***** NBA Previews from The Sports Network *****
Friday, December 20th
(All times Eastern)
BROOKLYN NETS (9-16) AT PHILADELPHIA 76ERS (7-19), 7 P.M.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Brooklyn Nets have a good chance at getting back
into the win column with the Philadelphia 76ers on the slate Friday in a road
matchup at Wells Fargo Center.
The Nets just hammered the Sixers, 130-94, at Barclays Center on Monday and
Joe Johnson torched the visitors for a career-high 37 points on 13-of-20
shooting, including 29 points in the third quarter. Johnson hit 10 of his 14
3-point attempts for Brooklyn, which has won four of the last five games
Johnson, who is probable Friday for personal reasons, came back to earth in
Wednesday's 113-107 loss to the Washington Wizards and scored 20 points. Paul
Pierce scored a season-high 27 points off the bench and is still nursing a
balky hand, while Brook Lopez had 22 points and Deron Williams tallied 15 and
"It's easy to sit here and talk to you guys about what kind of night I had,
but bottom line, I don't care. We lost the game," Pierce said.
Brooklyn shot 52.7 percent for the game and had won four of five.
Williams tied a season high with 13 assists and became the first Net this
season to record back-to-back double-doubles.
After visiting the Sixers, Brooklyn, which is 4-9 away from home, will return
to Barclays Center for three games versus Indiana, Chicago and Milwaukee.
Philadelphia is mired in a seven-game losing streak, has lost 11 of the last
12 games and is 7-19 overall this season, which started off with a promising
3-0 mark. The losing trend continued, especially on the road, with Monday's
130-94 loss at Brooklyn.
James Anderson led the 76ers with 17 points, Thaddeus Young scored 14 and Tony
Wroten added 13 in defeat, the Sixers' 11th in a row on the road. The 76ers
have allowed 269 points the past two games and dropped a 139-105 decision to
Portland on Saturday.
Johnson scored 29 points during the third quarter, which the Nets won by a
42-25 count. The Nets shot 60.3 percent and made 21-of-35 3-pointers.
"We are just getting exposed, we can't guard anyone," said Philadelphia head
coach Brett Brown. "I think we cry too much to the refs and we don't get
Brown's squad is allowing an NBA-worst 111.2 points per game this season and
will try to stop a three-game home losing streak Friday. The Sixers, who have
allowed 100 or more points in 23 of 26 games, are 6-8 at Wells Fargo Center
and have split the past 10 meetings with Brooklyn in south Philly.
Sixers rookie Michael Carter-Williams is a game-time decision after he
returned to practice on Wednesday. The rookie has missed time with a skin
infection on the front of his right knee.
MILWAUKEE BUCKS (5-20) AT CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (9-15), 7:30 P.M.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Cleveland Cavaliers could be without two major
contributors when they host the Milwaukee Bucks Friday at Quicken Loans Arena.
Cavs leading scorer Kyrie Irving missed Thursday's practice with an illness
and is listed as questionable. He is averaging 21.1 points per game.
Guard Dion Waiters, who is second on the Cavs with 14.9 ppg, is dealing with
right wrist tendinitis and is also questionable versus Milwaukee.
Cleveland has lost two in a row with both Irving and Waiters in the lineup and
had won three straight and five of six games until the recent slide. In
Tuesday's tough 119-116 loss to Portland, Blazers guard Damian Lillard hit the
game-winning 3-pointer with four-tenths of a second on the clock and scored 36
points on 11-of-23 shooting.
"Big-time players make big-time shots, and that's what he did in our home,"
Irving said. "Damian Lillard played a hell of a game and just got hot."
Irving, who finished with 25 points and 10 assists, helped the Cavs pull even
after being down 10 points with about two minutes left in the game, then
missed well behind the 3-point line at the buzzer. The Cavs had won four in a
row at home and are now 7-4 at the Q.
Waiters also scored 25 points, Tristan Thompson had 15 and Andrew Bynum
contributed 13 points and nine rebounds for the Cavs, who made 9-of-17 from
downtown in defeat. Waiters has six 20-point games and is averaging 17.1
points in his last 10 games.
Thompson is averaging 13.6 points and 11.1 rebounds over his last eight games.
Milwaukee has struggled to a 5-20 record this season and hopes to get back on
track after Wednesday's 107-101 setback in double overtime versus the New York
Knicks. Brandon Knight played nearly 50 minutes and totaled a career-high 36
points and nine rebounds for the Bucks, losers in four straight and 18 of its
last 21 games.
"The margin of error is small with this team," Bucks head coach Larry Drew
said. "I thought from a mental standpoint we wore down."
The Bucks have been without Caron Butler, Carlos Delfino, Larry Sanders and
Zaza Pachulia. O.J. Mayo (personal) and Gary Neal (foot) have been sidelined
as well and are both questionable against the Cavs. Butler hasn't played since
Nov. 27 versus Washington and is probable.
Milwaukee defeated Cleveland, 109-104, on Nov. 6 and has won 10 of 12 and 11
of the last 15 meetings between the teams. The Bucks have lost 15 of 20 trips
to Quicken Loans Arena. Irving has scored at least 26 points in six of his
seven career games against Milwaukee.
SACRAMENTO KINGS (7-17) AT MIAMI HEAT (19-6), 7:30 P.M.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The series between the Miami Heat and Sacramento Kings
the last 10 years or so hasn't been competitive by any stretch of the
imagination and the two clubs will clash Friday on the shores of Biscayne Bay.
The Heat took both encounters with the Kings last season and have won nine in
a row and 17 of the past 18 meetings. Sacramento has struggled mightily in
south Florida, losing 11 straight and 22 of 24 games there.
Miami hopes to stay perfect (3-0) on its five-game homestand with the Kings in
town and recently defeated the much-improved Indiana Pacers, 97-94, Wednesday
night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Veteran reserve Ray Allen hit a 3-pointer
with 59.5 seconds to go for a 95-92 score and the Pacers later missed on a 3-
point attempt at the buzzer.
Dwyane Wade poured in 32 points on 15-of-25 shooting for the Heat. LeBron
James shook off a balky ankle to post 24 points, nine rebounds and seven
assists in the win, Miami's fifth in the last six tries.
"He knows his body and he knows his ankle," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of
James. "He looked fine."
James has currently scored in double-figures in 520 consecutive games, six shy
of tying Moses Malone's mark set from Nov. 4, 1978 - March 4, 1985.
The Heat have won three in a row at home, are 12-2 in South Beach and will
close the residency Monday versus Atlanta. In injury news, forward Michael
Beasley is questionable with a strained left hamstring and has missed the last
Sacramento is 0-2 on a four-game road trip, losing contests at Charlotte and
Atlanta. In Wednesday's 124-107 loss to the Hawks, DeMarcus Cousins scored 28
points and grabbed seven rebounds, Rudy Gay netted 22 points and Isaiah Thomas
ended with 20 points and 10 assists for Sacramento, which has lost 10 of its
last 13 games.
The Kings saw the Hawks shoot 58 percent for the game and sink 60 percent from
3-point range (15-of-25). Atlanta also handed out 38 assists and scored 39 of
the 59 points in the fourth quarter.
"I don't even know where to begin," Kings coach Michael Malone said. "I guess
I'm not doing a good enough job of giving them a gameplan that they can
execute, and I'm not doing a good enough job of explaining who are the players
that can make shots. So I have to do a better job of communicating with my
team, so they know full well who we're playing, who their shooters are and
what the coverages are so we don't give up 39 points in the fourth quarter."
On a positive note, the Kings are averaging 104.0 ppg in the past eight and
will close the trip Saturday against Orlando. They are winless in their last
three games away from home.
Meanwhile, Cousins has scored 20 or more points in 10 of his last 12 games and
Thomas is averaging 22.2 ppg in his last six starts. Gay has posted 20 or more
points in three of the previous four games since his trade from Toronto.
UTAH JAZZ (7-21) AT ATLANTA HAWKS (14-12), 7:30 P.M.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Atlanta Hawks know how to distribute the basketball
and lead the NBA with 25.3 assists per game.
They will try for another group effort Friday in the conclusion of a three-
game homestand versus the Utah Jazz at Philips Arena.
Atlanta set an arena record with 38 assists in Wednesday's 124-107 victory
over the Sacramento Kings. Jeff Teague was the main facilitator with 15
assists to go along with 18 points and eight rebounds, while Kyle Korver
buried 8-of-10 3-pointers for 28 points and Al Horford ended with 25 points
and 10 boards for the Hawks, who shot 58 percent for the game and hit 15-of-25
from beyond the arc.
"I just really wanted to get two rebounds," Teague about possibly getting a
triple-double. "I wasn't thinking about a triple-double but I really wanted
the two boards. We were talking about it before the game and someone said I
should get eight or 12 rebounds, I didn't know until someone told me at the
end of the game that I was that close."
DeMarre Carroll and Paul Millsap scored 15 and 14 points, respectively. Mike
Scott scored 10 points off the bench in the win.
The Hawks have handed out 30 or more assists five times this season and are
4-1 in those games. They're also averaging 114.7 points per game in the last
three and have scored 100-plus points in four straight games. Horford is
posting an average of 23.8 points and 10.5 rebounds in that stretch.
Korver, meanwhile, extended his NBA-record for a 3-pointer made in consecutive
games to 95 and passed Antoine Walker for 24th on the NBA's career 3-point
field goal made list (1,389).
The Hawks are 10-4 at home and have won five of seven games. They will visit
Miami and Cleveland next week.
Utah will continue its five-game road trip (1-1) and rebounded from a loss at
Miami by defeating the Orlando Magic, 86-82, on Wednesday.
Jazz rookie Trey Burke had a busy evening with 30 points, eight assists and
seven rebounds, and Gordon Hayward chipped in 15 points for Utah, winners in
three of the last four games. Burke's 30 points are the most by a rookie this
season. Derrick Favors totaled 14 points and 11 rebounds in the win, and
played tough defense on a Jameer Nelson attempt with the score at 84-82.
Marvin Williams then grabbed the rebound and Hayward hit two free throws
with 1.6 seconds left to secure Utah's sixth straight victory over the Magic.
"I just wanted to contest the shot and make him kind of arch it a little and
he missed it," Favors said.
The game could have been different because Arron Afflalo, Orlando's leading
scorer, sat out with an illness. He leads the team with 21.6 ppg.
Utah is 4-11 on the road and will also visit Charlotte and Memphis on this
pre-Christmas, eight-day odyssey. It was 2-2 on the holiday journey in
The Jazz lost both matchups with the Hawks last season and are winless in four
straight and seven of the past eight meetings between the teams. These two
teams have split the previous 10 games at Philips Arena.
CHARLOTTE BOBCATS (12-14) AT DETROIT PISTONS (13-14), 7:30 P.M.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Detroit Pistons will try to get to .500 on the
season Friday night when they welcome the Charlotte Bobcats to The Palace of
Detroit has won two straight, both road victories over division leaders. The
Pistons handed the Indiana Pacers their first home loss of the season on
Monday, then toppled the Boston Celtics, 107-106 on Wednesday.
The C's led by as many as 21 points in Wednesday's affair, but the Pistons
showed plenty of mettle. They allowed 42 points in the first quarter, but held
the Celtics to 39 points in the second and third quarters.
"We picked our energy up, got back in the game," said Pistons coach Maurice
Cheeks. "I thought we made plays, got our defense back, got set a little bit
and that changed the game for us."
Brandon Jennings scored 28 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer.
After Jared Sullinger hit a 3-pointer to give Boston a 105-104 lead with 1:01
remaining, Jennings, who also handed out 14 assists, knocked one down at the
other end for a two-point Detroit lead with 46.7 seconds left.
Sullinger missed one of two free throws later on but the Celtics still had a
chance to win the game. Jeff Green was guarded closely by Josh Smith, however,
after an inbounds pass with 5.0 ticks on the clock and Green missed a driving
layup at the buzzer.
Josh Smith scored 20 points for Detroit, while Andre Drummond registered a
double-double with 14 points and 16 rebounds. Greg Monroe (12) and Kyle
Singler (11) also scored in double figures.
The Bobcats have also won two straight and their most recent victory was a
Kemba Walker hit the game-winning jumper as time expired in overtime to lift
the Bobcats to a 104-102 win over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday.
The game turned into a comedy of errors, especially with missed free-throws
and ill-timed fouls.
Coming out of a timeout, with the game tied, Walker curled off an Al Jefferson
pick at the foul-line, received the inbound pass from Josh McRoberts and
buried the 15-foot jumper on the baseline as the horn blew.
"One thing, I'm just getting to know him, but he's a competitor and it's
contagious because it carries to his teammates," Charlotte coach Steve
Clifford said of Walker.
The UConn product finished with 29 points and Jefferson added 24 points and 11
rebounds. McRoberts had 13, while both Gerald Henderson and Ramon Sessions
added 11 apiece. Anthony Tolliver came off the bench with 10 points for the
Bobcats, who shot 53 percent from long range.
The Pistons took three of four from the Bobcats last season and Charlotte is
4-12 in its last 16 appearances at The Palace.
HOUSTON ROCKETS (17-9) AT INDIANA PACERS (20-5), 8 P.M.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Indiana Pacers are in the midst of their first
losing streak all season, but will try and get back into the win column Friday
night when the Houston Rockets come to Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Pacers should get some reinforcements in an effort to end the skid.
Danny Granger, a former All-Star with a career scoring average of 18.1 points
per game, is expected to play on Friday. He missed the entire season with a
strained left calf and sat all but five games last season thanks to a knee
"I'm still probably going to forget a few plays in the game. I'm still
probably going to have some mishaps that's uncharacteristic of me but I'm a
lot better than I was a week ago," said Granger, who is expected to come off
the bench for the foreseeable future.
The Pacers have dropped back-to-back games for the first time all season,
starting with their first home setback Monday against the Detroit Pistons, and
culminating with Wednesday's loss to an arch rival, the Miami Heat.
Indiana blew a seven-point lead with 3:20 remaining to fall to Miami, 97-94 in
"We knew they were going to make a run," Paul George said. "We just didn't
George finished with 25 points, eight boards and six assists for the Pacers,
while David West poured in 23 points in defeat. Lance Stephenson was the only
other Indiana player in double digits with 13 points.
It was an off night for Roy Hibbert, the man who dominated the paint both
offensively and defensively when the Pacers beat the Heat last week. He picked
up his fifth foul early in the third, which helped hold him to six points, and
allow the Heat 50 points in the paint.
Things don't get easier for Hibbert on Friday with Dwight Howard coming to
"It'll be a tough game against the best center in the league right now,"
Hibbert said of Howard. "He's going to be a handful. I just have to keep him
out of easy points and no easy dunks for him. It's going to be a big test for
The Rockets are a formidable test, although, injuries have hit them hard.
Jeremy Lin missed the last two with a back injury and James Harden, Chandler
Parsons and Terrence Jones, all starters, are far from healthy.
Omer Asik is not healthy either, battling a thigh contusion. The bigger story
with Asik has to do with any impending trades, as his name has been the most
prominent in rumor mills.
The Rockets set a self-imposed deadline of Thursday to move Asik, and he's not
in a Celtics or 76ers jersey, so it appears head coach Kevin McHale may have
to work him back when he's healthy.
"I know (Rockets General Manager) Daryl (Morey) was working the phones and
talking to people and stuff and sometimes it just doesn't work out," McHale
told the team's website. "I think Omer understands that. I'm looking forward
to getting Omer healthy, I'm looking forward to getting Jeremy healthy, I'm
looking forward to getting our team healthy and getting us together as a group
and putting some games under our belt."
Houston has won two of its last three and four of its last six. The Rockets
most recent win came Wednesday against the Chicago Bulls, 109-94 in Houston.
Howard led five Rockets in double figures with 23. Harden and Parsons chipped
in 19 apiece.
The Pacers have taken three straight against Houston and are 5-2 in their last
seven against the Rockets in Indianapolis.
TORONTO RAPTORS (9-14) AT DALLAS MAVERICKS (15-10), 8:30 P.M.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Dallas Mavericks have played good basketball of late
and will try to continue the surge Friday when they finish off a homestand
with the Toronto Raptors in town.
The Mavs are 2-0 on this little stay in Big D with wins over the Milwaukee
Bucks on Saturday and a 105-91 victory Wednesday versus the slumping Memphis
Dallas has taken five of its last seven and during that stretch, allowed
opponents 100 points or more just twice. During these seven games in the month
of December, the Mavs are holding teams to an average of 96.6 points per game.
"In the month of December we've been better defensively, and our goal is to
stay on that track," head coach Rick Carlisle said Thursday after practice.
"We've spent the majority of our practice time on defense. We know how
important it is, and we're just going to be vigilant about it. It's not
something that you can take days off from. You can't take days off from the
mental edge aspect of it, and we know that."
The Mavericks held the Grizzlies to just a shade under 40 percent shooting
from the field on Wednesday. Dallas lost the rebounding battle by one, but
shot almost 55 percent.
Dirk Nowitzki paced five Dallas players in double figures with 20. Monta Ellis
finished with 18, followed by 14 from Vince Carter, 12 from Jose Calderon and
10 out of Shawn Marion.
The Mavs play five of their next six on the road.
The Raptors begin a brutal trek on Friday with stops in Oklahoma City, San
Antonio and New York after this stop against Dallas.
Toronto was 3-1 since Rudy Gay was agreed to be traded, but lost a
heartbreaker on Wednesday. The Raptors fell 104-102 in overtime, at home, to
the Charlotte Bobcats.
Charlotte's Kemba Walker buried a 15-foot jumper at the horn to get the
DeMar DeRozan was the high-scorer in the game with 30 points, while Kyle Lowry
added 17. John Salmons chipped in 11 off the bench and Jonas Valanciunas and
Amir Johnson both finished with 10 points. Johnson added 13 rebounds.
It was another tough loss for a young team with new parts.
"I love the challenge of coaching young players, I enjoy that," head coach
Dwane Casey said after practice on Thursday. "I enjoy winning more, but I
understand where we are."
The Mavs, who are 11-2 in American Airlines Center, have won 12 of their last
13 against the Raps at home.
PHOENIX SUNS (14-10) AT DENVER NUGGETS (14-10), 9 P.M.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Phoenix Suns saw their five-game winning streak
disappear, but will try to start a new one Friday night at the Pepsi Center
against the Denver Nuggets.
The Pepsi Center has traditionally been a difficult place for the opposition
to win and it's been true for the most part this season. Denver is 7-4 in its
own building, but the Nuggets have dropped two of their last three at home.
The Suns are a respectable 6-6 away from Phoenix and have won two straight as
It was at home where the streak ended.
The Suns fell to the San Antonio Spurs, 108-101 on Wednesday. The Spurs were
without Tony Parker, but it didn't matter as they held on in the end despite
Phoenix taking the lead with 5:10 remaining.
"I think we're past that point of moral victories," head coach Jeff Hornacek
said. "Yeah we made a run, but there's runs throughout the game. We didn't
finish very well. That's the way we look at it."
Channing Frye led the Suns with 22 points, followed by 18 from Goran Dragic
and 15 out of Eric Bledsoe. The strong backcourt scored, but went 12-for-33
from the field.
Miles Plumlee registered a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
Markieff Morris scored 12 off the bench.
The Nuggets have been inconsistent of late, rotating wins and losses over
their last four. Friday will end a four-game homestand, but Denver is only
On Tuesday, the Nuggets fell at home to the Oklahoma City Thunder, 105-93.
Many teams have lost at home to the Thunder, but Denver's other loss on this
stay was to the Utah Jazz, a team with four road wins all season.
Against OKC, Denver struggled on the interior, going 23-for-49 from inside the
paint and 1-for-11 on shot attempts following an offensive board.
"We have to take better pride of finishing at the rim," Nuggets center J.J.
Hickson said. "Tonight was one of those nights."
Hickson led the way for Denver with 20 points and 14 rebounds, including five
on the offensive glass. Ty Lawson also had a double-double with 17 points and
Wilson Chandler and Kenneth Faried managed 13 points apiece and Nate Robinson
scored 12 off the bench.
The Nuggets will be a man short on Friday as Jordan Hamilton was suspended a
game for punching Oklahoma City's Steven Adams on the shoulder Tuesday night.
The Suns beat Denver by 11 in Phoenix on Nov. 8, but the Nuggets have won
eight of the last 10 meetings between the two teams. Phoenix has lost five
straight and 10 of 11 in the Mile High City.
MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES (13-13) AT LOS ANGELES LAKERS (12-13), 10:30 P.M.
(SportsNetwork.com) - Just six games into his comeback from a torn Achilles,
Kobe Bryant will be sidelined for a different leg injury when the Los Angeles
Lakers host the Minnesota Timberwolves Friday.
Bryant was diagnosed with a fracture of the lateral tibial plateau in his left
knee and is expected to miss six weeks, minimum. He hyperextended his knee
late in the third quarter at Memphis Tuesday, but finished the game in the
Lakers 96-92 win.
"I knew he got scared because he hyperextended his knee, but he shook it off,"
Pau Gasol said. "He continued to play until the very end, which again, shows
how tough Kobe is, how much he's able to play through and what he's able to
Bryant returned slightly early from the Achilles tendon tear at the end of
last season. He averaged 13.8 points, 6.3 assists, and 4.3 rebounds per game
over his six games this season.
As if the injury news to Bryant couldn't be worse for the Lakers, the team
also announced Steve Nash would miss four more weeks with his nerve root
irritation issue in his back.
Jordan Farmar (hamstring) and Steve Blake (elbow) are both out. Bryant was
playing point guard duties for the Lakers with all three other leaders
shelved. It's unknown who will start in the backcourt for the Lakers on
Friday, but reports surfaced the team signed former first-round pick Kendall
Marshall, who was toiling in the D-League.
The Lakers finished their recent road trip 2-2, with both victories in the
last three games. L.A. knocked off Memphis thanks to 21 from Bryant and Gasol,
18 from Nick Young and 13 from Jodie Meeks.
The Wolves have won two of three and four of six to get back to .500.
On Wednesday, Minnesota used a huge first half en route to a 120-109 win over
the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Wolves led 31-22 after one and the Wolves scored the first 10 points in
the second to take control with a 41-22 advantage. The floodgates opened later
in the second when the Wolves went on a 17-2 run for a 62-30 lead.
Portland made a run to cut it to eight in the fourth, but Minny held on for
"Very good win for us," said Timberwolves head coach Rick Adelman. "Terrific
first half and they made their run and we were able to hold them off."
Nikola Pekovic poured in 30 points with nine rebounds, while Kevin Love had a
double-double with 29 points and 15 boards. Kevin Martin contributed 22 points
on 8-of-15 shooting in the win.
The Wolves spend the weekend in Los Angeles, facing the Clippers on Saturday
Minnesota snapped a 22-game losing streak to the Lakers with a 113-90 victory
at Staples Center on Nov. 10. The T'Wolves had dropped 13 of those 22 in L.A.
12/20 10:38:21 ET