Pelicans at Heat (12 noon ET Friday, ESPN)
The New Orleans Pelicans head into Christmas with a little extra bounce in their step, having played only two games in the previous six days and winning both, most recently trouncing the Trail Blazers, 115-89. Anthony Davis had another monster night, putting up 28-12, along with 3 blocks, for his 10th double-double in his last 12 games. Not to be overlooked was Tyreke Evans, who contributed 24 points, 8 boards and 9 dimes. The Pelicans have now won 5 of their last 9 since beating the Cavs on December 4.
The Heat got two desperately needed days off following a 93-92 loss to the Pistons, their fifth in their last 9 games, dropping to 16-11 and a tie for the 4th seed in the East. The Heat built an 18-point lead early in the second quarter, but the Pistons took the lead 93-92 with 56 seconds left to play, during which time the Heat went 0-for-3 from the floor, including a missed 21-foot buzzer-beater by Chris Bosh. The Heat missed 14 of 18 3-pointers that night, while playing without point guard Goran Dragic, who is battling a sore right thumb and a mysterious ailment to his left wrist. He’s questionable for Christmas.
Spurs vs. Rockets (8:00pm ET Friday, ESPN)
Even with Tim Duncan averaging 8.9 points and 7.9 rebounds per game – both career lows – the San Antonio Spurs are on a 7-game winning streak, have the second-best record in the NBA at 25-5, and have an even better point differential than the Golden State Warriors. Bananas. Play them at your own peril.
The Rockets lost a tough one Wednesday, falling 104-101, after going up 1 with 26 seconds to play. Still, after a dismal 5-10 start, the Houston Rockets have clawed their way back to .500 and the #7 seed in the top-heavy West. Stars James Harden and Dwight Howard have apparently been doing some serious team building lately.
“The thing we are trying to build on the most is chemistry between me and James,” Howard told the Houston Chronicle. What they need to build is the understanding that Harden is the man, and Howard is a great defender and offensive second banana.
Clippers vs. Lakers (10:30pm ET Friday, ESPN)
It’s the Battle for Los Angeles! Just seven years ago this one would’ve been a laugher, as the Clips were being led to a 19-win season by the immortal Marcus Camby, while Kobe was busy leading the Lakers to their 15th NBA title. Oh how the worm has turned…
Just when you think the Clippers have gotten their act together, they go and lose three in a row to fall to 16-13 and the 4 seed. Most recently they coughed up an 8-point third-quarter lead to the Oklahoma City Thunder, taking a the short end of a 100-99 tilt. The Clips this year have been plagued by the NBA’s third-worst rebounding differential, despite having two of the best in the game in DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin, and they’re the league’s second-worst free throw shooting team, converting just 68% from the charity stripe.
Kobe’s Lakers? Well, they’re the worst rebounding team in the league and the worst shooting team in the league, and were it not for the hapless Sixers, they would be the worst team in all the land. Their latest defeat was a 120-85 beatdown at the hands of the Thunder, in which they were outrebounded 61-35 and made just 36% of their shots from the floor.