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5 NBA things to know for Jan. 2

Some key storylines and NBA tidbits to know for the day ahead

Jeff Case, NBA.com

1. NBA continues to mourn Stern’s passing

There’s so much to be said about the legacy NBA Commissioner Emeritus David Stern left that a few sentences here can hardly do it justice. Tributes poured in on social media from NBA legends, the Knicks paid tribute to him last night and NBA stars-turned-analysts such as Charles Barkley, Kevin McHale, Isiah Thomas, Marques Johnson and more reflected on his impact on not just the NBA, but the sports world at large. More tributes are sure to pour in tonight — there are nine games on tap, after all — and we’ll be watching for all of it.

2. Potential All-Star showdown in Indianapolis

Nikola Jokic already has All-Star credentials to his name, having made the All-Star Game last season. But don’t overlook the work Domantas Sabonis is putting in with the Pacers as his squad hosts Denver tonight (7 ET, League Pass). Indiana has the East’s third-best record since Dec. 1 and during that span, Sabonis has been a beast — particularly on the glass (13.6 rpg since Dec. 1). He and Jokic have also been great playmakers in that span, too, with both ranking in the Top 4 in assists among centers since Dec. 1.

3. Another challenge for Raptors

Toronto has kept it together since losing Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol and Norman Powell to injury on Dec. 18, going 5-3 since then. A deeper look, though, shows that record is a bit hollow as the Raptors have gone 2-3 against teams over .500 during that stretch. As they host the Heat (7:30 ET, NBA TV), the onus is on Kyle Lowry to keep up the increased productivity he’s enjoyed since Dec. 18 (24.5 ppg, 41.1% on 3-pointers). He’ll be looking to bounce back after going 2-for-18 in a Dec. 3 road loss to Miami.

4. Star guards collide in Dallas

A Kia MVP favorite (Luka Doncic) and a rising star (Spencer Dinwiddie) collide in Dallas (8:30 ET, League Pass) in what will be the third meeting of their careers. The squads are slumping a bit (Brooklyn has lost three in a row; Dallas is at two straight losses) with the Nets trying to keep things together despite a myriad of injuries. After ranking 12th in the NBA in rebounding in November (10.3 rpg), Doncic ranked 29th in that category last month (8.7 rpg). As for Dinwiddie, he ranks second in the NBA in scoring (31.5 ppg) since Dec. 17.

5. Griffin heads back to L.A. (again)

Right around this time last year, Blake Griffin made his first trip back to face the LA Clippers and had himself a game, finishing with 44 points in Detroit’s win. The same scenario is here again (10:30 ET, NBA TV) but Griffin is struggling through injury issues this season and the Clippers are a drastically different team. Griffin missed the Pistons’ last game (a 104-81 loss to Utah) and overall, his play seems to be cratering this season. In short, there should be plenty of juicy subplots to watch at Staples Center tonight.

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