What to watch during Friday’s 10-game NBA schedule:
Steve Nash vs. John Wall
Suns at Wizards, 7 p.m. EST, League Pass
Flip Saunders isn’t even trying to protect his star rookie’s potentially fragile psyche before Round 2 with the two-time MVP. “Nash destroyed (Wall) last time,” Saunders told the Washington Post.
Cold, but true. Nash played about as perfect a game for a point guard as possible in Phoenix’s blowout win over Washington on Dec. 5, dropping 20 points on 8-for-8 shooting from the field and 3-for-3 at the line, adding 17 assists and only turning the ball over twice. Wall had 12 points and 12 assists, but he shot 4-for-12 from the field with four turnovers. Physically, Wall (15.2 ppg, 9.3 apg) has the size, speed, strength and hops advantage over Nash (17.1 ppg, 10.9 apg), but the veteran isn’t exactly a sloth — and he knows the game inside-out. Time to see if Wall has learned from his earlier schooling.
Deron Williams vs. Rajon Rondo
Jazz at Celtics, 7:30 p.m., League Pass
Are D-Will (22.1 pg, 9.5 apg) and Rondo (10.7 ppg, 13.2 apg, 2.4 spg) the two best point guards in the League? Sure. At least until Monday night, when Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul face off in New Orleans. Check back then.
Luis Scola vs. Zach Randolph
Rockets at Grizzlies, 8 p.m., League Pass
Buckets and boards galore. We actually had bets going in the Dime office today over who would put up a better line between Z-Bo (20.0 ppg, 13.0 rpg) and Swamp Thing (19.2 ppg, 8.4 rpg). On a larger scale, the Rockets and Grizzlies are two teams who should be better than their win-loss records indicate. If either team is going to go on a run and make a playoff push, it’ll be up to their respective, unconventional power forwards.
Amar’e Stoudemire vs. Tim Duncan
Knicks at Spurs, 8 p.m., ESPN
Think Muhammad Ali against Larry Holmes. Duncan is The Greatest, and while he still has some quality championship rounds left in him, he’s officially near the end of the line. Amar’e is the champ-in-training who on paper should dominate. Amar’e (26.4 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.3 bpg) does have a history of putting up huge numbers against Duncan (13.6 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 2.1 bpg), but TD has had his moments, too: Like perennially ending Stoudemire’s season when the two went head-to-head in those Spurs/Suns playoff series. Amar’e is a leading MVP candidate this year, while Duncan’s team is the best in the League.
Kobe Bryant vs. J.R. Smith
Lakers at Nuggets, 10:30 p.m., ESPN
Usually, when (arguably) the best player in the world goes head-up with a backup, the only intrigue is whether or not the superstar will actually make the reserve cry on TV. But it’s different with Kobe (25.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 4.7 apg) and Earl (11.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg). In this case, the young lion fully believes he is the best player on the planet, and sees the old king of the jungle as just another clown to drop buckets on. Beyond the individual matchup, Kobe is the straw that stirs L.A.’s drink, while J.R. is often the spark on nights when the Nuggets’ All-Stars aren’t killing. It will be ego-vs.-ego in Denver, and while Smith is a supremely talented scorer, Kobe typically puts him in his place. If only for a second.
Which matchup are you most looking forward to? Share your observations on all of Friday’s NBA games in the comments section.