Defenses to Avoid
Chicago Bulls vs. Miami Heat: The Heat are well known for their offensive strength, but they boast a fairly strong defense as well. They give up just 96.1 points per game and have a defensive rating of 99.6, which are both good for sixth best in the NBA. Beyond that, the Heat also rank first in opponent turnovers per game with 18.7. The Bulls are 25th in offensive rating (98.3) and 23rd in points per game (94.6). If the Heat struggle on defense, it's against the three-pointer, but the Bulls take the third lowest percentage of their shots beyond the arc with just 16.3 percent of their shots coming from downtown.
Offenses to Use
Los Angeles Clippers at Memphis Grizzlies: The numbers speak for themselves when it comes to the Clippers. They're second in offensive rating (108.5) and second in points per game (105.9), all while shooting the third highest field goal percentage (48.1) in the league. While the Grizzlies aren't terrible on defense (17th in defensive rating and fifth in opponent points per game), with just three games on the slate, the Clippers are probably the best matchup across the board with Marc Gasol (knee) out and Zach Randolph (ingrown toenail) coming back from a minor injury, therefore "Lob City" could be set for a big night.
Other Options: New York Knicks (at BKN)
Teams on a Back-to-Back Set
First game of a back-to-back: New York Knicks
Second game of a back-to-back: Los Angeles Clippers
DAILY PLAYER RECOMMENDATIONS
Raymond Felton (at BKN): With Deron Williams doubtful for Thursday's game, Tyshawn Taylor will continue at point guard for the Nets. Taylor has had a dismal defensive rating (118.1) over his last five games while Felton comes in with an offensive rating of 100.6. The Nets rank last in defensive rating (107.5) and 27th in opponents points per game (102.8). Felton could get his fair share of points, but can also fill up the box score with assists as Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks could score in bunches against a depleted Nets team.
Luol Deng (vs. MIA): Deng has been on a tear during his last five games, averaging 27.4 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. In a Bull's offense that averages just 94.6 points per game, Deng should be asked to score Thursday against a tough Heat defense and for the rest of the season with Derrick Rose out for the year. With the potential for the Heat to pull away in this one, Deng could score some garbage points in the fourth quarter as well.
Carmelo Anthony (at BKN): Another Nets injury could help Anthony on Thursday night, as he will likely go up against Alan Anderson (108.5 defensive rating) who is filling in for the injured Paul Pierce. Anthony might not be the best value play on Thursday, but going against a porous defense in the Nets should put him at, or well above, his season average of 26.3 points per game, and he is probably the safest option for Thursday.
Blake Griffin (at MEM): Griffin will be face a depleted Grizzlies. He's only hit the 20-point mark twice in his last five games, recording 24 points Wednesday night against an average Hawks frontcourt. Expect another Blake Griffin-like night on Thursday in Memphis.
Brook Lopez (vs. NYK): Lopez has a favorable matchup against backup Knicks center Kenyon Martin on Thursday. After missing seven games due to injury, Lopez is averaging 16 points per game in his three games since returning. Lopez did hit 20 points in three of the five games he played in before the injury, so the signs are there that he could have a solid game on Thursday.
Paul Pierce (BKN) is out with a broken right hand and is expected to miss 2-4 weeks.
Tyson Chandler (NYK) is out with a fractured fibula but could be coming back in the next few weeks.
J.J. Redick (LAC) is out with a broken wrist.
Marc Gasol (MEM) is out with a sprained MCL.
Deron Williams (BKN) is doubtful with an ankle injury that has held him out since Nov. 20.
Jason Terry (BKN) is questionable with a knee injury. He was inactive for Tuesday's game.
Matt Barnes (LAC) could return soon to the Clippers lineup after an eye injury.
Zach Randolph (MEM) is expected to play after an ingrown toenail injury forced him to miss the last two games.