Gameday Dish: Heat vs. Mavericks

Copyright 2012 NBAE - Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images
The 12-13 Dallas Mavericks welcome the 16-6 defending champion Miami Heat to the Lone Star State tonight.

With 11X All-Star Dirk Nowitzki still recovering from an off-season knee surgery, the Mavs have struggled to find a team identity and consistent production.

Coach Rick Carlisle has tinkered with his player rotations as well as his starting five, inserting 11 different guys from his roster in this first third of the schedule.

Dallas is searching for an effective formula on both offense and defense. They currently rank 27th in the NBA in points allowed at 101.5 per game.

On the other bench, the Heat have played well so far, notwithstanding a few baffling losses. They hit the road after playing 10 of their last 11 games at home.

King James leads the team in points, boards and dimes with 25.2, 8.5 and 6.9 respectively. The 3X league MVP has scored at least 20 points in each of Miami’s 22 games, the first player to do so since Karl Malone in the 1989-90 season.
 
Copyright NBAE 2012 (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe rest of the Heat’s Big 3, D-Wade and Chris Bosh, are still competing at All-Star levels. With the off-season addition of the all-time 3-point champ Ray Allen coming off the bench, many hoops commentators predicted a possible 70-win season for coach Erik Spoelstra’s squad.

Miami is up there at 4th in the league in scoring with 103.1 ppg. But they are getting crushed on the boards, ranking second to last in the league at 38.3 rpg.

The Heat last played on Tuesday night in South Beach where they beat Minnesota 103-92 behind LeBron’s 22 points, 11 assists, 6 boards and 4 blocks. The Mav’s most recent 48 was Tuesday in Big D as they bested the 76ers 107-100.

First-year Maverick guard O.J. Mayo led the team with 26 points, 8 assists and 3 steals. With Dirk out, Mayo has assumed the alpha scorer role, averaging 20.6 ppg, and has started all 25 games.

Tune in to TNT tonight at 9:30 PM ET to watch the last two NBA champions and 2011 Finals combatants do battle deep in the heart of Texas.

Fratello’s Fantasy Pick: Jason Kidd

WEB-Fantasy-Jason-Kidd--CopThe 18-5 New York Knicks currently own the best record in the Eastern Conference and the second best mark in the NBA.

A lot of New York’s early season success can be attributed to 19th-year, now combo guard Jason Kidd. After spending the last five seasons in Dallas and winning a ring with the Mavs in 2011, 6’4” Kidd signed a three-year deal with the Knicks this past summer.

At the start of this season, many hoops prognosticators publicly stated that 39-year-old Kidd’s effective playing days were behind him. His role with the Knicks would be to provide veteran leadership and to mentor the younger guys.

However, Gotham City seems to have rejuvenated the NBA’s third oldest baller. The bright lights of MSG have added a shooting spark to the 10X NBA All-Star’s game.

In the twelve contests Kidd played for the Blue & Orange in November, he averaged 26.1 mpg, 8 ppg, 3.4 apg and 3.3 rpg. In seven December games so far, he’s averaging 33.3 mpg, 10.4 ppg, 4.7 apg, 4.7 rpg, 1.3 spg and 0.9 bpg.

Kidd is also shooting 48.3% from behind the arc and 92.6% from the charity stripe. He ranks 2nd in the league in assist/turnover ratio at 4.23. And Kidd has put up season highs of 18 points, 8 dimes, 9 boards, 3 blocks (2X) and 5 steals.

Many basketball buffs believe that Kidd’s production will cool off as the grind of 82 regular season games wears on his middle-aged body. Look for the 5X NBA First Teamer’s production to remain strong as the Knicks battle for their first championship run since 1973.

Gameday Dish: Lakers vs. Knicks

Copyright 2012 NBAE - Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers come to Madison Square Garden tonight for their only Manhattan visit this season.

While the Knicks are unexpectedly soaring, the Lakers are surprisingly sputtering.

A lot of colorful plot lines are swirling around this evening’s 48, but none bigger than the turmoil surrounding the 9-13 Lakers’ shocking start and accompanying sniping.

Coming in a close second is Mike D’Antoni’s return to the Garden, where he coached the Knicks from 2008 until March 14th, 2012 when he resigned after going 18-24 and clashing with Carmelo Anthony.

The embattled Laker coach’s guys suffered their worst loss of this early season on Tuesday night in Cleveland, 100-94, bringing LA to 4-8 since D’Antoni took over the reigns.

This third consecutive loss was especially surprising given that Kobe Bryant scored a season-high 42 points, and Dwight Howard corralled a season-high tying 20 boards to go with 19 points.

Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
However, for the past five games the Lake Show has been without PF Pau Gasol due to tendinitis in his knees.

Superstar PG Steve Nash and his back-up Steve Blake are also injured and out.

The 16-5 host Knicks have the best record in the Eastern Conference and are the only team in the league still undefeated at home.

New York last played on Tuesday night in Brooklyn, where they bested their outer-borough brethren 100-97.

Melo scored a season-high 45 points, and 39-year old 19th-year PG Jason Kidd hit a key tiebreaking 3-pointer with 24 seconds left.

The Knicks have gone 8-2 in their last 10 games and are scoring 102.6 ppg, 5th best in the league. They lead the NBA in 3-point attempts, averaging 29.4 per game.

Tune in to TNT tonight at 8:00 PM ET to watch two of the NBA’s most storied franchises do battle in the Mecca of basketball.

Around the League

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Fratello’s Fantasy Pick: Andray Blatche

Copyright 2012 NBAE - Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe Brooklyn Nets have dropped four games in a row. Starting center Brook Lopez missed Brooklyn’s last five contests with a right foot injury that isn’t healing as quickly as expected. Into this 5-spot void coach Avery Johnson has inserted 6’11” Andray Blatche.

26-year-old Blatche spent the first seven seasons of his eight-year NBA career with the underperforming Washington Wizards. Blatche had some success, but was criticized for having a poor work ethic. He also got into some off-court trouble, which diminished his popularity with DC fans who often greeted Blatche with boos and taunts.

This past summer, the Wiz waived Blatche with the Amnesty Clause, and he hooked on with the Nets under a one year, non-guaranteed deal. The slimmed-down Blatche appeared motivated to make the most of his opportunity to start with a clean slate in Brooklyn. Coach Johnson quickly named Blatche his backup center and publicly stated that he has confidence in Blatche at the 5 and at the 4.

In the Nets’ 15 games in November, Blatche averaged 9.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg and .5 spg in 17.9 mpg, shooting .448 from the field. So far in December he’s putting up 18 ppg, 10 rpg and 2.5 spg in 29 mpg, shooting .553 from the field. On December 7th, Blatche scored 22 points with 15 boards and 4 steals in 35 minutes of court time in a home loss to the Warriors.

Lopez missed all but 5 of the 66 games last season with a broken right foot, so the Nets will definitely play it safe while he recovers from his most recent injury. Renewed by the transition to a franchise on the rise and loaded with talent, look for Blatche’s comfort level, minutes and production to increase while he fills in for Lopez.