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Ten Before Tip: NBA news from Tuesday night

POSTED: Feb 4, 2014 10:42 PM ET


• Point guard Kemba Walker will return for the Bobcats tonight against the Warriors tonight after missing seven games with a sprained left ankle, Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said. Walker, who leads the team with 5.0 assists per game and is second in scoring at 18.7 points per game, will get as many minutes as he can handle, since Charlotte has three days off after this game.

• Warriors coach Mark Jackson confirmed backup center Jermaine O'Neal's social-media announcement that he will play tonight in his first game back since Dec. 13 surgery to repair ligament damage in his right wrist.

• There was no immediate word on the availability of Golden State power forward David Lee, who played four straight games with the help of anti-inflammatory shots but skipped the Warriors' 95-90 win in Utah on Friday because he couldn't get the same medical treatment on the road.

• The Eastern Conference-Leading Indiana Pacers (37-10, 14-8 on the road) try to break a 12-game regular-season losing streak at Philips Arena tonight when they take on the Atlanta Hawks (25-21, 16-7 at home). The Hawks beat the Pacers 97-87 in the teams' first meeting this season, on Jan. 8 at Philips.

• Atlanta won't have a vital weapon from the teams' first meeting, as center Pero Antic is still out. Antic burned the Pacers, scoring a then-career-high 16 points, including 3-for-6 from three-point range, while pulling Pacers center Roy Hibbert away from the basket.

• The Pacers' 6-6 record in the second game of back-to-backs (they are 13-0 in first games) is more of a concern to Vogel than the 12-game losing streak at Philips, especially since the Pacers clinched their first-round series at Philips last May 4. "The hardest teams to play on the second night of back-to-backs are the teams that play a unique style," said Vogel. "The Denver Nuggets, who run up and down, the Hawks with Antic at the 5 or [Paul] Millsap playing the five.

• The injuries don't seem to end for the snake-bitten Lakers this year. Though they expect Jordan Farmar, Steve Blake and Steve Nash back tonight for their game with the Timberwolves, they also learned today that Pau Gasol is now out a minimum of two weeks after straining his right groin. Nash is expected to play the first five to eight minutes of each half as part of a restricted effort.

• The return of Nash and Blake forces Kendall Marshall back to the bench. Marshall has been a revelation for the Lakers this year after being pegged as a D-League prospect. Marshall racked up nine double-doubles in his 15 games as a starter while showing unanticipated speed and court vision while knocking down 3's at a 45.5 percent clip.

• The good news for one team tonight is that an end will come to a dubious streak. The Wolves have lost their last 11 home games to the Lakers, while the Lakers are in the midst of a six-game losing streak overall. The challenge seems more daunting for the Lakers, however, as they will have to figure out some defensive schemes to stop Minnesota's third-ranked offense that's racking up 105.9 points per game. The task will be all the more difficult given the Lakers have given up 100 or more points in their last 14 games -- their longest such streak since 1986-87.

• The Suns (30-18) are shooting for their sixth straight win as they host the Bulls. They have been at home since their last game, a home win Saturday night over Charlotte. The Bulls (23-24) lost Monday night at Sacramento, a game in which Joakim Noah was ejected. He then cursed officials, for which he was later fined $15,000.

• The Bulls have won 14 of their last 22, but have lost three of four, including their horrific 99-70 loss at the Kings. In that game, they shot just 28 percent, the worst for any NBA team this season and worst for the Bulls since 2003. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, while praising his team for "fighting like crazy" to get out of a 9-16 hole, worried about recent poor shooting and "low energy" on defense. "You can't exhale in this league," he said. "You have to come with it every night. If you let up just a little, it will show." In the NBA, "You get what you deserve."