ESPN, TNT and NBA TV all have games scheduled
POSTED: Jan 18, 2016 10:36 AM ET
Reflections on Martin Luther King Jr.
A collection of NBA stars reflect on the most salient attributes of Dr. King and his impact on American society.
Today's NBA lineup for Martin Luther King Day doesn't come with fancy wrapping paper, roasted turkey and all the other bells and whistles that surround the Christmas Day games. But it should.
With 10 games on the schedule (including four national TV games and a Finals rematch to start a TNT doubleheader) MLK Day should at least be billed as "the second" national basketball holiday.
Here's what you need to know about each of today's matchups:
The Atlantic Division foes face off for the third time this season after the Knicks won both matchups in December. Since those games, the Sixers have greatly improved after adding point guard Ish Smith and coach Mike D'Antoni as an assistant. Keep an eye on the matchup between Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis and Sixers power forward Nerlens Noel. Both players have looked strong as of late, with Porzingis averaging 19.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.8 blocks over his last five games and Noel tallying 11.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 2.0 steals since the Sixers added Smith in late December. Superstar Carmelo Anthony is questionable after missing Saturday's game due to a right ankle injury.
After a rough stretch without their defensive leader Rudy Gobert, the Jazz are back to being a top-five defensive team over the past week. They matchup against a Hornets team in the midst of their worst stretch of the season with a record of 1-9 over their last 10 games. A lack of defense has been the issue for Charlotte as they rank in the bottom-five since the beginning of 2016. An under-the-radar player to watch in this Monday matinee is Trey Lyles. The Jazz rookie has been on fire over his last three games with averages of 17.3 points (on 66.7 FG percentage, 55.6 3-point percentage) and 4.7 rebounds in 31.7 minutes. Will the No. 12 overall pick be able to tally double-digit points for a fourth straight game?
Two of the best backcourts in the NBA face off in this exciting, cross-conference matchup. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum have the statistical edge over John Wall and Bradley Beal so far this season. But that has a lot to do with Beal missing significant time due to injury. He's back now, although still on a minutes restriction, which places extra pressure on Wall. That's been no issue lately, though, as Wall has thrived over the last month with averages of 21.3 points, 10.9 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2.3 steals since December 16. In their last matchup with Portland, Wall and Beal combined for 44 points and 18 assists in a narrow win last season. Let's see if we get a repeat performance today as both teams look to claw back into their respective playoff pictures.
The first national TV game of the day is in Memphis where the Grizzlies will host the 14th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Game. Countless events already filled the weekend, including a Sports Legacy Symposium honoring the recipients of the 11th Annual National Civil Rights Museum Sports Legacy Award: Jalen Rose, Spencer Haywood and Tamika Catchings. On the court, the hard-nosed Grizzlies will face superstar Anthony Davis and the Pelicans, who continue to struggle under new coach Alvin Gentry. In their only matchup so far this season, Marc Gasol scored a season-high 38 points with 13 rebounds to power Memphis to the 113-104 win. Will Davis and New Orleans be able to slow him down?
The Central Division rivals matchup for the first time since the Pistons won an overtime thriller during the first week of the season. Andre Drummond was unstoppable in that game, tallying his first of five 20-point, 20-rebound games this season. The Bulls will need strong post defense from Taj Gibson and rookie Bobby Portis today, and for the rest of the season, as Joakim Noah is out four to six months after suffering a dislocated left shoulder. For Detroit, they will need to worry about Jimmy Butler, who scored an NBA season-high 53 points on Thursday and has tallied 30-plus points in four of his nine games to begin 2016. Only one and a half games separate these teams in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Atlanta, the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr., is the location of the second national TV game of the day. In the last matchup between these squads, Atlanta prevailed, 103-100, as all five of their starters scored 13-plus points. The Magic will look to bounce back from that game and shake off some rust in what will be their first game since losing to the Raptors in overtime in London on Thursday. This marks Elfrid Payton's second game back in the lineup after he missed four games from Jan. 4-9 with an ankle injury. In his first game back, a 106-103 loss to Toronto, Payton was quiet: four points (on 2-for-8 shooting), four assists and and three turnovers in 20 minutes. With Victor Oladipo (knee) out today, Payton will have to deliver his season averages against a solid Atlanta team.
Brooklyn looks for revenge against Toronto after the Raptors dominated the Nets less than two weeks ago to win, 91-74. The loss marked the eighth straight home defeat for Brooklyn and it was likely a reason behind the Nets' firing of coach Lionel Hollins and reassignment of GM Billy King four days later. The Raptors enter on a four-game win streak and just four games behind Cleveland for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. If Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan can keep up their current pace, there's no reason to believe Toronto can't claim the No. 1 seed in the East.
The game of the day (if not the year) tips off TNT's doubleheader coverage on MLK Day. The Warriors won this Finals rematch on Christmas Day, 89-83. But that was in front of a raucous Oracle Arena crowd and before Kyrie Irving was back to full health. He's at that point now and showing flashes of his old self with averages of 20.3 points and 4.7 assists in 33.6 minutes over his last three games. The Warriors fell to the Pistons on Saturday for their second loss of the week and fourth of the season. Tonight's game will be a huge road test for Stephen Curry and the Warriors against LeBron James and his high-powered Cavaliers, who have the best offense in the NBA over the past two weeks. You won't want to miss this star-studded matchup that should be an incredible game with playoff intensity.
The Mavericks will go for the season sweep of the Celtics after defeating them 106-102 in mid-November. Dallas trailed by 18 in that game before rallying back behind 23 points from Dirk Nowitzki. Isaiah Thomas, who was held to just 19 points in their last matchup, has scored 30-plus points in three of his last five as he leads the Celtics' offensive attack. The Celtics will need a big night from him, along with former Mavericks forward Jae Crowder, if they hope to earn a win in Dallas where the Mavericks are 11-7 this season. Boston enters the game on a three-game winning streak.
The MLK Day slate concludes with a storyline-filled matchup in Los Angeles. The Rockets are 2-0 against the Clippers this season, which gives them five straight wins over Chris Paul and company since they rallied from a 3-1 playoff series deficit last season. James Harden dropped 46 points on the Clippers in their first matchup this season and Dwight Howard led the charge in the second game with 22 points and 14 rebounds. The Clippers will need to slow these two down if they hope to win without Blake Griffin, who has been out since Christmas. Despite his absence, the Clippers are 9-1 since he went down and have a strong hold on the No. 4 seed out West.
NBA.com staff reports