NBA Previews from The Sports Network|
Sunday, December 8th
(All times Eastern)
BOSTON CELTICS (9-12) AT NEW YORK KNICKS (5-13), 12 P.M.
(SportsNetwork.com) - Longtime adversaries, the New York Knicks and Boston
Celtics renew their rivalry in a Sunday afternoon matinee at Madison Square
This matchup might not have the same sizzle as recent meetings considering
teams are under .500. However, in the sad Atlantic Division, the Celtics are
the leaders and Knicks are just 2 1/2 games back.
The Knicks have won two straight for the first time all season, thanks to a
road win over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday and a home victory over the
Orlando Magic on Friday.
The win over Orlando was the first home victory since opening night, halting a
slide that spanned seven games.
"We won two in a row, we want to continue our streak and take care of Sunday
against the Celtics," Carmelo Anthony said following the Magic victory.
Anthony led the Knicks with 20 points and 11 rebounds against Orlando, but it
was a great all-around effort for New York. Andrea Bargnani and J.R. Smith
each had 17 points, followed by 15 from Tim Hardaway Jr., 14 from Raymond
Felton, 12 for Metta World Peace and 10 from Iman Shumpert.
The Knicks held both the Nets and Magic to 83 points, but the offense clicked
in both contests. New York shot 57 percent from the field against Brooklyn and
59 percent from long range and those numbers were also good against Orlando.
The Knicks shot 53 percent and 50 percent from the 3-point line.
The Celtics have taken two straight as well, both at home. They bested the
Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday, then knocked off the Denver Nuggets, 106-98 on
Boston built a 27-point lead against Denver, but the Nuggets cut it to three.
"It's just hard to beat a good basketball team for that long," said Celtics
head coach Brad Stevens. "The best part about tonight is things didn't always
go our way and we responded and I think that that's a huge character trait of
a good team, especially one that's been beaten that way earlier in the
Jordan Crawford led the Celtics with 22 points, but Avery Bradley and Kris
Humphries both scored 18.
"He played great all night; he's done a good job for us, and again, I think
that speaks to his professionalism too because this hasn't been always easy
for him," Stevens said of Humphries. "But he's always been a pro about
Jeff Green netted 15 and Brandon Bass added 14.
The Celtics stay in New York to play Brooklyn on Tuesday, then have five
straight at home.
These two teams met in last year's Eastern Conference quarterfinals, which the
Knicks won in six games.
New York has won three straight regular-season meetings and three of four
between the two teams in MSG.
MIAMI HEAT (15-5) AT DETROIT PISTONS (10-10), 6 P.M.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Miami Heat will try to avenge a loss from earlier
this week when they visit The Palace of Auburn Hills Sunday to take on the
The Pistons bested the Heat, 107-97 in South Beach on Tuesday, thanks to a
well-balanced performance from Detroit. Seven Pistons scored in double figures
that night and Andre Drummond grabbed 18 rebounds en route to a 46-34
disparity on the boards.
"It's going to be a tough challenge for us versus a team that just beat us on
our home floor," said LeBron James. "Another great rebounding team that plays
in the paint. We accept the challenge and look forward to it."
The Heat snapped a two-game slide on Saturday night in Minnesota, while the
Pistons extended their winning streak to four games with a victory in Chicago.
"Look what they've been doing. It's not just against us," James said.
"Drummond's a huge kid. Monroe creates space and has great hands. It's going
to have to be a collective group to clean glass tomorrow."
The Pistons swept a three-game road trip, starting with the win in Miami,
followed by victories in Milwaukee and in Chicago on Saturday night.
Against the Bucks, Drummond pulled down 19 rebounds and Monroe grabbed 17,
then Josh Smith joined them in double-figures on Saturday. The trio combined
for only 23 points against the Bulls, but hauled in 36 rebounds.
"I like the way we are playing. I think we have been getting better every
game," said Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks. "Our defense has been getting
better. Clearly our offense is a little better. I like our flow, I like our
defensive flow, I like our offensive flow, I think we are getting better in
Brandon Jennings handled the scoring against Chicago with 33 points on 5-for-8
shooting from the 3-point line. Kyle Singler added 12 points and the seldom-
used Josh Harrellson chipped in 10 on 2-for-2 shooting from long range.
The Pistons shot 42.5 percent from the floor Saturday, but shot 63.2 percent
from beyond the arc.
The Heat handled the Timberwolves, 103-82, on Saturday and only lost the
battle on the glass by one. It helped their cause that Kevin Love, the NBA's
leading rebounder, wasn't with the team after the death of his grandmother.
James paced the Heat with 21 points and 14 rebounds. Dwyane Wade returned from
a two-game absence due to rest and the flu with 19 points. Ray Allen and
Rashard Lewis both scored double figures off the bench.
Despite the loss earlier in the week, the Heat have taken nine of the last 11
between the two teams. The Pistons are 1-7 in their last eight at home against
INDIANA PACERS (18-2) AT OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (14-4), 7 P.M.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Indiana Pacers' brutal road trip will mercifully
come to an end Sunday, but before they head home, they have one more tough
matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Pacers are 3-1 on this five-game sojourn. They fell to the Portland Trail
Blazers, but bested the Los Angeles Clippers, Utah Jazz and San Antonio Spurs.
Indiana will return home to play the two-time defending champion Miami Heat on
Indiana was awesome on Saturday night en route to its 111-100 victory over the
Spurs. They snapped an 11-game losing streak to the reigning Western
Conference champions and earned their first win in San Antonio since Jan. 4,
"You have to play great to beat this basketball team, especially here and we
did in the second and third quarter," said Pacers coach Frank Vogel. "We were
operating on all cylinders."
And they have been all season.
The Pacers have now won nine of their last 10 games and own an eight-game lead
in the Central Division.
The second and third quarters Vogel referenced were the difference against the
Spurs. Indiana flipped a 13-point deficit into a 22-point lead thanks to a
67-37 disparity in the second and third quarters.
"I thought we were connected, even when we got down in that second quarter,"
said David West. "We had that belief like, if we put together some stops,
obviously we felt like we could get some good shots offensively, and we just
The Pacers shot 53.5 percent and 47.4 percent from long range.
Paul George was his brilliant self on Saturday with 28 points, six assists and
four rebounds. West finished with 20 points, but five other Pacers scored in
Lance Stephenson managed 15 points and Roy Hibbert, George Hill, Luis Scola
and C.J. Watson all scored 12 points. Hibbert and Scola both grabbed 10
The Thunder have been waiting since returning home from a three-game trek
after Friday's 109-95 victory in New Orleans. OKC went 2-1 with the lone
setback coming in Portland, which is no cause for shame.
On Friday, the Thunder dominated the middle two quarters to the tune of 56-42.
Oklahoma City shot 50.6 percent from the field and held the Pelicans to 37.5
"It was anybody's ball game headed into halftime," explained Thunder coach
Scott Brooks. "We had to come out in the second half with a better defense
stand, and I thought we played great defense. I liked our effort throughout
the game. Everyone gave a good defensive effort. Their speed was hard to
contain but we did a good job tonight."
Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 29 points, while Russell Westbrook finished
with 25. Serge Ibaka was great with 17 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked
shots. Reggie Jackson had 15 off the bench.
The Thunder have been spectacular of late, winning nine of their last 10. Only
four opponents during that span have scored 100 or more points against
The Thunder swept both meetings last season and have taken five of the last
seven. Indiana has lost three straight in Oklahoma City.
ORLANDO MAGIC (6-13) AT HOUSTON ROCKETS (14-7), 7 P.M.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Houston Rockets stopped a two-game slide last time
out and will try to keep the momentum Sunday when they welcome the Orlando
Magic to the Toyota Center.
After an ugly road loss to the Utah Jazz and an equally bad home loss to the
Phoenix Suns, the Rockets got back into the win column with a 105-83 drubbing
of the Golden State Warriors on Friday.
The 83 points allowed matched a season-low for the Rockets.
"I thought that we came out and really got after them," said Houston head
coach Kevin McHale. "Those guys are tough guys to guard and they did a nice
job of not getting them started. We were able to just kind of play from
The Rockets buried the Warriors, 31-12 in the first quarter and cruised from
James Harden led the way with 34 points, followed by 22 and 18 rebounds from
Dwight Howard. Terrence Jones also registered a double-double with 16 points
and 10 boards.
Chandler Parsons returned from a two-game absence with a back issue, but only
had eight points.
It will be a familiar foe for Howard as he spent the first eight seasons of
his career in Orlando. He was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he
languished last season, before signing with the Rockets in the offseason.
The Rockets will head west for three games following Sunday's tilt.
The Magic are playing the fourth of a six-game road trip and so far the
results have not been good. Orlando is 0-3 after a 121-83 smackdown at the
hands of the New York Knicks Friday.
The Magic couldn't stop the great Knicks shooting, which started in Thursday
night's decisive win over the Brooklyn Nets. New York shot 53 percent from the
field against Orlando and 50 percent from long range.
"I think the results of their game in Brooklyn carried over to this game,"
Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn said. "They shot the ball extremely well like they
did in Brooklyn, so there you have an NBA game for you."
Arron Afflalo followed up a career-high 43 points on Wednesday against
Philadelphia with 20 points on Friday. Glen Davis had a career-best 33 against
the Sixers, but only managed four points against the Knicks.
Victor Oladipo had a triple-double in Orlando's heartbreaking double-overtime
loss to the Sixers and he finished with 17 points and nine rebounds versus New
York. Jameer Nelson returned from injury and had 13 points against the Knicks.
The Magic will visit Memphis and Charlotte before returning home for just one
The Rockets won both contests last season and that snapped a five-game winning
streak for Orlando in this series. The Magic have taken three of their last
five in Houston.
TORONTO RAPTORS (6-12) AT LOS ANGELES LAKERS (10-9), 9:30 P.M.
(SportsNetwork.com) - He's back.
Kobe Bryant will make his season debut Sunday night, eight months after he
underwent surgery to repair a torn left Achilles tendon.
Bryant announced he would return at home against the Toronto Raptors Sunday on
his Facebook account. He was practicing harder and concedes there are things
that need to improve, but Black Mamba is back.
"Getting a rhythm under my legs, as far as stopping on a dime, raising up and
shooting," Bryant said. "And getting your game legs underneath you where you
can shoot a jump shot comfortably."
Head coach Mike D'Antoni will ease Bryant, 35, back into the lineup.
"We won't know until we see him. But he can play any way," D'Antoni told
NBA.com. "He can play below the rim, above the rim, beside the rim. He'll
figure out how he will be effective, and then he'll come at you with
everything he's got. That's been his M.O. and I think that's what he'll do."
Bryant was hurt in the fourth quarter of an April 12 game against Golden State
when he tried to drive to the basket and collapsed to the floor in pain. He
had surgery the following morning and was given a 6-to-9 month recovery
Bryant averaged 27.3 points, 6.0 assists and 5.6 rebounds per game in 78 tilts
a year ago.
The Lakers have managed pretty well without one of the best in the history of
the game. They improved to 10-9 with a 106-100 victory Friday night in
L.A. closed with 13 straight points for its sixth win in the last eight.
Pau Gasol and Jodie Meeks, who buried a pair of late 3s to squash the Kings'
chances, led the way with 19 points apiece. Nick Young had 14 off the bench,
while Wesley Johnson and Steve Blake scored 13 points each. Blake also handed
out 10 assists. Robert Sacre, the Lakers' new starting center, had 11 points.
Also on the injury front for the Lakers, Steve Nash, another future Hall of
Famer, could return next week from a nerve root irritation issue in his back.
The Raptors, who have taken footnote status for Sunday's game, have dropped
five straight, including the first two on this three-game western trip.
They blew a 27-point second-half lead against the Golden State Warriors on
Tuesday, then lost 106-97 Friday in Phoenix. It was a two-point game at the
half, but the Suns took the third by five to lead by seven, then held on in
the fourth quarter.
"It's been tough all year. I don't know what else to say. It's kind of
sounding like a broken record," said Rudy Gay. "It starts with the third
Amir Johnson led the way with 22 points off the bench, followed by 21 from
Kyle Lowry. Gay had 17 points and 11 rebounds and Jonas Valanciunas also had a
double-double with 11 points and 10 boards. DeMar DeRozan only managed 13
Tyler Hansbrough left the game with a sprained left shoulder in the first
quarter. He is listed as day-to-day.
The teams split last season's two meetings, but the Lakers have won five of
the last six and nine of the last 11. The Lakers have taken 10 straight at
home against the Raptors and Toronto's last road victory in this series came
on Dec. 28, 2001. The Raptors are 2-14 all-time as the visitors against the
12/08 09:45:23 ET