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Ten Before Tip: NBA news from Tuesday

POSTED: Dec 31, 2013 9:57 PM ET news services


• Oklahoma City is hosting a New Year's Eve game for the sixth straight year. The Thunder are 5-0 in those previous games. The Trail Blazers are coming in on the second night of a back-to-back -- the Thunder are 7-0 when playing teams in that situation.

• Portland has lost two straight for the first time this season and defense has been the problem. The Trail Blazers allowed Miami and New Orleans to shoot a combined 52.8 percent. "We're concerned about our defense," said Blazers head coach Terry Stotts before the game. "It's kind of trending in the wrong direction. We've lost two in a row and now we've gotta find a way to get a win."

• The Lakers continue to be a revolving door of injured and ill players, as it was announced before Tuesday night's game against the visiting Bucks that they'll be without starting small forward Wesley Johnson, who is battling gastroenteritis. On the positive side, starting center Pau Gasol is set to return after missing the last two games and three of the previous five with an upper respiratory infection.

• The only team with more starting lineups than the Lakers is the Bucks, who will go with their 18th different starting five when Luke Ridnour moves back into the starting unit tonight at shooting guard, bumping Antetokounmpo to small forward and sending Khris Middleton, who has reached double figures in scoring the last eight games, back to the bench.

• The lingering absence of Andrew Bynum, who has been excused from all team activities by the Cavaliers, is an obvious potential distraction for the players, but coach Mike Brown is taking measures to mitigate the effect. "You educate them on what's going on and it's just like anything else, you understand we're in a bunker mentality during the season because there's a lot of distractions," he said. "As you all know, this isn't the only distraction we've faced so far this year so we've got to keep taking things in stride knowing our main job is to go out and win games. We have to individually and collectively figure out how we can contribute to the goal of winning games."

• In Bynum's absence, Brown has adjusted the offense by removing some of the straight post-ups that played to Bynum's strengths inside. "It's different," Brown said. "Even when he was here we still wanted to do some of the same things. ... For us, it's basically the same there's just a few plays I obviously won't call for Andy (Varejao) or Tyler (Zeller) right now that we kind of put aside."

• The Hawks will be short-handed today against the Celtics. In addition to Al Horford being sidelined indefinitely with a torn pectoral, DeMarre Carroll will also miss his second straight game with a sprained thumb. Mike Scott and Elton Brand will get the start in place of Carroll and Horford.

• Jeff Teague has been on an incredible hot streak in the past four games, stepping up his offense with Horford sidelined. The fifth-year point guard has averaged 25.5 points per game over that stretch, along with dishing 9.8 assists per game.

• The Nets expect Andrei Kirilenko to play for the first time since Nov. 8. He's missed 26 games due to back spasms. "He'll give it a try," coach Jason Kidd said. "We'll probably give him about 10 to 12 minutes tonight. It's kind of like training camp tonight, trying to get his legs under him. But he'll be himself in the sense of slashing and doing what he does. But we can't do too many minutes."

• The Kings will look to put a difficult defeat in their previous game behind them when they square off against the Rockets on Tuesday at Toyota Center. Sacramento (9-20) was outscored 23-8 in the closing minutes of its 112-104 loss in San Antonio on Sunday, and the frustration boiled over after the final buzzer as shouting that came from inside the locker room could be heard in a nearby hallway.

• Rookie Victor Oladipo has been a big factor in Orlando's last two two wins, contributing 19 assists as the backup point guard. "Coming off the bench gives him an opportunity to run that second unit and really to set the tone for us defensively," explained Magic coach Jacque Vaughn.

• Derrick who? Luol Deng will play for the Bulls against the Raptors on Tuesday after missing five games because of a sore Achilles, and according to coach Tom Thibodeau, that brings the team back to "full strength,'' with Deng starting alongside Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler and Kirk Hinrich.

• Guard D.J. Augustin has been a real find for the Bulls. Since joining the team after he was waived by the Raptors on Dec. 9, Augustin has averaged 10.4 points in nine games with three starts. He is also the team's leading 3-point shooter, hitting at a 39.5 percent clip. He is averaging 30 minutes a game after having difficulty getting onto the court for the Raptors in 10 games early in the season.