Tuesday's NBA Guide: Lakers-Rockets, Mavs-Nuggets and the Return of Joe Johnson

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gives you a daily look at all the games that matter ... and some that don't. At 9PM EST, join FanHouse's Brett Pollakoff, who will Twitter live from Hawks-Suns.

HEADLINER
L.A. Lakers at Houston, 8:30PM

L.A. is all saddled up, while Houston's just saddled with a recurring nightmare. Tracy McGrady's on the shelf for a while, Ron Artest is in-and-out and the Rockets have been starting and stopping in fits.

The Houston defense has been brilliant, as predicted. L.A.'s has been spectacular as well, and that's a real shock. But the offenses for these two squads aren't close; the Rockets are, for about the 10th straight year, league average while the Lakers can drop 100+ on anyone. It'll take a heroic effort from Shane Battier and Luis Scola on defense and a surprise line from a Rockets role player to vanquish the Lakers, it would seem.

UNDERCARD
Dallas at Denver, 9PM EST

The Mavericks' road trip to date has been disastrous, with a televised blow-out in Phoenix Friday and a solid Sunday loss in Sacramento in which Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd both seriously struggled against one of the league's worst defenses. Denver's the best team of the three, and well-rested. And at home. Hopeless night for Dallas, it seems.

Kenyon Martin should get Dirk Duty, and that might be exciting. Few big men strip the ball better than the current incarnation of Kenyon, though Nowitzki's a master at frustrating handsy defenders. There looks to be no option for Rick Carlisle but to concede a big night from Chauncey Billups; Kidd has fallen so hard on defense that Carlisle opted to stick him on John Salmons the other night (to poor effect, I might add). I imagine the Mavs will hide Kidd on Dahntay Jones this time (with Antoine Wright marking Billups); pity Dallas once J.R. Smith swaps in.

Atlanta at Phoenix, 9PM EST

I'll say this e'ery night 'til reality's realized: the Hawks can beat anyone with that backcourt scoring prowess. That Joe Johnson gets an opportunity against his old friends, mistaken for strangers, is only a plus sign on that statement.

The Hawks, of course, miss Al Horford dearly and will continue to until he comes home. Zaza Pachulia should be OK against Shaquille O'Neal, but Erick Dampier should have been OK, too. This isn't the Shaq we know, so all bets off in the frontcourt. And about Horford, who looks afraid of no one ... ever: it's a shame he misses this opportunity to shove the Big Aristotle around, jaw in his face some. Battling with a feisty, beating heart Shaq has been a rite of passage for a decade of young bucks; the opportunities shrivel with each passing day. [single tear]

Brett Pollakoff will be here and Twittering ... so check it out.

Charlotte at Detroit, 7:30PM EST
Miami at Minnesota, 8PM EST
Cleveland at Memphis, 8PM EST
Orlando at Sacramento, 10PM EST

Tuesday's NBA Guide: Lakers-Rockets, Mavs-Nuggets and the Return of Joe Johnson originally appeared on NBA FanHouse on Tue, 13 Jan 2009 14:45:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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