Fan night! Wooo!
For Orlando’s next trick, pretending the game against the Celtics never happened! (Magic at Pacers, 7:00 PM EST)
Holy Shammgod, do the Magic need a mulligan. Orlando got repeatedly punched in the face, figuratively, by an over-the-hill Celtics team that was without its starting backcourt yesterday, and the best thing they can do is move on and get the next game under their belt.
This Indiana team, though, won’t be a pushover by any stretch of the imagination. After breaking his nose on an inadvertent Kobe Bryant elbow, center Roy Hibbert came back into the game and looked no worse for the wear. The Pacers will need a big game from their entire frontcourt, as Howard tends to have big games against Indiana. With David West now on the team and Tyler Hansbrough always down to do a little dirty work, the Pacers should have enough fouls to go around if they’re unable to stop Howard from getting the ball in his spots. The presence of Ryan Anderson, however, presents some matchup problems for Indiana, opening up the lane and moving defenders away from Howard in the post. As always, the key against the Magic will be defensive effort and choosing one’s poison wisely.
All hail MacMelo (Knicks at Bobcats, 7:00 PM EST)
Third Witch: Hail!Â
First Witch: Lesser than Macbeth, and greater.Â
Second Witch: Not so happy, yet much happier.Â
Third Witch: Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none:Â
So all hail, Macbeth and Banquo!
Perhaps Carmelo Anthony believes that he should take fewer shots in order to help the Knicks offense. Perhaps he doesn’t, and he simply said it in the heat of the moment after another disappointing loss. It’s often difficult to parse the words of the king of equivocation. For now, Amar’e Stoudemire stands by his king, though he is seen more as a threat to the reign of Melo and the Knicks than as the trusted ally he had the potential to be. And the Bobcats – no fierce army, yet a threat to a team as unstable as New York – bear down on Dusinane, bearing the wood of Biyombo.
A change in tone (Cavs at Heat, 7:30 PM EST, NBATV)
I trust that we’re beyond all of that “The Decision” nonsense when it comes to meetings between these two teams. I understand that LeBron James and the Cavaliers will always be connected by circumstance, but it’s a new year, and the Cavaliers have players of their own on which to focus now. True, the team as a whole is awful, but Kyrie Irving is an exciting young point guard, Tristan Thompson has shown the potential to potentially have potential and the “How high can Antawn Jamison’s trade value go?” game is in full swing.
Take this game for what it is – a contest between a very good team and a very bad one that means little else in the long run -Â and not what it once was. If Cleveland somehow pulls out a victory, it’ll be a nice win – not revenge. You are free of the fear and the pain, Cavs fans. You have entered a safe place where nothing can harm you.
Canada vs. the Canadian (Raptors at Suns, 9:00 PM EST)
There are some fun storylines here – Leandro Barbosa being back in Phoenix, the under-the-radar matchup between Jose Calderon and Steve Nash, Nash’s undefeated streak against the Raptors since returning to the Suns – but the big news is the possible (likely?) return of Andrea Bargnani. The Raptors were a fun, decent team to start the season, and Bargnani was a big reason why. His defense seems much improved, and he was posting career highs in Total Rebound Percentage, TS%, Assist% and Usage%. Toronto needs Il Mago back desperately – they’ve dropped to 29th in offensive rating without him – especially since Phoenix has trouble guarding the versatile big man; he’s shot 53.6% from the field in his last three games against Phoenix.
The night-after effect (Grizzlies at Blazers, 10:00 PM EST, NBATV)
This game may boil down to two very simple factors: rest and home-court advantage. The first will be vital, a byproduct of the games the night before. The Blazers took care of business against the Kings and were able to get their starters significant rest as a result; Gerald Wallace played the most minutes at just over 34, and LaMarcus Aldridge was in the game for only 28 minutes.
Memphis, on the other hand, had four players tally more than 36 minutes in their comeback victory over the Warriors; Rudy Gay led the way with 44 minutes. That extended playing time, combined with traveling to Portland and the Blazers’ 7-1 record at home, could spell doom for the Grizzlies.
Unless, of course, the Blazers suffer from a post-Chalupa madness letdown. It could happen.