Defenses to Avoid
Cleveland Cavaliers at Indiana Pacers: If you break down shots by distance from the basket, Cleveland ranks in the top-four teams in field-goal attempts from 5-9 feet away, 10-14 feet away, and 15-19 feet away. That's a problem in and of itself, but even more so against an Indiana team that ranks among the top-10 in opponent's field-goal percentage from each of those three distances. To be fair, the Pacers are stingy all over the court, so their success in those specific areas doesn't really stand out. What's obvious is that an elite defense will be facing a lousy offense, and the stingy D has home-court advantage. Indiana's 93.6 defensive rating is tops in the league, while Cleveland's 97.9 offensive rating ranks 26th. We could keep going with the statistics but the conclusion isn't going to change. Avoid Cleveland on Tuesday.
Offenses to Use
Sacramento Kings at Houston Rockets: It's no secret that the Rockets focus on getting to the rim and shooting from beyond the arc. The league's most midrange-averse team should have fun Tuesday, as they'll be facing a Sacramento squad that ranks dead last in opponent's three-point percentage (39.7) and next-to-last in opponent's three-point field goals per game (9.1). Furthermore, the Kings have allowed opponents to convert at a 63.4 percent clip within five feet of the basket, which again ranks next-to-last in the league. Sure, only four teams have allowed fewer baskets within five feet, but that's due to volume, not efficiency. The Kings won't catch any breaks from a Houston squad that has made more field goals from inside of five feet than every team besides Detroit. Look for the Rockets to turn things around at home, after getting stomped in Oklahoma City on Sunday.
Teams on a Back-to-Back Set
First game of a back-to-back: Indiana Pacers, Toronto Raptors
Second game of a back-to-back: Chicago Bulls, Portland Trail Blazers
DAILY PLAYER RECOMMENDATIONS
Reggie Jackson (vs. POR): Consider this the hype after the hype. Jackson's first two games in the starting lineup weren't amazing, but he did enough to keep hopes up, and everything looks good for Tuesday. The Blazers are a poor defensive team, and they've struggled to contain opposing point guards, which comes as no surprise given Damian Lillard's defensive limitations. Furthermore, Portland will be playing the second game of a road back-to-back Tuesday, after losing a nail-biter to the Pelicans on Monday. One look at the standings tells you that the Trail Blazers won't be taking this one off, but they may still be a bit fatigued. Even before the Russell Westbrook injury, Jackson was already having a career season. He could be a 15+ PPG scorer while Westbrook is sidelined, and what better time to heat up than in a game against the high-flying Blazers?
Other options: Damian Lillard (at OKC), Jordan Crawford (vs. ATL), D.J. Augustin (vs. TOR)
Jodie Meeks (vs. MIL): Nobody will mistake Meeks for a star, or even anything close to one, but he's a capable scorer seeing a ton of playing time on a team devoid of other options. Over the last five games, he's averaging 37 minutes, 15.2 points, 2.8 three-pointers, 4.2 rebounds, and 2.8 assists, all while shooting just 38.5 percent from the floor. Against a dreadful Bucks team, look for Meeks to up the efficiency without sacrificing any volume. He makes for a relatively safe play in comparison to other cheap options.
Other options: Wesley Matthews (at OKC), James Harden (vs. SAC), Lance Stephenson (vs. CLE), Kirk Hinrich (vs. TOR), Giannis Antetokounmpo (at LAL)
Chandler Parsons (vs. SAC): As highlighted above, the Rockets draw a juicy matchup against the Kings on Tuesday, with Parsons the likely beneficiary of Sacramento's inability to defend the three-pointer. It doesn't hurt that Parsons has seen heavy run over the last few weeks, topping 40 minutes in five consecutive games, before seeing his streak end in Sunday's blowout loss to the Thunder. Speaking of that blowout, the lopsided score afforded the Houston starters some extra rest, meaning that Parsons and Co. should be fresh for Tuesday.
Paul George (vs. CLE): The Cavs have been a fantasy godsend for opposing small forwards, which comes as little surprise given Cleveland's lack of talent at the position. I'm a bit worried about a blowout here, but will George even need more than 30 minutes in order to have a big game? He tallied 21 points, 13 rebounds, and three assists in exactly 30 minutes during the first meeting between these teams.
Other options: Nick Young (vs. MIL), Rudy Gay (at HOU)
Khris Middleton (at LAL): With John Henson (leg) out of the lineup, Middleton figures to see significant run at both small forward and power forward. The second-year Texas A&M product has come on shockingly strong of late, averaging 40.2 minutes, 19.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.4 steals, and 0.8 blocks over the last five games. Granted, two of those contests went to overtime, but neither went to double-OT, and Middleton has now topped 30 minutes in seven consecutive games. The banged-up Lakers are a nice matchup for pretty much any position, even with Pau Gasol expected to return from an upper respiratory infection Tuesday.
Jared Sullinger (vs. ATL): Now that Al Horford (pectoral) is likely done for the season, Atlanta will have to deploy some smaller lineups, while asking for added minutes from lackluster big men, namely Elton Brand, Pero Antic, and Gustavo Ayon. The aforementioned trio represents a mammoth downgrade from Horford, who wasn't able to stop Sullinger from posting a 15-9 with two blocks in the first meeting between these teams. To nobody's surprise, the Hawks have struggled against opposing big men since losing Horford, allowing Orlando's Nikola Vucevic and Charlotte's Al Jefferson to combine for 40 points and 37 rebounds over the last two games. Don't be surprised if both Sullinger and Brandon Bass finish with double-doubles on Tuesday.
Other options: LaMarcus Aldridge (at OKC), Brandon Bass (vs. ATL), David Lee (vs. ORL), Terrence Jones (vs. SAC)
Larry Sanders (at LAL): After playing just 22 foul-marred minutes in his first game back from a broken hand, Sanders handled 34 minutes during his second game back in the lineup Saturday. He's looked healthy, and both John Henson (leg) and Zaza Pachulia (foot) are sidelined, so another 30+ minutes can be expected for Sanders in his third game since returning from the injury. Not only are the Lakers sorely wanting for frontcourt depth, but also Pau Gasol will be returning from an upper respiratory infection Tuesday. While we can't assume that Gasol will be limited, the nature of his ailment does create some possible concerns regarding stamina. If Gasol isn't at 100 percent, Sanders' excellent matchup will look even better. Take that as a bonus, and don't let Gasol's presence dissuade you from using Sanders.
Other options: Jonas Valanciunas (at CHI), Nikola Vucevic (vs. GS)
DeMarre Carroll (thumb) is out Tuesday.
Al Horford (torn pectoral) is likely out for the season.
Andrew Bynum has been suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team.
Patrick Beverley (hand) is likely out through January.
Omer Asik (thigh) is still sitting amid trade rumors.
Andray Blatche (personal) is expected to be out through Thursday.
Brook Lopez (foot) is done for the season.
Russell Westbrook (knee) is likely out through the All-Star break.
John Henson (leg) is out for the Bucks' three-game road trip.
Xavier Henry (knee) is out for 7-to-10 days.
Gerald Wallace (nose) missed the second half of Saturday's game.
Toney Douglas (illness) missed Sunday's game with food poisoning
Andrei Kirilenko (back) is a game-time decision Tuesday and will play if he doesn't experience any further soreness.
Luol Deng (Achilles) was a game-time decision Monday but did not end up playing. He'll likely be a game-time call again Tuesday.
Jordan Farmar (hamstring) missed Monday's practice but intends to start Tuesday.
Pau Gasol (illness) will start Tuesday's game after missing the last three contests.
Chris Kaman (ankle) didn't practice Monday but is expected to play Tuesday.