NBA Projected Lineups
Bulls: Zach LaVine (ankle) is doubtful, Chandler Hutchinson (illness) is a game-time decision.
Celtics: Al Horford (knee) is out.
Clippers: Lou Williams (hamstring) is out. Jerome Robinson (foot) is out.
Jazz: Raul Neto (thigh) is questionable.
Lakers: Brandon Ingram (ankle) is out. Rajon Rondo (hand) is out, but being reevaluated today.
Pistons: Reggie Bullock (ankle) is probable.
Rockets: Eric Gordon (knee) is questionable.
Suns: Devin Booker (hamstring) and Josh Jackson (toe) are both questionable. Trevor Ariza (traded) is on his way to Washington.
Timberwolves: Taj Gibson (personal) is out, Robert Covington (knee) is probable.
Today’s NBA Matchups
Utah Jazz (-5) vs. Orlando Magic (+5)
With this early game in Mexico City, the NBA seems to be taking a cue from the NFL in exporting a fairly mediocre version of its product to grow the game internationally. The Jazz (14-15) and Magic (13-15) average a pedestrian 107 and 104 points per game, respectively.
They both rank in the bottom third defensively, and both play at a slower than average pace. If nothing else, we should get a fun matchup at center between Mo Bamba and Rudy Gobert.
Boston Celtics (-2.5) at Detroit Pistons (+2.5)
Since Reggie Bullock injured his ankle in the first quarter against OKC on December 3, the now 13-13 Pistons have averaged just 100 points in six straight losses. They mostly got blown out by better teams, and most recently lost a heartbreaker to the Hornets in the MJ Slap Game. Bullock probably won’t play his season average 28 minutes, but he should be back in the lineup.
The Celtics, on the other hand, are riding an impressive eight-game win streak despite a carousel of injuries to key players, averaging an absurd 125 points per game in that stretch along with the second-best defense in the league. Al Horford (30 mpg) will miss his fifth straight, but the C’s have gotten solid production out of Marcus Morris, Daniel Theis, and rookie Robert Williams III.
Los Angeles Lakers (-2.0) at Charlotte Hornets (+2.0)
LeBron James will lead the 17-11 Lakers against a 14-14 Charlotte team that lost in overtime to the lowly Knicks last night. Both teams average over 113 points per game, and that’s about all you need to know for this one.
San Antonio Spurs (-11.5) Chicago Bulls (+11.5)
The Spurs have turned things around in the midst of a six-game homestand, winning four straight games to get to 15-14. They’re scoring a whopping 120 points per game during the streak, and they’ve been playing great offense all year. The defense has been a problem all season for Pop’s bunch, but they seem to have turned a corner. San Antonio has held opponents to 99 points per 100 possessions, best in the league over the past four games.
Meanwhile, the 6-23 Bulls have lost nine of their last ten. Their season is about ping pong balls now, and they will be without their best player Zach LaVine for this one.
Los Angeles Clippers (+6.0) at Oklahoma City Thunder (-6.0)
This is an interesting matchup between two very good Western Conference teams, both desperately needing a win. The 17-10 Thunder lost to Chicago last week and gave up 44 points to Anthony Davis in a loss against the Pelicans. Toward the end of last night’s loss against the Nuggets, Russell Westbrook boiled over and wanted smoke with Jamal Murray and the entire city of Denver.
The Clippers have lost four of their last five games, and they needed overtime to beat an awful Suns team for the only win. They lost their last two games against the Spurs and a Kawhi-less Raptors by a combined 62 points. Clearly, they miss the injured Lou Williams, who averages 17 points and 5 assists in 25 minutes per game this year. Milos Teodosic and Patrick Beverly don’t seem capable of filling that void.
The Thunder score 111 points per game and have the best defense in the league on the year, but they’ve given up an average of 114 points per game in their last five. The Clippers average 114 points per contest, but they’ve surrendered 117 per game in their last five. OKC is 10-3 in the friendly confines, but they are playing on the second night of a back to back with travel.
Minnesota Timberwolves (-8) at Phoenix Suns (+8)
Only two of the Timberwolves’ 13 wins have come outside of Minnesota this season, as they give up 115 points per 100 possessions on the road. Fortunately for them, they’ll be facing off against an undermanned dumpster fire in Phoenix.
The Suns are 5-24, but they just snapped a ten game losing streak with an impressive win over the surging Mavericks. Still, they average just 102 per game, better than only the Bulls. They also have a bottom-five defense in the league. The T-Wolves are average in every sense of the word and have given up 123 points per game in three straight losses.
Taj Gibson (17 mpg) will miss this game for personal reasons, so expect Gorgui Dieng or Dario Saric to slide into the starting lineup. Devin Booker (35 mpg) has missed the last six games with a hamstring injury and is listed as questionable, and Josh Jackson (21 mpg) might miss this one with a toe sprain. Trevor Ariza (34 mpg) has been traded to Washington. The next men up are DeAnthony Melton, TJ Warren, and Miles Bridges.
Houston Rockets (-3) at Memphis Grizzlies (+3)
James Harden is coming off his fourth 50-point triple-double in a win over the Lakers and hoping to get the 13-14 Rockets back to .500. It’ll be tough to do in the Grindhouse, where the 16-12 Grizzlies have gone 9-5.
It probably won’t surprise you to hear that Memphis plays at the slowest pace in the league, but rather shockingly, the next slowest team is Houston. The Grizzlies average just 102 points per game, but their fourth-ranked defense is how they win games. The Rockets average 109 points, but their defense is the third-worst in the NBA.
Eric Gordon is questionable with a sore left knee, and that would be quite a blow to a shallow Houston team. He’s averaging 16 points in 33 minutes this season. If he sits, veteran Gerald Green might slide into the starting lineup. Newly minted Rocket Brandon Knight could get some extended run off the bench.
Last night, the Grizzlies were involved in one of the most ridiculous trade debacles of all time. The three-team deal involving the Suns and Wizards that would have sent Trevor Ariza to Washington imploded because Phoenix thought they’d receive injured second-year man Dillon Brooks. When Woj broke the news of the trade, the hapless Suns were shocked to see MarShon Brooks instead.
There is a staggering level of incompetence required to screw up a trade in this fashion. It’s something that the dumbest manager in your fantasy league does by accident, and then gets roasted for in the group chat for the rest of time. It is absolutely hilarious.
You can’t help but feel bad for MarShon Brooks. He was drafted in the first round in 2011, played for four teams, and then spent a few years in Italy and China before carving out a role with the Grizzlies. He’s averaging 7 points in 14 minutes per game this year, and the way last night played out had to hurt for a guy who has worked so hard to get to where he is. Hopefully, he has a career night tonight.