Defenses to Avoid
San Antonio Spurs at Toronto Raptors: After playing well in their first game following the Rudy Gay trade, Toronto draws a tough matchup Tuesday night. The Spurs rank second in defensive rating (95.4 point allowed per 100 possessions), sixth in opponent's field-goal percentage (43.3 percent), first in free throws allowed per game (17.2) and third in points allowed per game (93.1). San Antonio's ability to keep teams away from the charity stripe should be particularly useful Tuesday against a Toronto team that scores a higher percentage of its points at the free-throw line (20.2 percent) than all but five teams. Furthermore, San Antonio has given hell to the league's lesser squads this season, as the Spurs' four losses came against Houston, Indiana, Oklahoma City, and Portland.
Offenses to Use
Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Lakers: With the Lakers playing at the league's third-fastest pace and the Suns ranking 14th, Tuesday's game should have plenty of possessions. The Lakers rank 19th in defensive rating (103.1), which is largely a result of the team's inability to force turnovers (13.7 per game) despite playing at such a fast pace. While Los Angeles has actually done a respectable job against opposing shooters this season, Phoenix's Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic should enjoy facing a Steve Blake backcourt that isn't known for its defensive prowess and will likely remain as such with a hobbled Kobe Bryant.
Teams on a Back-to-Back Set
First game of a back-to-back: New York Knicks, San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, Chicago Bulls
Second game of a back-to-back: None
DAILY PLAYER RECOMMENDATIONS
Russell Westbrook (at ATL): Finally done with his shooting slump, Westbrook is up against a middling defensive team, after shooting 47.6 percent from the field over his last five games. Both the Thunder and Hawks play at an above-average pace, and in light of his recent success, Westbrook probably won't be gun-shy in a favorable matchup against Atlanta PG Jeff Teague.
Other options: Eric Bledsoe (at LAL), Brandon Jennings (vs. MIN), Kyrie Irving (vs. NYK)
Kevin Martin (at DET): With a starting backcourt of Brandon Jennings and rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the Pistons have predictably struggled on the defensive end against opposing guards. Detroit ranks 27th in opponent's field-goal percentage (46.5) and 21st in opponent's three-point percentage (36.6), while only seven teams have allowed more points per game to opposing guards. Martin should be able to take advantage of the shaky perimeter defense, as he's shot 42.2 percent from beyond the arc this season on 5.7 three-point attempts per game. Martin has also been surprisingly effective at getting to the line lately, with at least eight free throws made in five consecutive games.
Other options: Jordan Crawford (at BRO), O.J. Mayo (at CHI), Kobe Bryant (vs. PHO), Goran Dragic (at LAL)
LeBron James (at IND): Miami stands to benefit from some favorable scheduling, as the Heat doesn't play again until Saturday following Tuesday's big matchup against the Pacers. Normally limited to the 35-minute range, James figures to come in around 40 minutes Tuesday, assuming the game stays relatively close. Sure, James will see some of Paul George, but that didn't stop the game's preeminent player from averaging 29.0 points on 51 percent shooting during last season's memorable Eastern Conference Finals series. The expectation of added minutes in a big game should be enough to justify James' lofty price in daily games.
Other options: Paul George (vs. MIA), Kevin Durant (at ATL), Khris Middleton (at CHI), Carmelo Anthony (vs. CLE)
John Henson (at CHI): Henson will likely spend a good portion of Tuesday's game battling with Joakim Noah down low, yet the lanky Buck still figures to put up some solid stats. With Larry Sanders (hand) and Zaza Pachulia (foot) sidelined, Milwaukee has little choice but to play Henson for 30+ minutes per game, as has been the case in four of the team's last five contests. After averaging 14.6 points, 10.2 boards and 1.8 blocks over that five-game period, Henson should be a double-double threat in any matchup until the Bucks start to get healthy.
Other options: Tristan Thompson (vs. NYK), Jared Sullinger (at BRO), Serge Ibaka (at ATL)
Andrew Bynum (vs. NYK): Given that Bynum is averaging 25.5 minutes, 18.0 points and 9.0 rebounds over the last four games, his season stats don't provide a reasonable proxy for what to expect Tuesday. The oft-injured veteran big man was able to play 51 total minutes in back-to-back contests over the weekend, and he should be well rested following a pair of days off. Meanwhile, with Tyson Chandler (knee) still sidelined, the Knicks lack an interior defensive presence. The great thing about daily games is that you can use Bynum without worrying about whether he'll stay healthy. He's producing right now, and that's all that matters for Tuesday.
Other options: Roy Hibbert (vs. MIA), Brook Lopez (vs. BOS), Andre Drummond (vs. MIN)
Tyson Chandler (knee) is expected to return within the next 10 days but won't play Tuesday.
Chase Budinger (knee) remains out.
Chauncey Billups (knee) seems to be getting closer but still hasn't returned.
Will Bynum (groin) has missed five consecutive games.
Tiago Splitter (calf) is out Tuesday.
Rajon Rondon (knee) is still out while recovering from a torn ACL.
Andrei Kirilenko (back) hasn't played since Nov. 8.
Jason Terry (knee) hasn't played since Nov. 20.
Caron Butler (knee) is expected to miss at least one more week of action.
Gary Neal (foot) is out Tuesday.
Zaza Pachulia is out for approximately four weeks with a fractured foot.
Larry Sanders (thumb) is making progress but likely won't be back until late December.
Jimmy Butler (toe) is expected to miss a few more games.
Jordan Farmar (hamstring) is out for most of December, if not the whole month.
Steve Nash (general soreness) has been out since Nov. 10.
Kenyon Martin (ankle) is probable Tuesday, despite missing Sunday's game.
Michael Beasley (hamstring) sat out the last two games but may have a shot to return Tuesday.
Dwyane Wade (rest) is expected to play in Tuesday's big matchup against the Pacers, after taking a maintenance day against the Pistons on Sunday.
Rodney Stuckey (knee) was out Sunday but may return for Tuesday's game.
Tyler Hansbrough (shoulder) sat out Sunday's game but hasn't been ruled out for Tuesday.
Gustavo Ayon (ankle) missed Monday's practice and his status for Tuesday's game is uncertain.
Kelly Olynyk (ankle) will likely play in Tuesday's game.
Paul Pierce (hand) is recovering quickly and may even return Tuesday.
Deron Williams (ankle) is expected to return Tuesday.
Luol Deng (calf) is hoping to play Tuesday, after missing Saturday's game.
Mike James (knee) hasn't been ruled out for Tuesday and may be questionable.
Chris Kaman's (back) status is unclear.