Some bad injury news for two Western Conference teams on Tuesday that could shake up the playoff race in the West and affect the trade market. First up, Memphis learned that its best player, center Marc Gasol, suffered a broken foot on Monday night. No one on the team thought it was anything serious at the time. After the game, Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger simply said Gasol was "just dinged up." But tests on Tuesday revealed the break. Not sure if you've ever had a broken foot, but you probably aren't 7-feet tall. These can become a major problem for large human beings. Foot troubles ended the career of Yao Ming and Greg Oden, to name two. Kevin Durant missed most of last season with a broken foot.
It's not clear yet if Gasol will undergo surgery or not but at best he might be back in early April before the end of the regular season. At worst, his year is done. The Grizzlies are solidly a playoff team right now but no threat to win the West. So they might decide to reboot with this news and trade excellent point guard Mike Conley, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent. It might behoove Memphis to get into the draft lottery because otherwise it loses its first-round pick to Denver (via Cleveland). The Grizzlies are currently +4000 on BetOnline to win the West.
Meanwhile, New Orleans hasn't been able to climb out of an early-season hole, and it's going to be tougher for the Pelicans to climb into a playoff spot with the news that the season is over for injury-prone swingman Tyreke Evans. He will have knee surgery. In 25 games this season, Evans averaged 15.2 points, 6.6 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 1.3 steals. He's the team's second-best player behind Anthony Davis. Last month the Pelicans lost Quincy Pondexter for the season, and guard Eric Gordon remains out following finger surgery. The Pelicans entered play Wednesday 6.5 games out of the West's final playoff spot. Why bother chasing that and losing in the first round to the Warriors? So you might now see New Orleans deal Ryan Anderson, who would have tons of value around the league as one of the NBA's best stretch fours.
Here are your final two games before this weekend's All-Star break.
Wizards at Bucks (-1, 210)
Two of the East's most disappointing teams. I wrote earlier this week how the Bucks are shopping both Michael Carter-Williams and Greg Monroe. Coach Jason Kidd, perhaps not coincidentally, decided to yank both from the starting lineup on Tuesday against Boston in place of O.J. Mayo (had missed past 11 games due to injury) and Miles Plumlee. The Bucks won 112-111 when Boston's Avery Bradley committed a stupid foul with under a second left and Khris Middleton made one of two free throws. MCW and Monroe both played well as reserves, with the former having 16 points, six rebounds and five assists, and the latter 29 points and 12 rebounds.
Washington looks for its first two-game winning streak in nearly a month. It's off a 111-108 win at the Knicks on Tuesday. Bradley Beal had been coming off the bench since returning from his latest injury but started that game and had 26 points. John Wall had 28 points and 17 assists. The Wizards have swept the regular-season series with the Bucks just once ever but can here as they are 3-0 against Milwaukee this season. The most recent win was 106-101 at home on Jan. 13. The Bucks turned it over a season-high 27 times, which led to 36 Washington points.
Key trends: Washington is 8-2 against the spread in the past 10 road games. The Bucks are 7-1 ATS in their past eight vs. the East. The "over/under" is 12-3 in the Wizards' past 15 on the road. It is 5-0 in Milwaukee's past five at home. The favorite is 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 4-1 in the past five in Milwaukee.
Early lean: Bucks and over.
Pelicans at Thunder (-11, 220.5)
Just one TNT game this Thursday, and this is it. New Orleans hosted scorching-hot Utah on Wednesday. Oklahoma City bounced back from Saturday's loss at Golden State with a 122-106 win in Phoenix on Monday. Kevin Durant had 32 points, 25 in the second half. It was his 38th straight game with at least 20. Russell Westbrook had 29 points for the Thunder. A win here would get Oklahoma City into the 40-win club with the Spurs and Warriors this season. The Thunder won the first meeting of the year with New Orleans, 110-103 at home on Nov. 18. Westbrook had 43 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Durant didn't play. Anderson had 30 for the Pelicans, who didn't have Davis, Omer Asik or Norris Cole.
OKC is a lock for the playoffs this season, but just a reminder how important one game of 82 cam be in the regular season: The Pelicans upset the Thunder 116-113 in the teams' final meeting last season on a Davis 3-pointer at the buzzer, Davis' only 3-pointer of the season. That gave the Pelicans a 3-1 series win and proved to be the tiebreaker for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West when New Orleans and OKC finished with the same regular-season record.
Key trends: The Pelicans are 4-1 ATS in their past five in the second of a back-to-back. OKC is 4-13 ATS in its past 17 vs. teams with a losing record. The Pelicans are 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 4-1 in the past five.
Early lean: Thunder and over.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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