This article is part of our Daily Games Cheat Sheet series.
Defenses to Avoid
Atlanta Hawks at San Antonio Spurs: The Hawks enter tonight's game ranked 16th in offensive rating (101.0) and will face off against the San Antonio Spurs, who are ranked 2nd in defensive rating (93.5) and have only given up 100 points or more twice this season, with both games being two of the Spurs' only three losses of the season. After the Rockets snapped the Spurs' 10 game winning streak on Saturday, the Spurs should be back with particular focus and intensity. The Hawks are also only 18th in points per game, averaging 98.7, so their offense doesn't appear to be efficient enough to hold up against the Spurs.
Offenses to Use
Houston Rockets at Utah Jazz: The Rockets, ranked 2nd in offensive rating (109.3) face a very favorable defense in the Jazz, who are ranked last in defensive rating (106.8). The Rockets have scored 100 or more points in 15 of their 18 games this season, and in 11 of their past 12. They rank first in the league in points per game with 109.4. The Jazz, on the other hand, hold an opponent shooting percentage of 47.2, ranked 28th in the league. They are also awful at rebounding, averaging 40.4 and ranking 27th in the league in that category, which does not bode well against a Rockets team headed by Dwight Howard that averages 46.4 rebounds, ranking 2nd in the league. After dealing the Spurs just their third loss of the season, the Rockets are riding a five game win streak and will look to put on an offensive display tonight against the Jazz en route to win No. 6.
Teams on a Back-to-Back Set
First game of a back-to-back: Orlando Magic
Second game of a back-to-back: Indiana Pacers, New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers
DAILY PLAYER RECOMMENDATIONS
John Wall (vs. ORL): If you take out his subpar performance against a masterful Pacers' defense last Friday, Wall is averaging fantastic numbers these last five games, including 26.8 points, 8.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds, 3.75 steals, 50 percent from the field and 42.8 percent from three. Wall will face a Magic defense that ranks 13th in defensive ranking and 22nd in points allowed (101.1), and match up against average defenders in Victor Oladipo and Jameer Nelson. The Magic also rank 24th in opponent assists, giving up 23.0 a game, which looks promising for Wall's chances at a double-double.
Other options:Tony Parker (vs. ATL)
James Harden (at Jazz): Harden came back strong against San Antonio on Saturday, with 31 points, seven rebounds and six assists. He only posted nine points and seven assists in limited playing time against the Nets on Friday after missing the past three games, so it's good to see that he appears to be back to full health. Harden faces a Jazz defense that should prove much easier to score against than the Spurs, and a second straight 30-plus point game could be possible if he shoots well.
Paul George (at POR): George is fourth in the league in scoring, in addition to being a top tier defender, and is averaging 23.8 points on 47 percent shooting from the field and 40 percent from three. While George may not have a great game shooting from outside, as the Blazers are exceptional at defending the three, he is both taller and bigger than Batum, who will likely have trouble guarding him in the post should George decide to go to work in the paint. Dorell Wright likely won't fare any better defending him, so Portland's only hope of slowing George down will be to use Batum's length to hamper his jump shots.
Paul George versus the Clippers on Sunday.
Carlos Boozer (vs. NOR): With Anthony Davis injured, the Pelicans will have to turn to Ryan Anderson and Lou Amundson or Al-Farouq Aminu to fill in for Davis' minutes at the power forward spot. While Boozer might have had a tough time scoring against Davis, Anderson should prove much easier to match up against. While Anderson and Boozer are about the same height, Boozer outweighs Anderson by 25-30 pounds, and should be able to work against him in the post fairly easily. It's possible Boozer's minutes may be limited if he can't guard Anderson, who is one of the best in the league at shooting threes, but he should be both productive and efficient in the minutes he's given.
Marcin Gortat (vs. ORL): Neither Nikola Vucevic nor Glen Davis are particularly apt at defense, which should result in a productive game for Gortat. Orlando's opponents shoot just under 60 percent from within five feet on average, and Gortat, who is normally a very efficient shooter, should be able to match or better that average. It's rare for Gortat to score much, posting more than 20 points just once this season, but if he proves he can score on Vucevic early on, John Wall may find ways to get Gortat the ball more. Gortat is shooting a blistering 66.7 percent in his past five games, and it seems likely that he should be able to continue in that fashion against Orlando.
Anthony Davis (hand) is out indefinitely with a fractured hand.
Danny Granger (calf) is still out indefinitely.
Jeremy Lin (knee) is out for at least two weeks with a Grade 1 knee sprain.
Derrick Rose (knee) is out for the season with a torn meniscus.
Bradley Beal (leg) will miss at least one more week with a stress injury.
Kyle Korver (ribs) is expected to return soon from a rib contusion.
Chandler Parsons (back) played through back pain Monday against the Spurs.
Jimmy Butler (toe) traveled with the team Saturday and should return soon.
Greg Smith (knee) is expected to return this week from a sprained knee.
Jameer Nelson (foot) traveled with the team and could return Monday.
Louis Williams (knee) did not play Saturday and is being eased back onto the court with game and minute restrictions.