Commentary

Daily Notes for Thursday: Shootout expected in the desert

Updated: February 13, 2008, 1:34 PM ET
By Tony Targan | Special to ESPN.com

Matchups for Feb. 14

Time Visitors Opp. PPG Opp. FGP RPG Diff. Home Opp. PPG Opp. FGP RPG Diff.
8 p.m. Miami Heat 100.2 .466 -3.3
@
Chicago Bulls 97.6 .448 +1.0
10:30 p.m. Dallas Mavericks 95.5 .447 +2.4
@
Phoenix Suns 103.8 .450 -6.0

All times are ET. Statistics from 2007-08 regular season.
Key: Opp. PPG = Points per game allowed to opponents. Opp. FGP = Field goal percentage allowed to opponents. RPG Diff. = The difference between team's rebounds per game and its opponents' rebounds per game.

Injury Report:

Out:
Luol Deng, SF, Bulls (Achilles)
Devin Harris, PG, Mavericks (ankle)
Udonis Haslem, PF, Heat (ankle)

Day-to-day
Leandro Barbosa, PG/SG, Suns (flu)
Erick Dampier, C, Mavericks (ankle)
Ben Gordon, SG, Bulls (wrist)
Josh Howard, SF, Mavericks (back)
Shaquille O'Neal, C, Suns (hip)
Jerry Stackhouse, SG/SF, Mavericks (hamstring)

Start 'em, sit 'em

Shaquille O'Neal was winded after his first practice with the Suns, so I'd be surprised if he plays any meaningful minutes until after the All-Star break. Keep the Diesel parked for now, but run with Amare Stoudemire, Steve Nash, Grant Hill and Raja Bell (17.5 points and 3.3 three-pointers his past four games). Boris Diaw has been inconsistent lately but is still averaging 9.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 32 minutes his past five games. Make sure Leandro Barbosa is over the flu before starting him. ... Hopefully, you capitalized on the Mavericks three-game schedule this week. Expect Dallas to fire away against the Suns, so increase your expectations for Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki, but check on Josh Howard's back before activating him. ... Joe Smith has seen his points per game rise every month this season, including 16.5 so far in February. Start Smith at home against the Heat on Thursday, along with Bulls teammates Andres Nocioni (28 points on Tuesday versus the Hornets) and even Ben Wallace (16 rebounds on Tuesday), who should enjoy a rebounding edge against Miami. Kirk Hinrich returned to the lineup Tuesday but came off the bench, so be cautious about starting him or Ben Gordon, who is still nursing a sore wrist. ... Dwyane Wade's assists are way up lately (10.0 his past four games), especially now that he has Shawn Marion to pass to, but Wade continues to lead the league in turnovers.

Waiver-wire pickups

Dorell Wright can do no wrong lately. The Heat small forward has 16.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, and is a perfect 18-for-18 from the free-throw line his past five games. Mark Blount has also averaged 16.2 points in his past five and he finally hit double-digit rebounds in two of his past three games. ... Chris Duhon's 34-point game last Thursday nearly tripled his previous season high, but with Kirk Hinrich's return, Duhon's run may be over. Still, Duhon could be productive against the Heat, as the Bulls may want to ease Hinrich back into the lineup. Thabo Sefolosha had a pair of 22-point games on the Bulls' West Coast road trip and should still have value with Ben Gordon and Luol Deng hurting. ... Consider Brandon Bass (11.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 61.8 field goal percentage his past five games) and DeSagana Diop (8.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks his past three games), especially if Erick Dampier, Josh Howard and Jerry Stackhouse are hurting. Bass and Diop could clean the glass against the smaller Suns. If you are really short-handed, you could try Jose Juan Barea, who is coming off a 13-point, five-assist, three 3-pointer game in a start at point guard on Monday. ... Brian Skinner has put together a couple nice games with Shaq out, averaging 7.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks his past two games.

Tony Targan is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com