Indiana Pacers (6-8) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (7-7)
There was a time this offseason when Indiana was thought to be the second best team (at least for the regular season) in the Eastern Conference. This was a young team, committed to defense and able to find scoring from just about anywhere.
David West, Roy Hibbert, Danny Granger were all capable of taking the scoring load depending on the matchup and Indiana was a great defensive team.
The Pacers have been without Granger, it is true, but Hibbert has really struggled for various reasons and David West has had to step up and carry the team. He is good, but not quite that good. Not anymore at least.
Indiana has limped out to a disappointing start and sits in the bottom third of the Eastern Conference nowhere near where the team expected to be. The same thing could be said for the Lakers who are still getting used to Mike D'Antoni and what he wants his team to do.
He may be without Kobe Bryant for a while. Bryant might miss the game tonight with the flu. He also will need a refocused Dwight Howard, who has taken the Lakers losing on his shoulders even though he clearly is still regaining his form after his injury from last year.
Knowing Los Angeles and Bryant though, this team will be all right. The Lakers will figure it out.
Will the Pacers? That is a much bigger question that may not be answered until Granger is back. Until then, the Pacers need to keep the ship afloat.
Other Storylines to Watch
-Phil Jackson is still in the news when it comes to the Lakers as Jackson recently called D'Antoni's hiring a "midnight coup." Brian Shaw, who was widely assumed to be Jackson's heir in Los Angeles, still talks to Jackson and joked with the 11-time champion that at least Los Angeles called him. The Lakers originally passed over Shaw, now an assistant coach with the Pacers, to distance themselves from Jackson.
-Dwight Howard has his first full-fledged Los Angeles controversy (well, it carried over from Orlando). Howard has sought full custody of his child from former Basketball Wives star Royce Reed. Reed, according to TMZ, is seeking for Howard to pay her attorney's fees so she can put up a fair fight. This controversy has dragged on since Howard's child was born. I doubt it will stop any time soon.
Tonight's Other Games
Dallas Mavericks (7-7) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (8-6)
Elton Brand is returning to Philadelphia for the first time since the team let him go with the amnesty clause. Brand came to Philadelphia after a major leg injury and never quite lived up to the contract the team signed him to. Brand though fought back hard and at least got on the court and was a shadow of his former self. Andrew Bynum should be hoping for that this season as he tries to come back for his new team. Brand's advice for Bynum? Keep grinding. Something is better than nothing.
Phoenix Suns (6-8) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (3-11)
The Cavaliers would have had four wins if they could have finished off the Suns in Phoenix earlier this year. That has been a task easier said than done though this year. Phoenix has had numerous double-digit comebacks already this year. Without Kyrie Irving, Cleveland may not give Phoenix the chance to have another.
Toronto Raptors (3-11) vs. Houston Rockets (6-7)
Everyone around the league is taking a moment of silence tonight to remember Kevin McHale's daughter, who passed away because of complications caused by lupus. McHale has been away from his team to be with his family. The league's condolences to McHale and his family as they get through this initial period of mourning.
Minnesota Timberwolves (5-7) vs. Sacramento Kings (4-9)
Kevin Love has been pretty good in his comeback, averaging 24.3 points per game and 14.0 rebounds per game. His team still struggles some even with him back in. And Love admits that he is not quite 100 percent. Most importantly, Love is getting used to the new wrap on his hand that he has to wear to protect his recently broken hand.