TV: League Pass
- Jamal Crawford, the second-leading scorer for the Clippers, is set to return tonight when L.A. hosts the Hawks at Staples Center. Crawford missed the last three games with a strained left calf, though the Clippers didn’t skip a beat in winning all three to stretch their win streak to a season-high six games. In fact, L.A. posted its largest win in franchise history in a 142-94 win Thursday night over the Lakers. Crawford, who’s averaging 19 points, second on the team to Blake Griffin at 24.1, spent two seasons in Atlanta, earning NBA Sixth Man of the Year with the Hawks in 2009-10. Crawford has been forced into a starting role for two stretches this season while J.J. Redick battled various injuries, but Clippers coach Doc Rivers said Crawford will come off the bench tonight with Darren Collison remaining the starting shooting guard.
- Three games into his return from a 16-game absence due to an ankle injury, Pero Antic will start at center for the Hawks. Antic has come a long way since these teams last met Dec. 4 in Atlanta, when Antic wasn’t even used in the game. Before he went down with the injury, the 6-11 rookie from Macedonia had moved into a starting role and scored in double figures in a season-high three straight games. He scored 10 points off the bench in each of the first two games since his return. Elton Brand, who played seven seasons with the Clippers from 2001-08, will return to the bench for Atlanta but should see significant minutes after shooting 57.6 percent from the floor over the last five games. Brand remains unpopular among Clippers fans because he opted out of the final year of his contract and signed a five-year deal with the 76ers.
- Paul Millsap returned from a five-game absence due to a right knee contusion in Friday’s loss at Golden State and the eight-year veteran apparently won’t have any issues playing in back-to-back games, coach Mike Budenholzer said. Millsap had 16 points and seven rebounds against Golden State and is the only player in the NBA averaging at least 16 points, eight rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block. Millsap had 25 points, nine rebounds, six assists and three blocks when Atlanta beat the Clippers by 10 points back in December.
– Dan Arritt
TV: League Pass
- Winners of seven of their last eight, the Wizards have moved into fifth place in the East and are just 1 1/2 games behind Chicago for fourth and a home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. “It’s always nice to play good ball,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “We are playing at a very high level now and this is something we have to continue to do. When you’re coming down the stretch, obviously each game is more magnified and our focus has to stay the same as it is right now.”
- Former Buck Drew Gooden returns to the Bradley Center as he signed a second 10-day contract with Washington. “He brings us experience and he is a guy that has been through this,” Wittman said. “He has been on playoff teams coming down the stretch and he just gives us the experience factor. You can’t have too much of that.” Gooden was released by the Bucks, who used their amnesty clause last summer. He played three seasons in Milwaukee but wasn’t signed by anyone until the Wizards brought him in on the first 10-day contract Feb. 25. “It makes you prove your professionalism and love for the game,” Gooden said of not being on a team through the first four months of the season. “I could have easily just said, ‘Hey, I’m going to stay at home and just do whatever I want to do and not worry about basketball,’ but that wasn’t the case,” he said. “Every day I was either watching or playing.” In his three seasons in Milwaukee, Gooden served as somewhat of a mentor for Bucks center Larry Sanders. He’s aware of the difficulties Sanders has had this season, missing eight weeks with a thumb injury caused in a bar fight Nov. 3. ”In this game, we all have to grow up — all of us as players — and it just takes time,” Gooden said. “Larry’s actions, and what he’s been going through is no different that what other guys have experienced in this league. He’s in a situation where it’s been a tough year, but I think he’s going to do a good job this summer working hard and redeeming himself for this organization.” Sanders returned in December from the thumb injury but is now out following surgery to repair an orbital fracture caused in a collision with Houston’s James Harden Feb. 8.
- The Bucks will be without guard O.J. Mayo, who was suspended by the league for one game for an elbow he threw at New Orleans’ Greg Stiemsma Friday night. It’s the second straight game a Bucks player has been suspended. Forward Ersan Ilyasova was suspended for Friday’s game for punches he threw to the stomach of Sacramento’s Reggie Evans. ”Two unfortunate situations,” Bucks coach Larry Drew said. “I think if you’re around this thing long enough you’ll experience things that just seem to happen in the NBA. Emotions get high. I think both incidents were just isolated incidents from being competitive.”
- Bucks forward Ekpe Udoh will be a game-time decision. Udoh has missed the last nine games with swelling in his right knee, which he had surgery on during the exhibition season. He played 15 minutes on Feb. 10 and missed the eight games before that with a sprained ankle.
– Rick Braun
TV: League Pass
- Jameer Nelson returns tonight for the Magic (19-44) after missing the last two games, one because of right calf soreness and the most recent because of illness.
- Nelson is back, but Victor Oladipo will miss his second straight game with left ankle soreness.
- The Magic will start Kyle O’Quinn, his first start of the season and the sixth of his two-year career, giving Orlando a bigger first group with Tobias Harris coming out. “We’re trying to push guys to the limit,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. “Kyle has found success playing with our second group, and I want to find out how he responds playing against starters.” O’Quinn has nine blocks in his last four games (2.25 per game) while averaging less than 18 minutes.
- After starting Boris Diaw in San Antonio’s 111-87 victory over Miami on Thursday, the Spurs (45-16) will return to Tiago Splitter in the first group. Diaw has shot 12-for-12 from the floor (including four from the 3-point line) in the last two games.
- Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was asked before the game if he ever considered being a TV analyst once his coaching career is done. “Just watch one of my end-of-quarter interviews,” Popovich said. “That will answer your question concisely and accurately.” It would be a short stint.
– Tim Price
TV: League Pass
- The Grizzlies’ Tony Allen is averaging 10.6 points (on 62.1 percent shooting) and 4.6 rebounds in 22.6 minutes off the bench in the eight games he’s played since returning from a 21-game absence due to a sprained left wrist. But it’s his defensive skills that head coach Dave Joerger said the team missed during his absence. “He’s been great,” Joerger said. “I’m playing him a lot of minutes. We’re a little bit more effective picking the matchup that I want him to play, and he’s just done a great job of wrecking stuff and taking people out of their offense.”
- The Bobcats’ Al Jefferson comes into Saturday night’s game on a roll offensively. He had 28 points on 12-for-18 shooting in Charlotte’s 101-92 win over Cleveland on Friday, marking his fourth straight game scoring 25 or more points and shooting better than 60 percent from the floor. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no other player in Charlotte’s NBA history — the Bobcats or Hornets — has produced even three straight games of that nature.
- Bobcats guard Chris Douglas-Roberts is returning Saturday to FedExForum, the building where he starred as a college player for the University of Memphis. Douglas-Roberts has been a force for Charlotte of late, having scored in double figures in three consecutive games. He had 14 points and grabbed a season-high nine rebounds in the Bobcats’ win over Cleveland on Friday. Douglas-Roberts, starting in place of an injured Gerald Henderson (right calf strain), is averaging 13 points on 42.3 percent shooting over the last three games, and has been particularly hot from three-point range, where he’s shot 64.3 percent (9-for-14) over the three-game stretch. “He just has a good feel for how to play,” Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said. “He’s confident. He’s a good competitor. When you watch him play, everything he does makes sense, so you execute on the floor when he’s out there.”
– Jason Smith
TV: NBA TV
- Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao (back soreness) returns to action after a 12-game absence, but shooting guard C.J. Miles (left ankle sprain) is out for the ninth straight contest. Brazilian national Varejao, who will come off the bench, is averaging 8.8 points and a team-high 10.3 rebounds in 48 games. “Andy will play some,” Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. “But he may only play one stint, just to get him some live action.”
- Longtime Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas will have his No. 11 retired by the franchise during a halftime ceremony. Heat small forward LeBron James, former Cavaliers owner Gordon Gund, and Raptors executive Wayne Embry are among the invited guests for his special night at Quicken Loans Arena. “Z” specifically chose an off-date on Miami’s schedule so close friend James would be able to attend.
- The Knicks have won two straight games to move within 4 1/2 games of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. New York’s starters are point guard Raymond Felton, shooting guard J.R. Smith, All-Star small forward Carmelo Anthony, power forward Amar’e Stoudemire, and center Tyson Chandler. “We dug ourselves a hole,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. “Now, we’ve got to dig out of it.”
- The Cavaliers’ lineup is All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, shooting guard Jarrett Jack, small forward Luol Deng, power forward Tristan Thompson, and center Spencer Hawes. Cleveland is 3 1/2 games behind the Hawks, who hold the eighth and final postseason position in the Eastern Conference. “Kyrie is a hell of a playmaker at the rim and he’s a one-man fast break,” Woodson said.
- Woodson declined to comment on reports that NBA legend Phil Jackson is interested in joining New York’s front office. “At this point, I’m not even going to entertain that,” the coach said. “My job is trying to get us into the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference this season. That’s all I’m focusing on. Phil Jackson, I’m going to stay away from that.”
- Inactive for the Knicks are center Andrea Bargnani (left elbow ligament tear) and power forward Kenyon Martin (left ankle soreness). Not in uniform for the Cavaliers are Miles, rookie small forward Sergey Karasev (NBA D-League assignment with Canton Charge), and rookie shooting guard Carrick Felix (left patellar stress fracture).
- Cleveland rookie power forward Arinze Onuaku played for the Charge in its 118-110 victory over Springfield on Saturday afternoon — ringing up 19 points and 15 rebounds — before making the one-hour drive north from Canton. “I’m trying to get some fuel now,” Onuaku said as he ate a quick dinner in the Cavaliers locker room.
– Brian Dulik
TV: League Pass
- The Sixers will try to snap a 15-game losing streak when they host the Utah Jazz Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers haven’t dropped 16 in a row since a 20-game skid during the dubious 9-73 season in 1972-73.
- The Sixers have also suffered 12 straight home losses, their most since the 1996-97 season. A 13th consecutive home loss would be a franchise record.
- Sixers forward Thaddeus Young is averaging 20.4 points over the past eight games.
- Philadelphia still ranks last in the league in turnovers per game at 17.4.
- The Jazz are 0-5 on their current six-game road trip.
- The Jazz are 2-13 in their last 15 road games and 7-25 overall.
- Utah rookie guard Trey Burke has scored in double figures in seven of his last 10 games. Burke was named the Western Conference Rookie of the Month in both December and January.
– Andy Jasner
- The Hawks will welcome back forward Paul Millsap, who missed Atlanta’s last five games due to a knee contusion. The All-Star will start but is subject to a minutes restriction, although coach Mike Budenholzer didn’t specify the amount.
- Atlanta is hoping Millsap will help the team end a brutal stretch of 12 losses in 13 games. “He just brings so many things to the game,” Budenholzer said. “It’s hard to put it in a quick sentence. He brings a ton to the game.”
- At 38-24, the Warriors — right now sixth in the West — are trying to open up a gap on a cluster of three teams nipping at their heels: Phoenix (36-25 coming into tonight), Dallas (36-26) and Memphis (34-26). Golden State closes the year with 13 of their last 20 at home, which would be great except for the fact the Warriors are just 18-10 at Oracle Arena this season. “We want to play our best basketball,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. “We haven’t done that a lot of times this year in this building. … We certainly are aware of the fat that we’ve got to be better at home.”
- With Hawks sharpshooter Kyle Korver getting shut out from 3-point lane in Atlanta’s 102-78 loss at Portland on Wednesday, Warriors guard Stephen Curry now holds the longest active streak of consecutive games with a 3-pointer. Curry has hit a trey in 50 straight contests; Korver was at 127 before going 0-for-5 behind the arc against the Trail Blazers.
- Atlanta is 8-19 since Jan. 3, which was the night Warriors guard Andre Iguodala dropped a buzzer-beating 3-pointer on the Hawks for a 101-100 victory.
– Geoff Lepper
- The Rockets hope to avenge their largest defeat of the season and extend their home winning streak to a season-high seven games when they host the slumping Pacers on Friday. Houston, which is a league-best 21-6 since Jan. 1 and 13-0 at home this season against Eastern Conference foes, was on the wrong end of a 114-81 beatdown in Indiana on Dec. 20. Coach Kevin McHale and his players believe their team has taken huge strides since suffering that setback, but they certainly have not forgotten how much the Pacers overwhelmed them that evening. “If you drive in the paint, they’ll have four guys in the paint closing it down, so you’ve got to be able to drive and kick out,” McHale said. “We’ve had problems with that. We’ve held the ball too much against them. We’ve played too much one-sided basketball. … I think our team is getting better in a lot of different areas, and one small little area is we’re getting rid of the ball quicker.”
- The Rockets’ Patrick Beverley, who broke his nose when Magic forward Tobias Harris inadvertently elbowed the 6-foot-1 guard in his face in Wednesday’s victory at Orlando, was fitted for a protective mask Thursday. Beverley said he did not feel comfortable when he tested the mask during shootaround Friday morning and was considering ditching it, but he was wearing a mask when he arrived at the arena moments ago. “That’s the least of our worries, because he’s a tough kid,” McHale said. “He didn’t like the mask he had this morning, I can tell you that much, and it’s hard to get used to them real quick.”
- Pacers reserve guard C.J. Watson will miss his second straight game with a sprained right elbow. Coach Frank Vogel said Watson has continued to experience pain in his shooting elbow since he banged it during Sunday’s win over Utah, temporarily removing a key element of the seventh-year veteran’s game.
- Indiana (46-15) is attempting to avoid its first three-game losing streak of the season. Coincidentally, the Pacers’ only other two-game skid preceded their rout of the Rockets (42-19). “I don’t think there’s any panic in us,” Vogel said. “We’ve lost two games in a row, not seven. … Our guys are very confident. They know that we haven’t played our best yet, and we have to get back after it.”
– Matt Miller