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Afternoon delight: NBA betting previews

Afternoon delight: NBA betting previews

Afternoon delight: NBA betting previews

Chicago Bulls at New York Knicks (-2.5, 210)

After 2 1/2 months of waiting, Danilo Gallinari made the first two field goals of his career in his last game. The New York Knicks don't expect it to take as long for the next two baskets from their top pick.

Gallinari looks to build off his first appearance since the opening week of the season when the Knicks host the Chicago Bulls on Monday.

New York (15-24) selected Gallinari sixth overall in the 2008 draft after the 20-year-old led his Italian team with 17.5 points per game and averaged 5.7 rebounds.

He hasn't had nearly the same impact with the Knicks. After playing 11 total minutes in New York's first two games of the season, Gallinari missed the next 36 because of a sore lower back. He returned to the lineup in Saturday's 107-97 loss to Philadelphia, and finished with six points in 15 minutes.

The 6-foot-10 forward started the second quarter and played the next four minutes. He made his first NBA field goal on a 3-pointer to a loud ovation.

Dallas Mavericks at Philadelphia 76ers (N/A)

Elton Brand may be set to return as the 76ers look to win eight straight for the first time in nearly six years when they face the Dallas Mavericks on Monday.

Philadelphia coach Tony DiLeo said Brand (shoulder) would practice Sunday, then be re-evaluated before a decision was made on his availability for this game.

Brand is one of the league's top post players when healthy, averaging 20.1 points and 10.2 rebounds for his career. But he has participated in only one postseason, with his teams finishing below .500 in nine of his 10 seasons before signing with Philadelphia (20-20) as a free agent prior to 2008-09.

After making the playoffs in 2007-08, the 76ers struggled early as they tried to adjust to playing with Brand. Philadelphia was 11-14 when Brand went down with a dislocated shoulder, and he's averaging a career-low 15.9 points.

"He'll be coming off the bench and we'll just try to work him in slowly," DiLeo said. "He really hasn't had like a full practice. We haven't had time to have a full practice where we went up and down the court and he could scrimmage for 20 minutes. We really haven't had that possibility."

Dallas got a big game from its own star Saturday night, with Dirk Nowitzki making 16 of 20 shots and scoring 39 points in a 115-108 win over Utah.

Nowitzki is averaging 34.3 points and 11.6 rebounds in his last three games. He had 31 points in the Mavericks' 96-86 win over the Sixers on Jan. 2.

Josh Howard, who added 10 points and seven rebounds in that contest, has missed four straight games due to a sprained left wrist. His status for Monday is uncertain.

Sharp-shooting swingman Matt Carroll, though, is expected to make his Dallas debut after being acquired in a trade with Charlotte on Friday. The Mavericks also picked up big man Ryan Hollins from the Bobcats in a swap for backup center DeSagana Diop.

Toronto Raptors at Atlanta Hawks (-6, 198.5)

Already missing Al Horford, Atlanta could be without starting forward Marvin Williams, who was taken to a hospital Friday after hitting his head on the court when he was fouled in the second quarter. Williams is averaging 13.2 points and a career-best 6.1 rebounds this season.

Horford, the team's leading rebounder at 8.7 per game, has missed the past five games with a bone bruise in his right knee, and is also expected to miss Monday's game.

Toronto, which has lost five straight, has experienced its share of injuries and had only nine players available for Sunday's 117-113 loss to visiting Phoenix.

A strained right hamstring kept starting point guard Jose Calderon out for the eighth time in nine games, and Jason Kapono was scratched due to flu-like symptoms. The statuses for Calderon and Kapono are not known.

Jermaine O'Neal, who returned in Friday's 111-104 loss at Indiana from injury, rested his sore right knee Sunday, but is probable for Monday's game.

Toronto coach Jay Triano tweaked his lineup Sunday, starting Anthony Parker at point guard and Joey Graham at shooting guard. Parker responded with a team-leading 26 points, and Graham scored a career-high 22.

San Antonio Spurs at Charlotte Bobcats (+4, 178)

Charlotte is looking forward to getting its newest big man in uniform Monday after acquiring him from Dallas in exchange for guard Matt Carroll and center Ryan Hollins on Friday.

The Bobcats' second trade in just over a month wasn't nearly as big as the deal that sent top scorer Jason Richardson to Phoenix for Raja Bell and Boris Diaw, but the move helps in coach Larry Brown's quest to get bigger up front and better defensively.

Charlotte now has a 7-foot defensive specialist in DeSagana Diop, who will perhaps allow undersized center Emeka Okafor to play more power forward. Diop didn't play in the Bobcats' 102-97 overtime win over Portland on Saturday night because he had yet to take a physical.

Denver Nuggets at Houston Rockets (-3, 194.5)

Yao Ming looks to lead the Houston Rockets to their third win in four games without Tracy McGrady and Ron Artest on Monday, but they face a tough opponent as they host the Northwest Division-leading Denver Nuggets.

On Saturday, though, the Rockets improved to 2-1 in the last three games without their two stars, beating Miami 93-86 at home. Yao essentially carried the team, going 12-for-12 from the field to set a franchise record and finishing with 26 points and 10 rebounds.

Denver arrives in Houston after completing its longest homestand of the season with a 5-2 record. The Nuggets lost the finale Saturday night, falling 106-88 to Orlando, which is tied for the league lead with 33 wins.

Minnesota Vikings at Los Angeles Clippers (+5, 194)

Minnesota has been playing much better lately, as it has won six of seven, and eight of 11 after losing its previous 13 games.

The Timberwolves' offense has been the biggest reason for their turnaround. They're averaging 106.3 points on 41.1 percent shooting from 3-point range in their last 11 games after averaging 91.2 points on 28.9 percent shooting from beyond the arc during their skid.

While the Timberwolves have been improving, the Clippers are hoping to carry some momentum from Saturday's 101-92 win over Milwaukee that snapped a 12-game losing streak.

Los Angeles played the final 8:53 without Marcus Camby after he landed awkwardly with a rebound of Steve Novak's missed jumper and crumpled to the floor. X-rays were negative, but Camby, the NBA's second-leading rebounder (13.8), has been listed as day-to-day.

The Clippers, already down to 10 healthy players because of injuries to Zach Randolph, Baron Davis, Chris Kaman, Mike Taylor and Jason Hart, can ill afford to lose Camby for extended time.

Indiana Pacers at New Orleans Hornets (-7.5, 209.5)

The Hornets return home after winning two of three on a road trip, closing it with a 91-85 win over the Detroit Pistons on Saturday, rebounding from a dismal effort in a 92-78 loss to Cleveland the night before. They also beat Dallas 104-97 during the trip.

While the Hornets are looking to take advantage of their upcoming schedule, Monday begins a difficult stretch for the Pacers (15-25), who also face the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets this week.

Indiana is looking to win three straight for the first time since November. It's coming off back-to-back home wins after losing eight of the previous 11, but goes on the road, where it's 6-16 this season, for its next two.

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