NBA Projected Lineups
Clippers: Lou Williams (hamstring) and Jerome Robinson (ankle) are out.
Magic: Jonathon Simmons (ankle) is questionable, and Evan Fournier (personal) will play.
Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki (ankle) plans on making his season debut. JJ Barea (ankle) Wesley Matthews (shoulder) are considered day to day.
Rockets: Brandon Knight (knee) is expected to play his first game for Houston. Marquese Chriss (ankle) and Zhou Qi (ankle) are both out.
Suns: Devin Booker (hamstring) is out for his sixth straight game, Jamal Crawford (knee) is not on the injury report.
Today’s NBA Matchups
San Antonio Spurs (-2.5) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (+2.5)
The Spurs have had a bottom-five defense this year for the first time in the Popovich era, but they seem to be turning things around halfway through this six-game homestand. In fact, they have a top-five defense over the past three games, all wins at home. The Spurs have relied on scoring to get to 14-14 on the year, and they’re averaging 118 points during this winning streak.
The 17-10 Clippers have been a pleasant surprise, averaging 115 points per game which is good enough for fifth-most in the league. They will miss Lou Williams, who is averaging in the midst of another Sixth Man of the Year campaign. Expect Patrick Beverly and Milos Teodosic to each play about 20 minutes per game, with Teodosic picking up most of the offensive slack.
Former Spur and 7’3” goofball Boban Marjanovic is averaging 13 points and 7 rebounds in just 15 minutes over the past five games, and scored 18 off the bench in their last game. The AT&T Center will undoubtedly give a warm welcome to the friendly giant.
Orlando Magic (-5.5) vs. Chicago Bulls (+5.5)
NBA fans in Mexico City will be subjected to a game between the very bad Bulls (6-22) and the pretty bad Magic (12-15). Neither of these teams scores over 105 points per game, and the extra travel to an especially different place for both teams should make this game particularly sloppy.
Jonathon Simmons tweaked his ankle, and Orlando might be without his 22 minutes and 7 points per game. If that’s the case, expect Wes Iwundu to slide into the starting lineup.
Dallas Mavericks (-7.0) at Phoenix Suns (-7.0)
The Mavericks have the best record in the league over the last ten games at 8-2, and the way they’ve done it has been impressive. Dallas isn’t really dominating any major statistical categories, they’re just playing winning basketball. Harrison Barnes has averaged 20 points per game in this stretch, shooting 50% on a high volume of threes, and Luka Doncic is averaging 16 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists.
Devin Booker is missing his sixth consecutive game with a hamstring injury, and in his absence rookie guard De’Anthony Melton has averaged 14 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds in 29 minutes per game. Phoenix is the absolute bottom of the barrel in the West on both ends of the floor, but they do have the advantage of playing at home against a team that played the night before.
Dirk Nowitzki is expected to play the first game of his 21st season with the Mavericks, and that alone will make at least the first half worth watching. Still, this seems like a game that Charles Barkley will be imploring us to turn off at halftime, much to the chagrin of his employers at TNT.
Los Angeles Lakers (+5.5) at Houston Rockets (-5.5)
The first game of TNT’s double header will likely be the best game of the night, a showdown between two of the league’s best players in LeBron James and James Harden. After a tough start to the season, the 17-10 Lakers are figuring things out. They started the year with porous defense, but have the third best defensive rating in the NBA over the last ten games.
The 12-14 Rockets, meanwhile, have lost three of their last four contests to standard Western Conference competition, and averaged under 100 points per game. Those three losses did come on the road, but Houston is only 6-5 in the friendly confines of their home arena.
You might be surprised to learn that this year the Rockets are playing at the second slowest pace in the league. The young Lakers like to get out and run, and the Rockets are certainly capable of it, so it will be interesting to see how the pace of the game goes.
Brandon Ingram is still out with an ankle sprain, and Josh Hart has averaged 35 minutes, 10 points and 5 rebounds filling in for him in the starting lineup. Brandon Knight is expected to make his debut with the Rockets.
It’s not like many teams do, but the Rockets certainly don’t have any individual player capable of guarding LeBron James. Houston has a bottom-five team defense this year, so you can pretty much book a huge night for the King.