Rockets @ Hornets: Both teams are struggling. Houston is severely suffering from injuries to Yao and PG Rafer Alston. Without those two, the Rockets don’t have a player who can step up and score other than McGrady. Also collapsing are the New Orleans Hornets, who have lost 8 of their last 11. Both these teams have do be great at home for playoff possibilities, which is partly why Houston is struggling. They are 3-7 at home, and will continue to rely on road victories like this one if they hope to stay alive.
Sonics @ T’Wolves: The Northwest Division is a 5-team race between Seattle, Minnesota, Denver, Utah and Portland. Realistically, Utah and Portland probably will fall out of the race in the end, which leaves two of the three contenders playing in this game. With the other two other Western divisions being significantly better, these inter-division games become more important, since the only other spot available in the playoffs is the number #8 seed. Being #8 means an instant loss to the Spurs, so getting the #3 seed means facing an easier team and a possible home-court advantage.
Grizzlies @ Lakers: Mike Fratello is a far more experienced coach than Avery Johnson; he’ll make sure that his team plays far better defense against the Bryant than the Mavs did. Dallas’ defense is nothing to Memphis’, which leads the NBA in Points Allowed. They’ll sufficiently cover Kobe. LA needs the supporting cast to step up, but playing their third game four days in December won’t help.
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