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Ten Before Tip: NBA news from Thursday

NBA.com news services
Posted Mar 20, 2014 5:55 PM - Updated Mar 20, 2014 10:20 PM

• Dwight Howard will miss his second straight game with a left ankle strain tonight, when the Rockets host the Timberwolves. Omer Asik, who scored 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in 28 minutes during Monday's victory over Utah, will again start in Howard's absence.

• Minnesota will also be without its starting center, as Nikola Pekovic remains sidelined with a sore right ankle. Rookie Gorgui Dieng will make another start in place of Pekovic, who traveled to Texas with the team but has been unable to run on his ailing right foot. "I don't know about Dwight," coach Rick Adelman said. "I know [not having] Pek hurts us. I'm sure [Howard's injury] hurts them, too."

• Each team will be without its starting power forward when Portland hosts Washington tonight — LaMarcus Aldridge (back) for the Blazers and Nene (knee) for the Wizards. Aldridge will miss his fourth straight game, Nene his 12th. The Blazers will start small forward Dorell Wright in Aldridge's place.

• One of the big matchups tonight will be at shooting guard, where Portland veteran Wesley Matthews will square off with Washington's second-year pro Bradley Beal, who has scored in double figures in 14 straight games.

• The Warriors remain thin at center as they host the Bucks tonight. Andrew Bogut will return after a one-game absence due to left ankle inflammation, while coach Mark Jackson only plans to use backup Jermaine O'Neal in an emergency situation.

• Klay Thompson will open defensively on Brandon Knight, Milwaukee's leading scorer. Since beating Indiana with a last-second shot on March 4, the Warriors guard is averaging 19.8 points per game on 52.1 percent shooting from the floor, and Jackson is effusive in his praise: "He's the best two-way shooting guard in the world."

• Milwaukee, which has lost 10 of its last 12, will stick with the same lineup that took Portland to overtime on Tuesday: Knight, Nate Wolters, Khris Middleton, Ersan Ilyasova and Zaza Pachulia. That means Giannis Antetokounmpo — the highly regarded Greek rookie — will be coming off the bench for the Bucks.

• Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook (right knee soreness) has been given the night off against the Cavaliers by coach Scott Brooks as part of his rehabilitation process. "This is just part of our protocol for Russell to sit out some, if not all, of our back-to-backs," Brooks said. "He won't play tonight, but we'll have him back tomorrow in Toronto." Westbrook missed 27 games from Dec. 27 through Feb. 13 after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to repair a meniscus tear. Third-year pro Reggie Jackson will make his 32nd start of the season at point guard.

• The Cavaliers — already playing without All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving (left biceps strain) — will only have nine players in uniform as small forward Luol Deng (left ankle sprain) and shooting guard C.J. Miles (left ankle sprain) have been declared out. Rookie power forward Anthony Bennett (left patellar strain), rookie small forward Sergey Karasev (right knee tendinitis), and rookie shooting guard Carrick Felix (left patellar stress fracture) are also unavailable for Cleveland.

• Thunder center Kendrick Perkins (left groin strain) will miss his 12th consecutive game, while shooting guard Thabo Sefolosha (left calf strain) is sidelined for the ninth straight contest.

• Oklahoma City's lineup is center Steven Adams, power forward Serge Ibaka, All-Star small forward Kevin Durant, rookie shooting guard Andre Robertson, and Jackson. The Thunder trails San Antonio by two games for the best record in the Western Conference and has the third-best mark in the NBA at 49-18.

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