Houston Rockets (11-12) vs. New York Knicks (18-5)
The Spurs are playing the Thunder tonight in a Western Conference Finals rematch. And remembering the first game, whcih ended on a buzzer beater from Tony Parker, this should be the game to watch tonight.
But, lo, the savior returns to his old stomping grounds. Cast out from the Garden and allowed to go elsewhere. A place where his powers are not so mighty, a place where the going gets tough, a place where his impact cannot be so largely felt.
Jeremy Lin is returning to Madison Square Garden for the first time since his two-week Linsanity run last March. It will be his only time in New York to face the Knicks. The media crush will be huge and the stage will be set for Lin to deliver.
Lin though is not the same player he was with Mike D'Antoni at New York's helm. This season, Lin is averaging 10.8 points per game and shooting 39.5 percent from the floor. Despite the increased playing time, he is dishing out 6.0 assists per game and has seen his PER slip to 13.1. Lin is not the effective pick and roll machine he was in New York. He has struggled to find his footing in Houston.
It is not the Promised Land that New York became for him.
The Knicks have thrived plenty without him. Carmelo Anthony has the freedom he wants and Mike Woodson has his team bought in to what he wants them to do. This is a bit of a msimatch when it comes to team quality.
Magical things happen for Lin in the Garden though. It might be enough to tune in and watch.
Other Storylines to Watch
-The word on the street appears to be that Amar'e Stoudemire is very close to returning. Stoudemire could play by Friday against the Bulls according to the New York Daily News.
-You would think Houston would have gotten the hint. But now with Jeremy Lin and James Harden in two (and maybe some cap room, but likely not enough), the Rockets may be girding up to take another run at Dwight Howard. That would be quite a nab especially after Howard reportedly turned away Houston's efforts to acquire him last year.
Tonight's Other Games
Minnesota Timberwolves (12-9) vs. Orlando Magic (10-13)
Ricky Rubio had a successful season debut against Dallas on Saturday. His minutes will remain limited to about 18 per game. But Rubio tells Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he will not play the second end of back to backs. That means Rubio (along with Kevin Love, who missed Saturday's game with the flu) will play tonight in Orlando but will miss tomorrow night's game against Miami.
Los Angeles Clippers (17-6) vs. Detroit Pistons (7-19)
Chauncey Billups is a Clipper. OK, he is not playing so much right now thanks to an injury. But Billups made it clear to everyone who wanted to listen: he is a lifelong Piston. That is where Billups won his championship and made his mark in the league. It is certainly a place he feels at home. Monday night should be a very welcome home as his Clippers come to town.
Chicago Bulls (13-9) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (15-6)
The Grizzlies and Bulls are two of the few teams that still feature a real power forward lined up next to a real center. So look to the paint in this matchup as Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol battle Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. There will be no frills or pretty 3-point jumpers in this one. Just some hard-nosed defense in the paint and some ugly defensive-minded basketball.
San Antonio Spurs (19-6) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (19-4)
The last time these two teams met, it came down to Tony Parker hitting a game-winning jumper at the buzzer. This time? Well the two Western Conference titans will have a score to settle. The Thunder may have gotten some reinforcements by calling up Josh Selby and Daniel Orton to do battle tonight.
Sacramento Kings (7-16) vs. Phoenix Suns (9-15)
The Kings appear to be going through some problems and turmoil yet again after an embarrassing blowout loss to Denver. Tyreke Evans tried to play through a sore knee and lasted only a quarter before coming out of the game for good. Then Thomas Robinson did not play in the first half and had no clue why. Uusally discipline requires understanding the reason. So the fifth overall pick is as much in the dark as we are about what is going on with his team.