By Craig Kwasniewski
Indiana at Miami (4:00 PM): Will he or won't he... or more like it, will he ever? So the latest Shaq news is that he's out for at least two more games. That means that the earliest return will be against Dallas on Sunday. Given that all the talk on Sunday will be the NFL playoffs (and the NBA loaning Dick Bavetta for the Saints-Bears
fix game), Shaq returns to relative obscurity. Good planning by The Big Lazy, return from a faux-injury and look bad in a loss to Dallas while everyone will be talking about America's Team: The New Orleans Saints. (btw - Go Bears!)
Anyway, Miami wins easily against a thin Indiana squad, who are waiting for all the players to arrive from yesterday's 8-player trade with Golden State. But even a full Pacers roster couldn't hang with a Shaq-less Heat team that seems to be trying after coasting for the first 2 1/2 months. Watching the Heat-Lakers game last Monday, guys like Antoine Walker, James Posey and Jason Kapono are playing their asses off and the Heat (coming off a nice 4-2 road trip) are looking more like the defending champs.
L.A. Lakers at Dallas (6:30 PM): First off, no way did I think that the Lakers had a chance last night against the Spurs. The Spurs were coming off a bad loss at Chicago and the Lakers are very average away from Staples Center and are still missing two of their starters (Chocolate Cake and Odom). It was a very impressive win, but Phil Jackson cautioned (along with doing his best impression of The Wolf):
"You know that line in that movie, 'Let's not start patting each other on the back quite yet.' That's one of those things. San Antonio's a little bit hurt, they're playing a little bit down right now. We're happy for the win, but we're not going to crown ourselves yet."
Tonight is a different story. I expect playoff-level intensity tonight as Dallas will look to avenge their January 7th loss to the Lakers. The Lakers play to the level of their opponents and should make this a close game. However, given that the weather is causing the Lakers to travel from San Antonio to Dallas by bus and given that the Lakers are coming off a tough road win last night, I see Dallas pulling away midway through the 4th quarter and eventually winning 107-101.