Well, from 8pm until the last second ticks away, I know what I will be watching. I hope the rest of you do too (hint, its the Celtics). But, there is some really decent action otherwise also going on tonight. Lots of early out of market games in the 7pm slot, and the Lakers-Phoenix game late should be another Kobe show (you know, if thats the type of thing you're into). Personally, its a shame that we'll all have to miss the debut of Big Al and the mini-Celts, but from what I understand, they'll be playing 81 more games so I'm sure we'll catch up.
On to the games.
(All times EASTERN standard)
Miami at Indiana 7:00pm (League Pass Only)
In Miami's second game, expect to see them tested once again on the wings, with the rotation of Jamal Tinsley, Mike Dunleavy, Marquis Daniels (he looks good again) and Danny Granger. In Obie's system these guys are just chucking shots up there from deep, but the problem is that they're making them. However, the real wildcard will be up front, with Jermaine O'Neal supposedly healthy again, Indiana will possibly have a much more balanced attack than the primarily perimeter oriented offense we've seen so far. This also means that Indiana will be better defensively. Personally I don't think Shaquille O'neal or JO will be ready to give 30 quality minutes, so look for an unlikely hero in the paint from the second unit to put up big numbers on the boards and points (dare I say BLoUNT?). I hate to say it, but the Pacers looked good against Washington, with Miami still adjusting to Ricky Davis being the number 1 scoring option, I don't think they're be able to deal with a more organized Indy unit.
Player(s) to watch: Danny Granger and Jermaine O'neal-Granger had 20 points against Washinton on Wednesday, 15 of those 20 points came from outside the three point line. Also watch for Jermaine O'neal's return. Chances are he's going to be limited in playing time but watch to see how often his feet leave the ground for blocks and boards, it will be a good indicator of how far along his knees are.
Detroit at Orlando 7:00pm
The pistons looked sharp against the Heat, and Orlando looked pretty sharp against the Bucks. Dwight Howard didn't show off that shiney new jumper he supposedly has, but he did block 7 shots. Seriously, 7. No one player on the Pistons' roster is better than Rashard Lewis or Dwight Howard, but those two guys won't be enough to save Orlando. The Pistons looked really good against to Heat, and Tayshaun Prince looked especially on his game. Look for the Pistons to continue the trend and to show Orlando that chemistry is not just a class you take in high school (or college for me, twice.)
Player to watch: Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis- Dwight Howard is just a joy to watch, nobody makes grabbing a rebound or swatting a shot out of the air look any better than Dwight, also watch Reshard Lewis once again strive to show the world why he recieved over 100 million dollars this summer.
Milwaukee at Charlotte7:00pm
Milwaukee didn't look too pretty against Orlando on Tuesday, but they have a good chance to rebound tonight. Besides Emeka Okafor (who is nothing to be taken lightly), Charlotte doesn't have the same clout down low that Milwaukee has. With Sean May injured for the year, at the PF spot Charlotte will rotate Okafor, Jemareo Davidson (10-15 mins), Walter Hermann (18-25 mins), and maybe even BC product Jared Dudley. The issue is that whenever Okafor is not at the 4 Charlotte will be at a size disadvantage. Milwaukee's rotation of Yi Jianlian and Charlie Villanueva (nearly 45 mins combined at the 4 on Tuesday) will provide a lot of issues for the Charlotte frontcourt, and Andrew Bogut is dangerous enough to always keep Okafor checking when he is at the 4 anyways. On the perimeter though Charlotte has a slight advantage with a solid rotation of Jason Richardson, Gerald Wallace and Raymond Felton, Milwaukee will have their hands full on the outside. Look for Gerald Wallace to give Micheal Redd absolute fits. Picking Charlotte to win a close one.
Player to watch: Jason Richardson-You know Jason Richardson wants to make a big splash coming in as Michael Jordon's newst go-to scorer. Bobby Simmons or Micheal Redd will be guarding him, probably Redd, because Simmons will need to put a body on Gerald Wallace.
Dallas at Atlanta 7:30pm
I would love to talk about how Atlanta's promising young core is starting to come of age and that their versitality should give Dallas problems, but I would be lying. DId anyone watch the Dallas game against Cleveland? This is not just Dirk Nowitzki and pieces playing, this is a balanced, tempered attack. DeSagana Diop and Devin Harris have been added to the starting lineup, with a perfectly content Jason Terry (no, seriously, he's cool with it) providing the insta-offense off of the bench. This looks like a good team, and if the way they executed against the Lebron Jameses on Wednesday is any indication, they are absolutely going to roll over Atlanta, no matter how high Josh Smith can jump.
Player(s) to watch: Acie Law IV, Anthony Johnson, Speedy Claxton, and the rest of the Hawks' bullpen of pgs- This is maybe the most obvious positional weakness in all of pro basketball. The Atlanta point is a mystery in an enigma in a riddle wrapped in crappy front office decisions. The front office did the right thing this June passing on Mike Conely Jr. and taking Horford, then taking Acie Law. Lets see if they keep on doing the right thing and play Acie Law a little bit.
NY Knicks at Cleveland7:30pm
On matchups alone, it looks like Cleveland should win this one, and I'm going to stick with that. You have to think that Lebron James on Quentin Richardson favors Cleveland more than Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph on Drew Gooden and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. New York still needs to really come together, and with Cleveland playing passionately due to an embarassing loss to Dallas on Wednesday night, look for Lebron to come up huge.
Player(s) to watch: Zach Randolph and David Lee- This is Z-bo's regular season debut with the Knicks, and he's the type of guy that wants to make a big impression. He likes to get his numbers, so I'd be surprised at anything less than 25 points and 12 rebounds, the thing to watch is how Zeke works in David Lee.
Torontoat New Jersey 7:30pm
This is the first matchup between teams within the Atlantic division, and it ought to be a good one. Both teams are coming off of wins, and both teams ought to pull all the stops, because a win within your division means just as much in November as it does in April. Toronto played very well against a seemingly inspired Philadelphia team, with TJ Ford and Anthony Parker being the only guys that played more than 30 minutes for the Raps. New Jersey just beat a very good Chicago team predictably riding the backs of Richard Jefferson, Vince Carter, and the immortal Jason Kidd. Lets see who wins, the team with the most All-Stars or the team with the best depth? My bet goes with Toronto, mostly because New Jersey never seems to be consistent until March.
Player(s) to watch: Antoine Wright- Wright came up BIG in New Jersey's last game, going off for 21 points and 4-7 from the 3 against the Bulls i the overtime win. If Wright can find some consistency, New Jersey is going to look a lot smarter for letting Hassan Adams walk.
Portlandat New Orleans 8:00pm
Two young teams face off here, and actually it ought to be a good show. Some pretty good match-ups here, both teams have defensively talented centers, while Tyson Chandler may have the upper hand here, neither of the centers can really score much. The case is the exact opposite when you take a look at the power forward position, however. LaMarcus Aldridge seems to be the go to scorer for the Blazers this season, but David West can get his points also. Neither one plays spectacular defense. At the small forward position, Peja Stojakovic and Martell Webster are both perimeter oriented shooters that were good in their respective season openers. Brandon Roy and Morris Peterson are both talented scorers, obviously with Roy having the edge, however I’m expecting big things from Mo-Pete this season, and with CP3 at the point anything is possible. Speaking of the point, the point guards will decide this game. Chris Paul scored 22 points and gave out 12 assists and 8 rebounds against Sacramento on Wednesday. Now, Mike Bibby may not be known for his defense, but Jarret Jack is. If Jack can disrupt Chris Paul’s game the Blazers may have a shot, but at the end of the day, the Hornets are a playoff team, and the Blazers are not. Hornets to won.
Player to watch: LaMarcus Aldridge-Aldridge went off for 27 points against none other than Tim Duncan in the season opener, and you have to think if he can handle TD, he can handle David West. Watch the young guy eat.
Denver at Minnesota, 8:00pm
Its the home debut of the new look Celtics..er..I mean Timberwolves, and I don’t think it will be a happy one. Don’t get me wrong, I have all the confidence in the world that Big Al Jefferson will be able to handle himself against the Denver front line (and yes, that does include Marcus Camby), but as far as the rest of the team is concerned, lets say I’m less than enthused. After Al Jefferson, I don’t think there is a player on the Timberwolves’ roster that can evenly match up with a Denver starter, and with Randy Foye going down look for Allen Iverson to just eat up Minnesota. Thankfully, none of us will be watching this much if at all. Nuggets win easy against Bassys poor defense.
Player to watch: Al Jefferson-Come on, why else would you tune out of the Celtics’ game other than to (painfully) see Big Al go to work in the paint.
Philadelphia at Chicago, 8:00pm
Both teams here are coming off of a loss here, and both lost to playoff teams from last season. On paper, Chicago should take this game easily, as while Chicago is one of the deepest teams in the east, Philadelphia seems to be one of the worst. However, Philadelphia played Toronto (also one of the deepest teams in the east) pretty tough last night, almost coming back for the win during a late rally in the fourth. Neither team wants to start the season out with an official losing streak, and Chicago should be able to pull this out, but Philadelphia is scrappy and I think the Kobe rumors are hitting a nerve for some of the Bulls. I expect Chicago to win, but I don’t feel good about it.
Player to watch: Luol Deng- Deng had a great game in the overtime loss to New Jersey, and this high talent, good character young star is the best thing going for this Chicago team. He went for 22 points 11 rebounds and 4 steals against New Jersey, he’ll be the main scoring option and also the guy defending Andre Igoudala, so a lot of the outcome of this game will be on his shoulders.
Sacramento at San Antonio 8:30pm
The Kings are coming off of a loss, the Spurs off of a win, and I imagine that trend will continue for the rest of the season; the Spurs will keep on winning, the Kings will keep on losing. The Spurs are operating very well, and Manu Ginobli is just on fire to open the season. Tim Duncan will be his usual dominating self, especially against the porous Kings’ frontline, and the Spurs will cruise.
Player to watch: Manu Ginobli- Manu has been sharp so far, driving, shooting, he’s been clutch, sealing the winning basket over Memphis, just good overall play.
Golden St. at LA Clippers 10:30pm
Golden State is coming off of a tough loss against a very well executing Utah Jazz on Tuesday, expect them to make it right tonight. The only thing that seemed to be working for Golden State against the Jazz was Baron Davis, but expect them to get hot against the Clippers, as the Clippers’ main scoring threat is Cuttino Mobley. The high potent Nellie ball will absolutely eat up the Clippers, and watch for youngster Marco Belinelli, he’ll be on display tonight too.
Players to watch: Tim Thomas, Al Thornton and Ruben Patterson-With Elton Brand out indefinitely, the power forward position is an absolute mess. Hopefully they’ve figured out a rotation to stick to during the preseason, but I have my doubts.
LA Lakers at Phoenix 10:30pm
The late game most of us will be watching ought to be another all-out Kobe show. With Lamar Odom still out, Kobe Bryant will once against be forced to perform superhuman acts of basketball just to keep it close with the Suns. The Suns stumbled a little bit against the Sonics last night, and I don’t expect that Mike D’Antoni will let that pass unnoticed. Look for the Steve Nash show to come out fast, sharp and confidenet. I expect despite Kobe’s best efforts this one won’t be all that close.
Players to watch: Steve Nash- Despite getting the win on Thursday, Steve Nash still had 7 turnovers and shot less than 50% from the field. Look for him to play with a little more passion than he brought with him to the supersonics, and expect a high octane running show from the lil guy out of Canada.
Well that is all for tonight, folks. Big night tonight, and most of you probably won't be watching anything else but the home debut of the new Boston Celtics, I know I won't. However, try to click back and forth between the games, Big Al is making his debut. Be sure to check out the Game(s) Thread for any and all thoughts/comments you'd like to share.