Defenses to Avoid
Miami Heat at New York Knicks: The Heat give up the seventh fewest points per game in the NBA allowing teams to score just under 98 points per contest. They will face a Knicks team that scores only 94.9 points for game, which is sixth worst in the league. The Knicks are fighting through injuries and illnesses that prevented them from practicing on Wednesday as they only had four healthy players available. It could be a big night for the Heat defense and possibly an even worse night for the Knicks offense.
Offenses to Use
Oklahoma City Thunder at Denver Nuggets: It's no secret that the Thunder have one of the best offenses in the league, ranking third in points per game (105.8) and fifth in offensive rating (107.0). It will likely be a fast paced game as the Thunder and Nuggets rank fifth and sixth, respectively, in possessions per 48 minutes, averaging nearly 99 per game. The Nuggets rank 21st in points allowed (101.8), which is the worst of any of the four teams playing on Thursday. In their two previous meeting this season, the Thunder scored 115 and 105 points against the Nuggets, so expect those numbers to continue Thursday.
Teams on a Back-to-Back Set
First game of a back-to-back: MIA
Second game of a back-to-back: None
DAILY PLAYER RECOMMENDATIONS
Reggie Jackson (at DEN): Jackson's stint as starting point guard, filling in for the injured Russell Westbrook, didn't get off to the best start. However, over his last two games, Jackson has turned things around, scoring a season high 27 points on Sunday and following up that performance with 20 points, six assists, and five rebounds Tuesday. With the Thunder and Nuggets pushing the tempo, Jackson could be the best option at point guard on Thursday. There will be plenty of opportunities for him to score and dish the basketball.
Other options: Norris Cole (at NYK) if Mario Chalmers doesn't play
Dwyane Wade (at NYK): As with most positions on Thursday, there aren't too many solid fantasy options at shooting guard so Dwyane Wade is probably the safest bet. Wade has an excellent offensive rating (110.3), and his opponent, Iman Shumpert has just an average defensive rating of 100.3. Combined with the Knicks being hobbled on defense, Wade and the rest of the Heat could be set up to have a big night.
Kevin Durant (at DEN): The shooting forward position is loaded with star power on Thursday night with LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Durant all in action. Durant probably has the best matchup Thursday going up against the Nuggets who could be without Wilson Chandler, who is listed as questionable with a groin injury. Even if Chandler is able to play, he possesses just a 105.6 defensive rating, which shouldn't slow up Durant who is coming off of a 48-point performance on Tuesday.
Other options: Jordan Hamilton (vs. OKC) if Wilson Chandler doesn't play
Kenneth Faried (vs. OKC): Faried has been playing above his season averages of 10.3 points and 7.9 rebounds over his last five games. In those games, Faried has averaged 14.8 points and 8.4 rebounds in three more minutes of action per game (26 minutes). His offensive rating in that same stretch has been off the charts at 119.2. Thunder power forward Serge Ibaka missed the Thunder's last game with an illness, so even if he does play, he could be slowed down somewhat, which will bode well for Faried.
J.J. Hickson (vs OKC): Hickson has played well against the Thunder in their two meetings thus far this season. In those two games, Hickson averaged 19 points, 16.5 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks, which is well above his season averages of 11.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. In what is likely to be a high scoring affair, Hickson should have plenty of opportunities to score and corral rebounds on Thursday.
Metta World Peace (knee) is out for two weeks after undergoing a procedure in both of his knees.
Pablo Prigioni (toe) is out for Thursday.
Russell Westbrook (knee) is out until after the All-Star break.
Shane Battier (quad) has missed the Heat's last three games and is questionable for Thursday.
Mario Chalmers (Achilles) missed the Heat's game on Tuesday and is questionable for Thursday.
Tyson Chandler (illness) missed Tuesday's game and will be a game-time decision on Thursday.
Kenyon Martin (illness) was one of many players who could not practice on Wednesday and is a game-time decision for Thursday.
Beno Udrih (knee) tweaked his knee on Tuesday and underwent an MRI on Wednesday. He is considered questionable for Thursday.
Thabo Sefolosha (finger) was limited by a finger injury in Tuesday's game and is a game-time decision for Thursday.
Serge Ibaka (illness) missed Tuesday's game, and his status for Thursday is unknown.
Randy Foye (ankle) did not practice on Wednesday and is a game-time decision for Thursday.
Wilson Chandler (groin) did not practice on Wednesday and is a game-time decision for Thursday.