Can Lakers win sans Kobe Bryant?
by Adi Joseph, USA TODAY Sports
A quick look at the 11-game NBA schedule for Monday, March 18, ranking each game by watchability (all times p.m. Eastern):
MUST WATCH: Miami Heat (51-14) at Boston Celtics (36-29), 8, ESPN
You know the stakes: The Heat can move into sole possession of the second-longest winning streak in NBA history with their 23rd in a row.
2. Los Angeles Lakers (36-32) vs. Phoenix Suns (22-45), 10
Kobe Bryant has not been ruled out of this game, but he missed Sunday night’s Lakers victory to nurse his sprained ankle and the flu. That’s a double-whammy, and it’s tough to imagine anyone playing one day later. Lakers point guard Steve Nash and coach Mike D’Antoni have special motivation for this game, a return to the town where they constructed a mini-dynasty. And Dwight Howard is on a rebounding tear. But the Suns have played well and should provide a much stiffer test than the Sacramento Kings, who were without DeMarcus Cousins.
3. New York Knicks (38-26) at Utah Jazz (34-32), 10:30, ESPN
The Knicks have been abysmal lately without Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire. The Jazz are a great home team. A fifth straight loss might be in the making.
4. Denver Nuggets (45-22) at Chicago Bulls (36-29), 8
The Nuggets have won 12 in a row. The Bulls haven’t beaten likely playoff teams in consecutive games since December.
5. Brooklyn Nets (38-28) at Detroit Pistons (23-45), 7:30
The Nets can claim first place in the Atlantic Division with a win and Knicks loss. That seems very likely even int he second game of a back-to-back given how banged-up the Pistons are.
6. Dallas Mavericks (31-35) at Atlanta Hawks (37-29), 7:30
Over a stretch from March 12 through April 4, the Mavericks face 12 of the top 17 teams in the NBA. The only break was Friday’s win against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
7. Indiana Pacers (40-26) at Cleveland Cavaliers (22-44), 7
The Pacers now have lost four of their last six. David West’s injury won’t help matters.
8. Minnesota Timberwolves (23-41) at Memphis Grizzlies (44-21), 8
The Grizzlies went from winning 14 of 15 to losing two in a row … [For more on Tonight's NBA schedule: Can Lakers win sans Kobe Bryant?, click here.]