This article is part of our Daily Games Cheat Sheet series.
Defenses to Avoid
Milwaukee Bucks at Charlotte Bobcats: Although their sub .500 record may not indicate it, the Bobcats actually run a very efficient defense, ranking fourth in defensive rating (98.0) behind only the Thunder, Spurs, and Pacers, while ranking second in points allowed per game (93.0). They've given up more than 100 points just three times in their last 21 games and held opponents below 90 points in 10 of those 21 games. The Bucks, on the other hand, rank last in the league in offensive rating at 95.4 and rank 28th in points scored at just 91.9 per game. The Bobcats hold their opponents to an average of 42.6 percent shooting while the Bucks are last in the league in field goal percentage at just 42.0 percent. If both teams play like they normally do, Milwaukee's box score at the end of the night won't look very pretty.
Offenses to Use
Los Angeles Lakers at Phoenix Suns: The Suns rank fifth in offensive rating at 106.1, and are eighth in points scored per game at 103.3 per game while the Lakers rank 18th in defensive rating at 103.3 and also rank just 28th in points allowed per game, giving up an average of 102.9 points per game. Additionally, the Suns have been on a hot streak for much of December. They've won seven of their last eight games and have scored at least 100 points in each of their last seven games, averaging just under 110 points per game in those seven games. Look for the Suns to continue their hot streak against the Lakers, who are once again without Kobe Bryant due to injury.
Teams on a Back-to-Back Set
First night of a back-to-back: None
Second night of a back-to-back: Indiana Pacers, Toronto Raptors.
DAILY PLAYER RECOMMENDATIONS
Stephen Curry (at DEN): Curry has been fantastic in December, averaging 28.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 10.1 assists, 2.5 steals, and 3.5 threes on 47.0 percent shooting from the field and 39.8 percent from three. While the Warriors as a team have somewhat struggled, with a 6-5 record for the month of December, Curry's numbers have been top notch, and he's been one of the league's best scorers lately. The Nuggets are ranked 12th in defensive rating, but that shouldn't be a problem for Curry, who has lit up even the best defenses in the league this season.
Dwyane Wade (vs. ATL): Wade has been scoring very well lately, averaging 24.0 points in his last five games on 57.1 percent shooting to go with 5.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 2.0 steals. It's hard to know what Wade's scoring output will be on a night-to-night basis with LeBron James being his teammate and being able to explode on any given night, but Wade's consistency and effectiveness in his last few games should continue to earn him a good portion of Miami's shots and possessions as long as he can stay healthy. The one point of caution here is to make sure Wade actually plays Monday. The Heat have rested him a lot this season and have done so without much warning on several occasions.
Other options: Monta Ellis (at HOU), James Harden (vs. DAL) [(ankle) highly questionable], Lance Stephenson (at BKN), Francisco Garcia (vs. DAL) [if Harden is out], DeMar DeRozan (vs. SAS) [has expanded his game lately and started distributing], Xavier Henry (at PHX)
Carmelo Anthony (at ORL): Anthony has been averaging 30.4 points over his last five games along with 6.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.6 blocks, and 46.2 percent shooting to go with 2.6 threes per game as a 43.3 percent clip. He will face off against the Magic, who rank 14th in defensive rating but rank 26th in opponent three-point percentage at 37.7 percent. While the Magic are good at defending the post, they struggle to defend against mid-range shots and threes, which are where Anthony gets the majority of his points.
Anthony Davis (at SAC): Davis returned early from his hand injury on Wednesday and has played in two games for an average of 35 minutes per game, so it's safe to say that he appears fully healed and has no minute restrictions moving forward. He has scored more than 20 points in both games since his return and is averaging 10.5 rebounds in both games to go with 58.1 percent shooting. The Kings rank 27th in defensive rating and 29th in points allowed per game in addition to ranking 29th in post defense, allowing opponents to average 63.8 percent shooting within five feet of the rim, where Davis gets most of his points.
Dwight Howard (vs. DAL): Howard is coming off a monster performance Saturday, registering 25 points and 19 rebounds against the Pistons and has averaged 21.6 points and 12.2 rebounds in his last five games to go with an amazing 68.9 percent shooting. Dallas' starting forward, DeJuan Blair, is also four inches shorter than Howard, but if the Mavericks choose to use Dirk to defend Howard, Dirk weighs 20 pounds less than Howard which will be a problem considering Howard takes all of his shots in the post. The Mavericks are also just 26th in rebounding, so that should mean plenty of opportunities for Howard to grab rebounds as well.
Other options: DeMarcus Cousins (vs. NOR), Andrew Bogut (at DEN), J.J. Hickson (vs. GS), Jonas Valanciunas (at SAS), Timofey Mozgov (vs. GSW) [could be a great value play if Kenneth Faried (ankle) is out]
For a comprehensive list, visit our Injury Updates page.
Andrei Kirilenko (back) returned to practice Sunday.
Jason Terry (knee) returned to practice Sunday.
Brook Lopez (foot) is out for the season.
Patrick Beverley (hand) is out 4-6 weeks.
Jeff Taylor (achilles) is out for the season.
Marc Gasol (knee) says he could return in the next 10-20 days.
James Harden (ankle) did not play Saturday and supposed to rest until fully healthy.
Ersan Ilyasova (ankle) has been shut down for a few games.
Zaza Pachulia (foot) will be out for a few more weeks.
Omer Asik (knee) remains out.
Jordan Farmar (knee) remains out.
Kenyon Martin (abdominal) should miss at least another week.
Jeremy Lin (back) is expected to play Monday.
Kawhi Leonard (mouth) is questionable for Monday's game.
Ray Allen (knee) missed Sunday's practice due to soreness.
Michael Beasley (hamstring) practiced on Sunday.
Raymond Felton (hamstring) is questionable Monday but said he wants to play.
Jason Smith (knee) missed Saturday's game.
Greg Smith (knee) aggravated his knee sprain Saturday.
Kenneth Faried (ankle) rolled his ankle Saturday and X-rays came back negative.
Pau Gasol (chest) missed Saturday's game due to a respiratory issue.
John Henson (knee) was a late scratch Saturday, and his status for Monday is unknown.
Dion Waiters (wrist) did not play Saturday.
Tayshaun Prince (knee) did not play Saturday.
Joe Johnson (personal) sat out Friday's game.