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Ten Before Tip: Friday's news from around the NBA

POSTED: Mar 7, 2014 6:15 PM ET
UPDATED: Mar 7, 2014 9:44 PM ET news services


• The Rockets hope to avenge their largest defeat of the season and extend their home winning streak to a season-high seven games when they host the slumping Pacers tonight. Houston, which is a league-best 21-6 since Jan. 1 and 13-0 at home this season against Eastern Conference foes, was on the wrong end of a 114-81 beatdown in Indiana on Dec. 20. Coach Kevin McHale and his players believe their team has taken huge strides since suffering that setback, but they certainly have not forgotten how much the Pacers overwhelmed them that evening. "If you drive in the paint, they'll have four guys in the paint closing it down, so you've got to be able to drive and kick out," McHale said. "We've had problems with that. We've held the ball too much against them. We've played too much one-sided basketball. ... I think our team is getting better in a lot of different areas, and one small little area is we're getting rid of the ball quicker."

• The Rockets' Patrick Beverley, who broke his nose when Magic forward Tobias Harris inadvertently elbowed the 6-foot-1 guard in his face in Wednesday's victory at Orlando, was fitted for a protective mask Thursday. Beverley said he did not feel comfortable when he tested the mask during shootaround Friday morning and was considering ditching it, but he was wearing a mask when he arrived at the arena moments ago.

• Pacers reserve guard C.J. Watson will miss his second straight game with a sprained right elbow. Coach Frank Vogel said Watson has continued to experience pain in his shooting elbow since he banged it during Sunday's win over Utah, temporarily removing a key element of the seventh-year veteran's game.

• Indiana (46-15) is attempting to avoid its first three-game losing streak of the season. Coincidentally, the Pacers' only other two-game skid preceded their rout of the Rockets (42-19).

• The Hawks enter tonight's game at the Warriors welcoming back forward Paul Millsap, who missed Atlanta's last five games due to a knee contusion. The All-Star will start but is subject to a minutes restriction, although coach Mike Budenholzer didn't specify the amount.

• Atlanta (26-33) is hoping Millsap will help the team end a brutal stretch of 12 losses in 13 games. "He just brings so many things to the game," Budenholzer said. "It's hard to put it in a quick sentence. He brings a ton to the game."

• At 38-24, the Warriors — right now sixth in the West — are trying to open up a gap on a cluster of three teams nipping at their heels: Phoenix (36-25 coming into tonight), Dallas (36-26) and Memphis (34-26). Golden State closes the year with 13 of their last 20 at home, which would be great except for the fact the Warriors are just 18-10 at Oracle Arena this season.

• With Hawks sharpshooter Kyle Korver getting shut out from 3-point lane in Atlanta's 102-78 loss at Portland on Wednesday, Warriors guard Stephen Curry now holds the longest active streak of consecutive games with a 3-pointer. Curry has hit a trey in 50 straight contests; Korver was at 127 before going 0-for-5 behind the arc against the Trail Blazers.

• Mike Woodson brushed off reports that Knicks GM Steve Mills recently met with Phil Jackson about either a GM or coaching position. "As I sit here today I'm the coach of the New York Knicks and I'm not going to entertain anything about Phil," Woodson said before the game. "I have a great deal of respect for Phil Jackson but I'm not going to entertain anything about Phil Jackson. My job is to try to get this team to play at a high level and we got a big game tonight against Utah and we gotta get ready to play." Neither Mills nor owner Jim Dolan has given Woodson a public show of support and have left Woodson to answer questions about the team's uncertain future and his questionable status going forward. "Again guys, I'm the coach of the Knicks. To me that means a lot. This is 30 years of me being in the NBA and I enjoy what I do...This has been kind of a rollercoaster ride for our ballclub this year but on the flipside of that is that we still have an opportunity to make the playoffs. Any coach, the only thing you can ask is being able to get in the playoffs."

• The Knicks enter tonight's game against the visiting Jazz 5½ games back of the No. 8 seed in the East with 20 games to play. They are coming off a win in Minnesota that snapped a seven-game losing streak. The Knicks' next 10 oponents are under .500.

• The Jazz (21-40) have dropped four straight on this road trip.

• The Mavericks are in the midst of their first three-game losing streak of the season, and things don't get any easier with the Trail Blazers coming to town tonight. Portland hammered Dallas in their last meeting, cruising to a 127-111 win despite being outscored by 18 points in the fourth quarter. With four of their next five games coming against teams above .500, three of which are against the top three teams in the Western and Eastern Conference, Dallas will need a strong showing to maintain its one-game lead over Memphis for the eighth spot in the West.

• It's been the opposite situation for the Blazers, who have won six of their last seven games and sit in the third spot in the loaded Western Conference. With the Rockets and Clippers hot on their trail, the Blazers also need a strong showing as they kick off a daunting five-game road stretch that features games in Houston, San Antonio and Memphis.

• Tied with the Clippers for the league's best offense (107.7 points per game), Portland expects the offensive fireworks to continue in Dallas when it takes on one of the league's worst defenses. All-Star point guard Damian Lillard presents a matchup nightmare for the Mavericks, who have struggled to keep speedy guards away from the basket, and Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez all gave the Mavs fits in the teams' last matchup.

• Not only are the Bulls 10-2 in their last 12 games entering tonight's clash with the visiting Grizzlies, but they also have had eight different players score 19 points in one game during that stretch. They're also on a five-game home winning streak.

• The Bulls will wear a commemorative patch on their jerseys in remembrance of David Reinsdorf, son of owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who died Monday at the age of 51. The patch will have his initials, DJR, and it will remain on their jerseys through the end of the season. David was the brother of Bulls President Michael Reinsdorf.

• The Grizzlies will have forward Zach Randolph in the lineup tonight against the Bulls. Randolph missed Memphis' last game with flu-like symptoms and the Grizzlies lost to Brooklyn by nine points. The Nets were up by 27 after three quarters but the Grizzlies outscored the Nets by 18 points in the fourth quarter to make the score respectable.

• Bulls center Joakim Noah, who has two triple-doubles in his last three games, is also going to play tonight despite injuring his thumb in the Bulls' win over Detroit. It's the same thumb he had surgery on four years ago, which kept him out of action for a month.

• Nuggets guard Ty Lawson will play tonight against the visiting Lakers despite jamming his left heel in Wednesday's win against the Mavericks. Lawson came out of that game late in the third quarter but returned midway through the fourth. He didn't participate in the full practice Thursday to rest the heel.

• The Lakers are coming off a 48-point loss to their Staples Arena roommates, the Clippers, on Thursday night. It was the largest margin of victory in the NBA this season and the worst loss in Lakers franchise history. Los Angeles is playing its fourth game in five nights. "We have to get back up on the horse. Last night they just hit a wall, for whatever reason. Psychologically, they felt like they couldn't get over it and they lost their concentration. We can't play that way," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said.

• The Nuggets aren't taking the Lakers lightly. A week ago Brooklyn came into Denver and beat the Nuggets two nights after losing by 44 in Portland. "We've certainly been in their shoes as recently as last week when we played the Nets on national TV," coach Brian haw said. "My tone was real straightforward and direct at shootaround. We're in no position to feel like because the way the Clippers handled them last night it was going to be a piece of cake for us."

• Both the Timberwolves and Pistons, who square off tonight in Minneapolis, are scrambling to get into the playoffs. Minnesota (30-30) is in the 10th spot in the West, four games behind Memphis and five behind the No. 8 seed, Dallas. Detroit (24-37) is in the ninth spot in the East, three games behind Atlanta.

• The Pistons have lost seven straight against the Wolves. Detroit's last victory in the series was a 103-98 victory in Minnesota on April 14, 2010. Detroit was blown out by Minnesota 121-94 on Dec. 10 at home in the only matchup this season. That 27-point victory is the Wolves' largest margin of victory between the two teams.

• Kevin Love leads the league in double-doubles (50), 20/10 games (39), and 30/10 games (18). He is fourth in the league in scoring (26.9 ppg), second in rebounding (13.1 rpg), and he is averaging 4.1 assists per game. The last player to average 26 points, 13 rebounds, and four assists per game was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975-76.

• Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova was suspended for tonight's game at the Pelicans (24-37) for punching Sacramento's Reggie Evans in the fourth quarter of a Wednesday night loss to the Kings. The Bucks (12-48) will start John Henson in Ilyasova's place.

• The Pelicans' Tyreke Evans was in a season-worst shooting slump as the team went on its annual Mardi Gras road trip. But during that seven-day stretch, coach Monty Williams inserted the guard into the starting lineup and he emerged from his slump, scoring in double figures in each of the past four games.

• New Orleans (24-37) snapped an eight-game losing streak with a 132-125 win over the Lakers on Tuesday.

• Paul Pierce will play just his second game in the TD Garden as a visitor tonight, after spending the first 15 years of his career with the Celtics. After an emotional homecoming during his first visit to Boston, Pierce said before the game it won't be as challenging the second time around. "I think all of the emotions is out. It's still going to be a little bit of emotions every time you come into this gym. Being here so many years, so many memories here, but I don't think it will be as much as it was last time," Pierce said.

• Joe Johnson will suit up for Brooklyn, despite sitting out shootaround with an illness. Kevin Garnett will miss his fourth straight game due to back spasms.

• Brooklyn is currently on a four-game winning trip and has won both meetings against the Celtics this season.

• Celtics rookie Vitor Faverani will miss the remainder of the season after he had successful left knee arthroscopy to repair a torn lateral meniscus at the New England Baptist Hospital. Faverani appeared in 37 games during his rookie season for the Celtics, averaging 4.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 0.73 blocks in 13.2 minutes per game.

• The Kings' game against the Raptors tonight marks the first time Rudy Gay, Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray have been in Toronto since being traded on Dec. 8 for Patrick Patterson, Greivis Vasquez, Chuck Hayes and John Salmons.

• Both the Raptors and Gay have benefited from the blockbuster trade. Since the deal, the Raptors have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference at 26-14 and have improved in almost every major category offensively and defensively. Gay, meanwhile, has seen his efficiency take off in Sacramento. In 37 games With the Kings, he is shooting 50 per cent from the floor — up from 38.8 per cent with the Raptors — while taking fewer shots with a reduced usage rate.

• Terrence Ross will return to the Raptors' starting lineup after a one game absence due to a sprained left ankle.

• Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson (right calf strain) will be out tonight against the visiting Cavaliers and Saturday night at Memphis. Henderson will be re-evaluated before Monday night's game with the Denver Nuggets. Chris Douglas-Roberts will once again get the start in his place. Douglas-Roberts is averaging 12.0 points, 2.5 assists and 1.5 rebounds in 26 minutes of action in two starts for Charlotte.

• This is the third game between the Cavaliers and Bobcats this season but it's the first for Charlotte center Al Jefferson, who was hurt for the first two meetings. Jefferson is hot right now, averaging 29.2 points in his last four games and shooting 62.7 percent from the field. Jefferson is averaging a team-best 20.9 points and 10.5 rebounds.

• The stakes are high in this game for playoff seeding. If the Bobcats win tonight or April 5 in Cleveland then they clinch a tiebreaker over the Cavaliers since Charlotte has already taken the first two between these teams. Charlotte already holds a tiebreaker over the Detroit Pistons. The Bobcats are currently seventh in the East with a four-game lead over the Pistons in ninth place and a 4½-game lead over Cleveland. They are also just three games back of Brooklyn. For Cleveland, Charlotte is the second opponent during a nine-game stretch in which the Cavs face eight teams in playoff position.

• The Cavs are still missing Anderson Varejao (back) and C.J. Miles (ankle) from the lineup. Varejao has returned to practice recently but won't be in uniform tonight. The Bobcats will be without Brendan Haywood (stress fracture, left foot) and Jeffery Taylor (ruptured right Achilles tendon).