Definitive Guide to Pacers vs. Clippers and Sunday's Top NBA Games

Daniel O'Brien@@DanielO_BRFeatured ColumnistDecember 1, 2013

Definitive Guide to Pacers vs. Clippers and Sunday's Top NBA Games

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    With a slew of intriguing NBA matchups slated for Sunday, this sports-stuffed Thanksgiving weekend keeps on rolling.

    The 2013-14 season is already a month old, and as the calendar turns to December, several contenders look to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.

    In L.A., the top squad in the East aims to grab a road win against one of the most dynamic offenses in the league. Who will prevail, the Indiana Pacers' lockdown defense or the Los Angeles Clippers' vaunted scoring attack?

    In addition to the heavyweight showdown at Staples Center, there are some pivotal games to keep an eye on. 

    A couple of Western Conference powers look to get back on track, as the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers try to rebound from tough losses. Meanwhile, the New York Knickerbockers will fight to snap an ugly losing streak, and a pair of exciting clubs will clash in the Motor City.

    Who will shine on this big day in the Association?

    Sunday's Lineup

    Denver Nuggets vs. Toronto Raptors, 1 p.m. ET

    Indiana Pacers vs. Los Angeles Clippers, 3:30 p.m. ET

    Philadelphia 76ers vs. Detroit Pistons, 3:30 p.m. ET

    Golden State Warriors vs. Sacramento Kings, 6 p.m. ET

    Charlotte Bobcats vs. Miami Heat, 6 p.m. ET

    Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Oklahoma City Thunder, 7 p.m. ET 

    New Orleans Hornets vs. New York Knicks, 7:30 p.m. ET

    Portland Trail Blazers vs. Los Angeles Lakers, 9:30 p.m. ET

Best Matchup: Indiana Pacers vs. Los Angeles Clippers

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    When the Indiana Pacers visit the Los Angeles Clippers Sunday, the NBA world will watch to see if Chris Paul is healthy enough to lead his troops past the East's top-ranked club.

    Paul strained his hamstring against the New York Knicks and sat out against the Sacramento Kings, but there's a chance he'll suit up against Indy (his official status is "questionable").

    Even if the Clips do have CP3 in the lineup, they'll still have a monumental task facing the Pacers' seemingly impenetrable shell. L.A. averages the most assists in the league, but Indiana surrenders the fewest.

    Who will have their way?

    The Clippers are on a modest four-game winning streak, and Jamal Crawford is coming off a scintillating game against Sacramento, when he tallied 31 points and 11 assists in Paul's absence. Can he carry that kind of spark into Sunday's tilt?

    Frank Vogel's group is on a streak of their own, with six straight triumphs. Their last three victories have been absolute blowouts, as the playmaking trio of George Hill, Lance Stephenson and Paul George have been nothing short of brilliant.

    Who will win the battle between DeAndre Jordan and Roy Hibbert? Will L.A. be able to contain George, who's one of the hottest stars in the game? Can Indy keep pace with the Clips' attack?

    Tune in at 3:30 p.m. ET to find out.

Must-See Individual Matchup: Ricky Rubio vs. Russell Westbrook

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    David Sherman/Getty Images

    There are some interesting big-man matchups on the docket Sunday, but we'd like to focus on a backcourt showdown that's bound to produce fireworks.

    Ricky Rubio directs a powerful Minnesota Timberwolves unit against Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Russell Westbrook. Both are crowd-pleasing playmakers, as Rubio uses his deft passing touch to set up teammates, while Westbrook attacks relentlessly.

    Minnesota's floor general hasn't proved to be much of a scoring threat this season. However, he generates a ton of offense with perfectly timed passes to cutters, as he's notching 8.6 assists per game.

    Whether it's a no-look bounce pass for a layup or a quick outlet laser that catches the defense off-guard, Rubio finds ways to give his comrades scoring options. Even if Russell Westbrook pressures him, there's a good chance Rubio can influence the game by making accurate dishes to open forwards.

    Can Rubio guard Westbrook? That's a bigger question.

    The OKC point guard is a monster when he wants to be, and despite Rubio's efforts as a pickpocket, Westbrook will be a challenge all night. The sixth-year pro is coming off a splendid 34-point outing against the Golden State Warriors that included a buzzer-beating game-winner.

    Will Westbrook's explosiveness and aggressiveness trump Rubio's wheeling and dealing?

Who Has the Most on the Line?

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    No game is unimportant at this stage of the season, but for the New York Knicks, Sunday's contest is huge.

    Mike Woodson's boys are staggering through an eight-game losing streak, and after four straight road defeats, they return home with a chance to get back in the win column.

    Standing in their way are the New Orleans Pelicans, a dangerous outfit looking to reach .500.

    Still without their interior anchor Tyson Chandler, New York will have its hands full against budding superstar Anthony Davis. The Knicks have struggled to crash the boards so far this season, and if they aren't aggressive, Davis could explode for a big day.

    Carmelo Anthony has been doing everything in his power to give his team a fighting chance, but he's too inefficient, and his supporting cast is too inconsistent. Andrea Bargnani has been heating up as of late, but other than that, there's no one Woodson can count on each night.

    There's still loads of time left in the season for the 'Bockers to make a charge and return to respectability, but they want to gain some momentum as soon as possible. They don't want to wait until Chandler comes back to start winning.

    For the sake of confidence and moving in the right direction, New York desperately needs to take care of business in the Garden.

Injury Report

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The injury bug has hit nearly every team so far this season, so it's all about who can adjust to the setbacks and manage without key players.

    Charlotte Bobcats

    Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Foot)

    After missing Friday's game against the Milwaukee Bucks, MKG practiced and "expects to play" against the Miami Heat, according to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.

    Brendan Haywood (Foot)

    Haywood is still out for at least another month, as we won't see him until early January.

    Denver Nuggets

    Ty Lawson (Ankle)

    Battling bone spurs in his right ankle, Lawson is questionable to play against the Toronto Raptors. 

    JaVale McGee (Leg)

    McGee is still out indefinitely after suffering a stress fracture in his left tibia.

    Danilo Gallinari (Knee)

    Marc Berman of the New York Post reports that Gallo isn't close to making his ACL return.

    Detroit Pistons

    Chauncey Billups (Knee)

    Mr. Big Shot is questionable to return from his knee injury against the Philadelphia 76ers. He's missed the Pistons' last 10 games, but he could make his return Sunday.

    Will Bynum (Hamstring)

    Bynum's hamstring injury has been particularly troublesome lately. He is expected to undergo an MRI and is questionable moving forward, per Shawn Windsor of the Detroit Free Press.

    Golden State Warriors

    Andre Iguodala (Hamstring)

    Iggy is still out indefinitely after straining his hamstring last week, so the Dubs won't have him against the Sacramento Kings.

    Ognjen Kuzmic (Finger)

    Golden State's rookie underwent surgery on his broken right hand and is out for the next six weeks, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

    Toney Douglas (Leg)

    There's a chance Douglas could finally return Sunday, but he's still listed as questionable.

    Festus Ezeli (Knee)

    Ezeli's knee is nowhere ready for game action, as he's out until late December.

    Indiana Pacers

    Danny Granger (Knee)

    Granger's calf will keep him sidelined beyond Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Clippers, as he is out indefinitely.

    Los Angeles Clippers

    Chris Paul (Hamstring)

    CP3 will probably be a game-time decision and is officially listed as questionable for his matchup with the Indiana Pacers.

    J.J. Redick (Wrist)

    Redick sprained his wrist Friday against the Sacramento Kings and is questionable for Sunday.

    Matt Barnes (Eye)

    Barnes continues to be sidelined with his eye injury and is out until early December.

    Los Angeles Lakers

    Jordan Hill (Ankle)

    Hill's sprained ankle makes him questionable, but according to Lakers reporter Mike Trudell, he expects to play Sunday.

    Kobe Bryant (Achilles)

    We're all still awaiting the return of Kobe Bryant. It won't happen Sunday, but it could happen Friday, per ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne.

    Steve Nash (Back)

    Nash remains out indefinitely due to nerve root irritation complications.

    Minnesota Timberwolves

    Chase Budinger (Knee)

    Budinger's knee injury is still weeks away from game-readiness, per the Associated Press.

    Ronny Turiaf (Elbow)

    The veteran big man has yet to play in a game, and Sunday won't be his first one.

    New Orleans Pelicans

    Greg Stiemsma (Knee)

    Stiemsma's knee has kept him sidelined since Nov. 12, and it will keep him there until late December.

    Darius Miller (Foot)

    Miller is active, although he didn't see any playing time Friday, which was the first game he dressed for this season.

    New York Knicks

    Tyson Chandler (Leg)

    Tyson Chandler is still rehabbing the non-displaced fracture in his fibula, but he says he may return soon, ESPN New York's Paul Willis reports. 

    Oklahoma City Thunder

    Kendrick Perkins (Finger)

    Perkins' finger has healed up enough for him to be probable for OKC's matchup with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    Philadelphia 76ers

    Arnett Moultrie (Ankle)

    Moultrie's ankle will unfortunately keep him out until January.

    Jason Richardson (Knee)

    Likewise, Richardson's knee will sideline him until after the New Year.

    Nerlens Noel (Knee)

    Philly's prized rookie is likely out for the remainder of the season due to ACL rehab.

    Portland Trail Blazers

    C.J. McCollum (Foot)

    McCollum is nearing his projected return time frame (mid-December), but he is still out for Sunday and the near future.

    Sacramento Kings

    Carl Landry (Hip)

    Landry's hip isn't close to being ready, as he's listed out until mid-January.

    *Unless otherwise noted, injury information provided by CBS Sports.

Pop-In Potential: Philadelphia 76ers at Detroit Pistons

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Aside from headline games involving marquee Western teams like the Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers, a game to keep tabs on takes place in Detroit.

    The Pistons square off against the Philadelphia 76ers in a game that features loads of young talent. Both clubs have six wins and are hungry to snap out of rough patches.

    Since their defenses aren't too formidable, there will be plenty of scoring chances in this showdown.

    Evan Turner and Michael Carter-Williams lead a surprisingly competent Sixers offense against a playoff-hopeful Detroit bunch. Can the Pistons' imposing frontcourt of Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith protect the paint and thwart Philly's complement of slashers?

    In the paint, keep an eye on the skill-power tandems for each club.

    Philadelphia's skilled big man is the soft-shooting Spencer Hawes, and Detroit counters with Greg Monroe. The Sixers boast explosive power forward Thaddeus Young, while the Pistons' power comes from Drummond.

    Which squad will ditch its losing ways? Either way, this contest should be a two-hour-long thrill ride.

Fantasy Stockwatch

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    Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

    A handful of fantasy basketball studs will be in action Sunday, so make sure to check your roster and get those can't-miss ballers in the starting lineup.

    If you're one of the smart (or lucky) drafters that landed multiple superstars, Sunday could be a big day for you if they churn out classic performances.

    But as any experienced fantasy player knows, it's not all about the stars. Picking the right sleepers is crucial to a successful season.

    The Big Guns

    Anthony Davis

    Many predicted a breakout year for New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis, but few predicted such domination.

    He looks incredibly comfortable for a 20-year-old, and the stats reflect it. Davis is averaging nearly 20/10 numbers while shooting over 50 percent and piling up blocks and steals. He also shoots very well from the line and doesn't turn it over. 

    His latest feat was a masterpiece against the Philadelphia 76ers: 22 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, four blocks and two steals on 55 percent shooting.

    Can he keep things going Sunday? Well, he faces a vulnerable New York Knicks unit that is depleted in the paint.

    Paul George

    Indiana Pacers star Paul George has reached a new level of offensive mastery this season, as he displays a knack for scoring from everywhere on the floor while keeping his teammates involved.

    His versatility is nothing short of remarkable. George steers the Pacers to victory with per-game averages of 23.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.1 steals. Oh, and he's shooting 47 percent from the field and 82 percent from the charity stripe.

    The Clippers' swingmen will be ripe for the picking Sunday, as George could carve them up for a big day. Without Matt Barnes around to harass him, Indy's top dog has a chance to stuff the stat sheet.

    The Sleeper

    Chris Bosh

    Chris Bosh? A sleeper?

    The Miami Heat forward is overshadowed by LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, and he hasn't scored more than seven points in any of his last three games. Hence, he's somewhat of a sleeper entering Sunday's matchup against the defensive-minded Charlotte Bobcats.

    Steve Clifford's squad is holding opponents in the low 90s almost every night, but the Heat aren't your average opponent. LeBron James will have his way and open up opportunities for guys like Bosh.

    Despite the Bobcats' overachieving stoppage unit, Bosh's savvy and shooting touch will prevail. He's due for a breakout game.

    Dan O'Brien is an NBA draft and NBA league-wide columnist for B/R. Follow him on Twitter: @DanielO_BR