikely to make a respectable push without Brolo, the Knicks have been put in a position to surge in the standings.
The Atlantic Division is weak. The Knicks are 3.5 games off the Toronto Raptors, but they remain in the bottom 12 of offensive and defensive efficiency, and are falling fast.
Another loss, especially to the Magic—who the Knicks took down 121-83 the first time around—could cost head coach Mike Woodson his job. Another loss could send the Knicks into a downward spiral they cannot recover from.
"They were smart," Anthony said in an interview with NBA TV's Ahmad Rashad of the Heat's Big Three teaming up, via the New York Daily News' Frank Isola. "I think it’s smart. It was their choice."
Another loss, and Anthony could be that much closer to flying the coop this summer.
Injuries, injuries are no fun, even if they're suffered by everyone. And quite unfortunately, they are.
Brook Lopez (ankle)
The Nets announced that Brolo would likely miss the remainder of the season after being "diagnosed with a fractured fifth metatarsal of the right foot". Way to make Roy Hibbert's job extra easy tonight.
James Harden (ankle)
James Harden missed Saturday's game against the Pistons while tending to his right ankle. Per the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen, he could miss even more time.
"It’s still sore," Harden said. "It’s painful."
Uptick in league-wide ankle injuries in mind, expect Harden and Houston to play it safe.
Jeremy Lin (back)
Feigen also writes that Lin is hoping to return against the Mavericks, which isn't so much good news as it is a necessity. With Harden potentially out and Patrick Beverley done for four to six weeks, Houston needs backcourt bodies.
Here's to Isaiah Canaan maybe getting playing time.
Marc Gasol (knee)
ESPN's Chris Vernon says Marc Gasol could return somewhere in the next 10-20 days, which may not be soon enough for a Grizzlies team rapidly falling out of contention in the Western Conference.
New York Knicks
Raymond Felton (hamstring)
According to the New York Daily News' Peter Botte, Raymond Felton could return to New York's lineup Monday night. Love him or hate him, point guards are scant this time of year in New York, so his return will be welcomed.
Pop-in Potential: Golden State Warriors vs. Denver Nuggets
Forget about the point guard matchup. But only for a second. It's that awesome.
The Nuggets gave up Arron Afflalo and a first-round pick to land Iggy, and then he left after one season. Front office instability and closed pockets didn't help their sales pitch, but there could be some animosity there.
More than anything, though, both the Nuggets and Warriors need a victory. Whichever team snags a win on Monday night, gains sole possession of eighth place in the Western Conference.
All Golden State and Denver want the night before Christmas Eve is a win. Only one can get it.
Pop-in potential never had so much potential.
With 22 teams in action tonight, you should have plenty of fantasy basketball questions.
If you don't, you're one of those people who doesn't set their lineup. Or take Mondays off. Or aren't fully recovered from a weekend of debauchery, comprising pudding-filled Slip 'N Slides. None of those are excuses. Nothing is.
Acceptable reasons for not having questions include the following: Christmas is 48 hours away and you still have to wash and wax your sleigh, groom your reindeer and iron your red suit (I got you, Santa). That's it.
Everyone else, I have answers to the questions you should be asking.
The Big Guns
Dwight Howard has been balling lately, which is bad news for the center-challenged Mavericks.
Last time the Rockets and Mavs met, Howard went for 33 points and 11 rebounds. An encore of sorts this time around is not out of the question.
Might even want to toss a block, two or five in there as well. Playing one of the NBA's smaller teams can have that effect.
Another player who, with the exception of his last game against the Chicago Bulls, has been balling lately.
Kyrie Irving has had his way with Brandon Jennings in the past, so when his Cavs meet the Pistons, bet on a huge night from Cleveland's point man.
In six games against Jennings, Irving is notching 26.7 points on 55.7 percent shooting. The defensively inept, albeit wily Jennings is no match for Irving on that side of the ball. That trend will continue tonight.
Markieff Morris just seems due for a big night. It's been one whole game since he last registered 20-plus points (irony intended).
That, and I'm not really sure who the Lakers have that will contain him. Wesley Johnson and Shawne Williams can be strong defenders, but Morris dropped 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting last time Phoenix and Los Angeles met.
Almost everything about the Suns defies what we know about tanking, Morris' efforts included. Against a hobbled Lakers team, he should have an efficient shooting night with an excess of points and rebounds sprinkled in.