Al Horford (ATL) — 18 pts, 13 rebs
Ty Lawson (DEN) — 18 pts, 8 assts
Atlanta Hawks (33-25) vs. Denver Nuggets (38-22)
Denver is quietly the team to watch in the Western Conference.
OK, the Thunder and Spurs are the teams to watch. Probably the Clippers and the Grizzlies after them. But the Nuggets. The Nuggets are the dark horse. The fun, exciting team nobody seems to be talking about quite yet and they should.
This is a team that runs and runs and runs. They have a ton of depth, a ton of athleticism and a ton of desire. They will be a tough out in the Playoffs.
Particularly if they have home court advantage.
The Nuggets are currently sitting in the fifth spot in the West and have a sterling 25-3 home record. That includes Friday's surprise victory over the Thunder at home. Denver can beat anyone at home.
Atlanta should tread lightly, particularly after the loss to the Lakers last night in Staples Center. Atlanta is a solid team. The Hawks continue to play hard and compete for a Playoff spot but they lack anything special.
The Nuggets have that something special with their breakneck speed and home-court advantage.
Someone has to prove something tonight.
Other Storylines to Watch
-Tonight the Nuggets will take on Kyle Korver who leads the league in 3-point percentage. That is just for the night though. The Denver Post reports Denver is going to be looking at acquiring Kyle Korver this offseason to boost the team's 3-point shooting. Considering Atlanta is going to be clearing cap for a free agent run, Korver might very well be available in a bigger deal.
-Ty Lawson was named the Western Conference Player of the Week this week after averaging 21.0 points per game and 7.0 assists per game in a 3-0 week with wins over the Lakers and Thunder.
Tonight's Other Games
|New York||102||Pace: 91.2||111.8||53.8||32.4||15.5||26.9|
J.R. Smith (NYK) — 18 pts, 7 rebs, 7 assts
Marreese Speights (CLE) — 23 pts, 8 rebs
New York Knicks (35-21) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (20-39)
Things are OK in Knicks land. The team is around .500 for the last few months (14-15 the last 29 games) and there is questions about their ability to compete with the Heat. New York is a good team. Carmelo Anthony can score and Tyson Chandler can defend. But the Knicks are not scaring anyone. Not right now at least. The Cavaliers are waiting for Kyrie Irving to return from injury and so this game could be too much for Cleveland.
|Utah||108||Final — OT||97.6||42.4||43.4||15.7||31.3|
Derrick Favors (UTA) — 23 pts, 15 rebs
Monta Ellis (MIL) — 34 pts, 15/21 FGs
Utah Jazz (32-27) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (29-28)
The Jazz have been without Mo Williams since December, but the veteran guard appears close to returning. He will not play tonight against his former team, the Bucks, but he is targeting this week's game against the Cavaliers for his return. It would be a big boost for the Jazz to have him back in the lineup. Particularly with Utah trying to hold onto the seventh seed in the West.
Arron Afflalo (ORL) — 26 pts, 10/20 FGs, 5 rebs, 5 assts
Anthony Davis (NOH) — 17 pts, 15 rebs
Orlando Magic (16-44) vs. New Orleans Hornets (21-39)
Things are bad for the Magic right now. Orlando has lost 31 of the past 35 games. Things seemed to be worse last night against Memphis at home. Orlando drew its smallest crowd — a little north of 16,000 — since moving into the Amway Center three years ago. While the Magic have nine home wins, going on the road might be a good thing for this team. They have a better win percentage on the road.
Dwyane Wade (MIA) — 32 pts, 10 assts, 7 rebs
Derrick Williams (MIN) — 25 pts, 10 rebs
Miami Heat (43-14) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (20-36)
The Heat have signed Juwan Howard to a 10-day contract. Why might you ask? Your guess is as good as mine. The Heat say Howard was a good locker room presence and they want him back in the lineup. That is as good a reason as any other. Tonight against the undermanned Timberwolves, Miami will not need Howard. LeBron James got knicked up in New York but he should be fine to wreak havoc in Minneapolis.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (CHA) — 17 pts, 10 rebs, 8/11 FGs
LaMarcus Aldridge (POR) — 23 pts, 14 rebs
Charlotte Bobcats (13-46) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (27-31)
With the New Orleans Hornets becoming the New Orleans Pelicans next year, the Bobcats are in a strange place. The Charlotte Bobcats are thinking of reaquiring the Hornets name and retaking the name of their original NBA franchise (before they moved to New Orleans). Michael Jordan and the Bobcats organization announced it is reviewing whether fans want the name to return by hiring a polling company.
|Golden State||125||Pace: 102.3||122.2||62.2||17.6||12.9||34.1|
Amir Johnson (TOR) — 23 pts, 15 rebs
Stephen Curry (GSW) — 26 pts, 12 assts, 5 rebs
Toronto Raptors (23-37) vs. Golden State Warriors (33-27)
The Warriors have sort of fallen off since that fast start and are dangerously close to falling out of the Playoff race. Maybe a little more dangerous than you would have thought at the beginning of the season. The key though is staying together particularly on the defensive end. Stephen Curry has been providing plenty of offense lately.
Charlotte Bobcats (33-43) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (40-18)
If there is any more sign that the Clippers culture has changed, it is seen in a tweet Jamal Crawford sent out earlier today. Crawford called the Clippers the best organization he has been with top-to-bottom. When the wins are going well, even a blind dog finds a bone, I guess.
Dirk Nowitzki (DAL) -- 25 pts, 7 rebs, 10/17 FGs
Ryan Anderson (NOH) -- 20 pts, 12 rebs, 7/11 FGs
Dallas Mavericks (24-29) vs. New Orleans Hornets (19-36)
The Mavericks made a minor move in acquiring Anthony Morrow at the trade deadline. But he comes with some big praise. Coach Rick Carlisle called Morrow the best shooter he has seen aside from Chris Mullin. That might be going a bit far perhaps. But Morrow is a strong 3-point shooter and should help spread the floor if Dallas intends on making the Playoffs this year.
|Oklahoma City||127||Pace: 102.7||123.7||63.3||25.8||16.3||26.5|
Alexey Shved (MIN) -- 17 pts, 7/12 FGs
Russell Westbrook (OKC) -- 37 pts, 7 rebs, 9 assts
Minnesota Timberwolves (20-31) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (39-15)
It might have been a minor move, but it will rock international basketball. After Russia's strong performance in the 2012 Olympics, they not only will lose their coach but also their best player. Timberwolves forward Andrei Kirilenko announced his retirement from international competition, ending a very successful and decorated tenure in FIBA basketball.
Jeff Green (BOS) -- 31 pts, 7 rebs, 11/14 FGs
Goran Dragic (PHX) -- 19 pts, 10 assts
Boston Celtics (28-26) vs. Phoenix Suns (18-37)
There was definite talk that Kevin Garnett was going to get traded out west to the Clippers. That ended up not happening for a variety of reasons. One was Garnett being unwilling to waive his no trade clause. Another might have been the internal disagreements within the Clippers about the best move. In the end, Boston made a relatively minor move to bring in Jordan Crawford and inject some scoring. It will be interesting to see whether this veteran team can finish.
|L.A. Lakers||111||Pace: 104.0||106.8||50.6||25.5||13.8||40.0|
J.J. Hickson (POR) -- 22 pts, 11 rebs
Kobe Bryant (LAL) -- 40 pts, 15/23 FGs
Portland Trail Blazers (25-29) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (26-29)
With Mark Cuban jokingly saying the Lakers should amnesty Kobe Bryant to get away from crushing luxury tax debt, the Lakers were guaranteeing they would make the Playoffs. That is definitley the mindset Kobe Bryant has and his teammates -- particularly Dwight Howard, Mike D'Antoni and Pau Gasol -- concurred. So now the season starts anew... again. A big game against another Playoff-hungry team should give all the motivation necessary.--->