NBA viewing guide: Grizzlies aim to get monkey off back against Spurs

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN will carry the Grizzlies' hosting of the Spurs and the Warriors' visit to the Lakers on Friday.

Eleven NBA games on Friday will feature two nationally-televised contests between Western Conference foes. The highlight of the night is the Grizzlies and Spurs going at it in a rematch of the 2013 Western Conference Finals. In ESPN's late game, the Warriors visit the Lakers.

As usual, there are some fun matchups in between and beforehand. Here's what the NBA schedule looks like and what we'll be watching for.

The appetizers: Suns vs. Bobcats

7 p.m. ET

Who would've guessed that these two teams would meet with a combined 11-12 record? Considering Charlotte hasn't gotten much from center Al Jefferson because of ankle troubles, it's even more impressive.

Can Phoenix run against Charlotte? Both teams are young, but their styles couldn't be any more different. While the Suns aren't up there in pace, they are leading the NBA by averaging 23.3 fastbreak points per game. The Bobcats, who expect Jefferson to start Friday night, will attempt to keep the game in the halfcourt as they have done for the most part this season. They are the second-slowest team in the NBA with a pace of 91 possessions per 48 minutes.

Reading material: At Bright Side of the Sun, the Suns promise they have more chemistry than last year's team.

Wizards vs. Raptors

7 p.m. ET

Winners of two straight, the Washington Wizards hope to continue their improvements against the Raptors after a 2-7 start.

Can the Wizards' passing parade continue? The Wizards accumulated 31 assists in its last two games, both of which were victories. They dropped a solid Minnesota Timberwolves team on Tuesday before doing the same against the Cavs on Wednesday. Toronto could use some pointers on the whole passing deal and ranks last in the league by averaging 17.1 assists per game.

Reading material: Bullets Forever writes on how Washington's late-game execution needs some fixing up, while Raptors HQ previews the game with a video of three keys.

Pacers vs. Celtics

7:30 p.m. ET

Indiana is back on the winning track after dropping the Knicks in overtime, and Boston is regrouping after falling to the other 10-1 team in the NBA, the San Antonio Spurs.

Where do the frontcourt points come from for Boston? Jared Sullinger is coming off a big game against a big front line in San Antonio. He scored 19 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, but it seems uncertain that his production -- not to mention that of the Celtics' other frontcourt players -- could take a hit against Roy Hibbert and the Pacers' interior defense. Boston will have trouble without a primary scorer, but scrounging for points for a small team up front gets even harder against Indiana unless rookie Kelly Olynyk can pull the Pacers out to the three-point line by knocking down some jumpers.

Reading material: Celtics Blog gives an update on the Celtics' progress and patience in developing its team. Indy Cornrows did a podcast with former Pacers big man Antonio Davis.

Hawks vs. Pistons

7:30 p.m. ET

The Hawks took the first round against the Pistons in a double-header between the two teams.

Can Atlanta's frontcourt beat the message into Detroit's psyche? Detroit got all the hype with its new frontcourt of Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and former Hawks forward Josh Smith, but it was Atlanta that had the last laugh on Wednesday in a 93-85 home victory against the Pistons. The Pistons' three starters went 13-for-34 from the field and scored 28 points, while Al Horford, Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll combined for 40 points. The backcourt matchups went about the same way in Atlanta's favor. So was it a fluke?

Reading material: Peach Tree Hoops has highlights of the Wednesday win for the Hawks. In their game recap, Detroit Bad Boys mentions the Pistons' inability to knock down a three-point shot.

The main course: Spurs vs. Grizzlies

8 p.m. ET, ESPN

These guys, again. The Spurs have beat the Grizzlies in 11 of the last 13 meetings and swept them in last season's Western Conference Finals. Can Memphis finally get on track or will it be more of ...

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Does Z-Bo keep it up? Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph has put up a double-double in each of his last five games. Historically, he has struggled against the Spurs, who visit Memphis on an eight-game winning streak. But in his last four games this season, all Memphis wins, Randolph has averaged 24.3 points per game.

Will San Antonio get more easy buckets? In a season-opening win for San Antonio against Memphis, the Spurs beat the Grizzlies by eight points on fastbreaks and scored 10 more points in the paint. The Spurs shot 53 percent to the Grizzlies' 42. Simply put, the Spurs got better looks.

Reading material: Pounding the Rock examines what Gregg Popovich's team can do until Tim Duncan's shot begins falling again, and Grizzly Bear Blues sees a lot of similarities between Dave Joerger's Memphis team and the ones led by former coach Lionel Hollins.

Side dishes: Nets vs. Timberwolves

8 p.m. ET

Brooklyn tries to find itself but without Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko, reports ESPN New York. The Nets visit Minnesota, where a T-Wolves squad with two losses in a row will be a tad grumpy.

Does Brooklyn have the firepower to compete? Two days ago, Brooklyn got 25 points from Andray Blatche, 16 from Alan Anderson and nine from Mason Plumlee. But the Nets only scored 91 points and lost to the Charlotte Bobcats even with Joe Johnson adding 19 points and Paul Pierce scoring 12. It won't be nearly enough against Minnesota if Rich Adelman's team is clicking, so let's not go heaping all of the blame on Jason Kidd.

Jason-kidd-reaction

Reading material: Nets Daily gives us an in-depth preview around the state of the Nets. Canis Hoopus writes on the 2013 NBA rookie class and how the group is faring thus far.

Cavaliers vs. Pelicans

8:30 p.m. ET

Two refurbished teams began the season with key players sidelined, but Andrew Bynum and Ryan Anderson are back.

Does Kyrie get any help? The Cavs' backcourt hasn't produced. Dion Waiters is coming off a 2-for-13 game, but he and Jarrett Jack will need to throw some punches at New Orleans' deep backcourt of Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans. That trio has been playing better since Anderson returned from injury to stretch the floor from his power forward spot, effectively opening up the driving lanes.

Reading material: Fear the Sword asks where the Cavs' effort is, while The Bird Writes notes that the Pelicans are taking care of the ball.

Bulls vs. Trail Blazers

10 p.m. ET

The darkhorse game of the night features the red hot Blazers against a Bulls squad coming off a tough loss at Denver.

Does offense or defense win the day? Guess who's right behind the Miami Heat in terms of offensive efficiency. That's right, it's the Portland Trail Blazers, who according to Basketball-Reference are second at 110.7 points per 100 possessions. Chicago, to nobody's surprise, is third in defensive ratings and sixth-worst offensively. So obviously this comes down to each teams' style, or even playing out of their styles. OK, get ready for the oncoming cliche -- between two good basketball teams, the one that plays the best basketball will win.

Reading material: Terry Stotts won't say he's sorry for the Blazers flinging threes, writes Blazer's Edge (but on a related note, is he sorry he's not sorry?). Jayson Patt recaps the loss to the Nuggets, which is a frequent thing for Chicago.

Dessert: Warriors vs. Lakers

7 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Los Angeles Lakers have yet to win two games in a row but could do so against Golden State, which is 3-3 on the road.

Can Jordan Hill keep it up against Andrew Bogut? Lakers forward Jordan Hill has started the last four games and responded with impressive production. He's averaging 18.8 points and 12 rebounds per game as a starter alongside Pau Gasol, and somehow Los Angeles is hanging in there with Kobe Bryant's return on the horizon.

Will Golden State's bench do its part? Stephen Curry missed an overtime loss on Wednesday to the Memphis Grizzlies because of a concussion. Even if he returns, the Warriors bench looks thin outside of Harrison Barnes. Draymond Green, Marreese Speights and Kent Bazemore must pull their weight against a Lakers team that has bench players scratching and clawing for minutes. Though if Curry can't play, the Warriors aren't in terrible shape with this guy acting as the point guard.

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Reading material: C.A. clark of Silver Screen and Roll fittingly writes out a screenplay of Steve Nash's time in LA.

Pass on it: Bucks vs. 76ers

7 p.m. ET

At least five players on each team are either listed as out or have their status in question entering a game between two teams already expected to be bad.

Reading material: Liberty Ballers has a collection of links in memory of recently-waived Sixers big man and former No. 1 pick Kwame Brown. And according to Frank Madden of Brew Hoop, the game won't air on local Milwaukee TV, but something has got to give between two teams on losing streaks.

Jazz vs. Mavericks

8:30 p.m. ET

Utah is 1-12 overall and has lost seven road games by an average of 14 points. Dallas is 6-0 at home. You do the math to figure out who is the favorite -- though crazier things have happened.

Reading material: Mavs Moneyball breaks down how Shawn Marion's rejuvenated three-point shot can help Dallas. And at SLC Dunk, some analytics show that the Utah offense is downright bad.

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