Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:00 AM

Monday's Essentials

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Game of the Night - Miami at L.A. Lakers (-8, 204.5), NBA TV, 10:35 ET

Anthony Davis potentially playing in front of a Boston crowd has to take a back seat. Have some respect.

Davis may not even be on the floor to receive the recruiting catcalls and adulation that would spice up tonight's matchup at T.D. Garden since he took a Blake Griffin knee to his hip on Sunday.

The Jazz and Thunder may emerge as the top teams in the Northwest Division and square off in Oklahoma City. They would ordinarily have a great shot at being the night’s can’t-miss contest. Same goes for Minnesota, suddenly one of the NBA’s hottest teams since moving Jimmy Butler, visiting Golden State.

They’re all excellent candidates and are touched on below, but LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will presumably play on an NBA floor in a game that counts for the final time since the Heat star has already announced he’s retiring when Miami’s season is over, dubbing this final ride “One Last Dance”. Take your hat off and salute. Spread the hashtag on Twitter.

The duo changed basketball as we know it. They didn’t invent the divisive concept of a super team, so spare the venom. They merely perfected it. James will continue on as one of the game’s greats for a few more years, but Wade’s ride is complete once his team is eliminated. While there will likely be a playoff appearance to bow out through, neither the Heat nor the Lakers are making the Finals.

The teams have already squared off in Miami back on Nov. 18, so this will be it for James and Wade, great friends and competitors. The Heat will look to gain a split after losing 113-97 while Wade was out on paternity leave and will have to rely on the guy that’s been the face of the franchise since arriving in 2003 in order to do so, which makes for a nice touch.

Wade and James have squared off against one another 30 times during their careers, per the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Ira Winderman. Each has won 15 times. There's no way they don't know this nugget too, so if it's close down the stretch, the fourth quarter should be terrific.

The Heat are short-handed on this West Coast road trip, which hasn’t stopped them from opening 2-0 with consecutive blowout victories over the Suns and Clippers. Point guard Goran Dragic has returned from his knee injury but missed Saturday’s win at Staples Center to avoid playing the second of a back-to-back. Shooting guard Wayne Ellington missed both games due to bereavement leave, while center Hassan Whiteside has been absent in order to witness the birth of his first child.

Ellington will return tonight but Whiteside remains away. Wing Josh Richardson and guard Tyler Johnson, who started at the point Saturday night, are both questionable after suffering in-game injuries, so Wade is likely going to play major minutes. He’s mired in a December slump, shooting 31 percent. Although he missed 10 of his first 13 3-pointers this month, he shot 5-for-10 from beyond the arc on the same floor he’ll play on tonight against the Clippers, sparking a huge fourth-quarter rally to finish with 25 points, six rebounds and six assists.

Miami center Bam Adebayo and forward Justise Winslow have also stepped up on the trip, contributing 77 points and 32 rebounds to the two wins, so the Heat are starting to figure some things out and the chatter over whether they’re significantly better without Whiteside figures to intensify. Due to how awful the Southeast Division has been, the Heat are only one game behind first-place Charlotte entering the week.

James has the Lakers 1.5 games behind the Warriors and firmly in the mix in a loaded Western Conference, so even though there has been the expected adjustment period, those that felt L.A. wouldn’t make the playoffs can’t be too thrilled with what has transpired thus far. In leading his team to victories in six of seven, James has averaged 30.8 points while shooting close to 55 percent.

Considering this is the final game before the Lakers hit the road to play six of eight outside Staples, there’s plenty of incentive to get this one. LeBron scored 51 points in South Florida to fuel a blowout win, shooting 19-for-31 while making six 3-pointers, both season-bests. If Richardson can’t go, Winslow and James Johnson should draw the assignment of covering him most.

The Lakers remain without wing Brandon Ingram, who injured his ankle in a win over Spurs on Dec. 5 and aren’t likely to have him back this week. Rajon Rondo and Michael Beasley are also sidelined. L.A. is on an 15-4 ‘under’ run since Halloween, really improving defensively when Tyson Chandler joined JaVale McGee on the roster to help protect the rim. Eight of Miami’s last 11 games have also come in below the posted total. The Heat have covered in six of eight, while the Lakers are on a 4-1-1 ATS streak.

Best of the Rest

Detroit at Philadelphia, 7:05 p.m. ET: Friday night’s nationally-televised meeting was a fun one despite Joel Embiid sitting out to get some rest, but it was somewhat lost in the weekend news cycle that he criticized head coach Brett Brown for using him to spread the floor too much, pulling him away from the basket. The 76ers haven’t played since, so it will be interesting to see what they look like coming off a 117-111 win in which Jimmy Butler finished with 38 points. Detroit lost again on Sunday, dropping another tight high-scoring game at home to New Orleans despite Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin combining for 58 points and 24 rebounds in a 116-108 loss. The duo combined for 52 points and 22 boards against Philly and aren’t getting enough support.

The teams split their first two meetings prior to Friday’s. Andre Drummond landed in foul trouble in the most recent meeting against Embiid on Nov. 3, playing just 21 minutes. Embiid has averaged 36 points and 14 boards in the two games against the Pistons thus far. Considering Griffin has a 50-point game against the 76ers and Butler comes off a Friday masterpiece, it will be intriguing to see who imposes their will here with everyone expected to be in play.

New Orleans at Boston, 7:35 p.m. ET: Davis returned and was moving around well after his hip injury in Detroit, but it remains to be seen how his hip reacted overnight and whether the Pelicans will risk his long-term health on the second night of a back-to-back. If he plays, Celtics fans may very well cheer every time he touches the ball. Boston comes off its largest win in franchise history, having destroyed the Bulls 133-77 on Saturday night. Gordon Hayward is starting to look like himself and really benefiting from the wide open looks teammates are generating for him. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have also been more efficient of late, so the Celtics winning and covering in each of their last five games has been no fluke. Jrue Holiday comes off a season-high 37 points on Sunday, draining six 3-pointers.

Utah at Oklahoma City, 8:05 p.m. ET: The Thunder played two teams coming in on eight-game losing streaks last week. They overcame a massive deficit against the Nets on a Paul George buzzer-beater and lost to a Bulls team that went on fall by 56 points the next night. There's no question that the Thunder needed the weekend to get refocused since they played down to their level of competition.

OKC has won 16 of 20 games and have seen Russell Westbrook and Paul George co-exist about as well as conceivably possible, so there's not much to be concerned with, but it will be interesting to see who shows more fight here since the Jazz come off a lopsided loss in San Antonio where they could've been accused of looking ahead to this one since they had crushed the Spurs earlier in the week. This is the first meeting between the Northwest Division rivals. Utah has lost six of seven in the series, the last two decisively by double-digits.

Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA or e-mail him at [email protected]

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