Injuries to Marc Gasol, Norman Powell and, most notably, Pascal Siakam have the Raptors in a rough spot. All three are out indefinitely, which leaves Toronto missing a combined 46.1 ppg from the trio not to mention the defensive acumen all three bring. A home date with the Wizards (7:30 ET, League Pass) will surely challenge the Raptors’ defense as Washington is in the top 5 in Offensive Rating and has seen Davis Bertans (21.8 ppg over his last five games) hit a hot streak.
The Mavericks are looking solid on the road, going 10-2 so far. However, a date tonight in Philadelphia (8 ET, ESPN) means Dallas will have to find a way to slow down Joel Embiid. He’s been on a tear since Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal called him out on Dec. 10, averaging 28 points, 14.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in the three games since. A matchup with Kristaps Porzingis and the Mavs’ other assortment of bigs should make this an interesting watch.
Logging a win against one of the NBA’s hottest teams — as Indiana did Tuesday vs. the Lakers — can spark a surge of wins. The Pacers are just getting started in that department as they aim for a fifth straight win in hosting Sacramento (7 ET, League Pass). Since Thanksgiving (which, yes, is a small sample size), Indiana has the NBA’s second-best record (8-3) and has wins against the Jazz, Lakers and Celtics during that span.
Two wins, two rallies from 24-point (or larger) deficits for the Thunder. That’s what OKC is working with lately as it has climbed back into the Western Conference playoff mix and seeks its sixth win in eight games. The Suns are paying a visit (8 ET, League Pass) and are going the opposite way (four straight losses) despite the recent return of Deandre Ayton. Should be interesting to see if the Thunder play with fire again.
Kobe Bryant will be remembered for a lot of different on-court exploits, with his 81-point game vs. Toronto being perhaps his greatest regular-season feat. But not to be outdone was the game he delivered on Dec. 20, 2005 vs. the Dallas Mavericks. He needed just three quarters to score 62 points, becoming the 19th player at the time to surpass 60 points. Additionally, his 62-point game was the most by any player since David Robinson’s 71 vs. the Clippers in 1994.