NBA viewing guide: Thunder visit Clippers in finale Wednesday

Stephen Dunn

Of a 12-game slate on Wednesday, ESPN will carry the Knicks' visit to play the Hawks and the network will cap the evening with a Western Conference showdown between the Clippers and Thunder.

A loaded NBA schedule on Wednesday features two ESPN games, but the best matchup of the 12 games is probably the last one. The Los Angeles Clippers host the Oklahoma City Thunder in a game that should be worth staying up for.

The appetizer: Rockets vs. 76ers

7 p.m. ET

It's better known as a matchup between two math wizard general managers. It's a wonder if Rockets general manager Daryl Morey will make an appearance from his ice cream binge in Chicago to visit protege Sam Hinkie.

Can the Sixers make the Rockets unconfortable? Philly has been surprising teams en route to a 4-4 start by pushing the tempo, and that could be especially dangerous against Rockets team that, although athletic, still has a bit of lumbering to do if its big men are getting back in transition. Sixers center Spencer Hawes' midrange game could pose a threat against Omer Asik and Dwight Howard, neither of whom are that comfortable defending away from the hoop.

Reading material: Sixers fans at Liberty Ballers love the Rockets' philosophies, and Patrick Harrell of The Dream Shake pleas for Houston to abandon the Twin Towers lineup.

The main course: Knicks vs. Hawks

8 p.m. ET, ESPN

Uh, oh. The Knicks are down to starting Andrea Bargnani at center and coming off a 31-point loss to San Antonio. Also, the Hawks have a center and a power forward who are both under-appreciated. This could go poorly for New York.

How do the Knicks defend bigs without bigs? The Knicks will need to find a way to get their defense scrambling to get the ball out of Al Horford and Paul Millsap's hands, all while covering the Atlanta shooters like Kyle Korver.

Does Melo find any mojo? Carmelo Anthony's best season of his career is behind him. It's just not the same in 2013-14, but no matter what happens around him, New York simply can't compete without the forward putting out 25 points or more per night.

Reading material: Hawks blog Peach Tree Hoops got to chat with Avery Johnson about the Hawks, Knicks and otherwise. Posting and Toasting talks about the Knicks' complicated franchise that's making headlines for a variety of reasons.

The dessert: Thunder vs. Clippers

10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Why not have dessert for dinner? If there's one game not to pass up on Wednesday, it'd be the last one. The Thunder face the Clippers in Staples Center in what could act as a prelude to a thrilling playoff matchup.

Does Doc's team get into any tiffs with the Thunder? Oklahoma City could arguably be called the tough guy on the Western Conference block, and assuredly Doc Rivers' Clippers want to make their case to take that crown. Getting under the skin of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook like Rivers' old Celtics teams did against LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will be the thing to watch.

Who wins the point guard battle? Chris Paul is off to an incredible start to the season and has recorded a double-double in his first eight games for the No. 1 scoring team in the league. But he struggled last season in Los Angeles' three games -- all losses -- against the Thunder by shooting 29 percent from the floor. Westbrook is still a tad shaky coming off his injury, but this is the matchup to watch.

Will Westbrook and the Thunder get depantsed against the Clips? This has nothing to do with the game, but Russell Westbrook is an underwear model, apparently.

Reading material: Welcome to Loud City believes the Thunder's lack of a post presence on offense will hurt Scott Brooks' team against the Clippers, and Steve Perrin of Clips Nation breaks down Los Angeles' offseason moves in 80s tunes.

The side dishes: Raptors vs. Grizzlies

8 p.m. ET

Two sub-.500 teams face off in a meeting between Raptors forward Rudy Gay and his old teammates.

Will Memphis pick up its first road win? For whatever reason, the Grizzlies aren't playing well on the road, something that's a necessity for any playoff team. Dave Joerger's squad is coming off a loss to the Indiana Pacers.

Meanwhile, Toronto is fresh off a weird game against Houston where it shot 33 percent but still got to overtime before losing. Gay and DeMar DeRozan combined to shoot 17-for-52, a poor percentage in terms of accuracy (32 percent) but a high percentage in terms of the total number of Raptors' shots (46 percent).

Amir Johnson will be happy if the Raps get back on track. 821236666_medium

Reading material: Raptors HQ gives us three keys for the Raptors against the Grizzlies while Grizzly Bear Blues discusses whether Memphis fans should boo or cheer for Gay.

Cavaliers vs. Timberwolves

8 p.m. ET

Two teams trying to figure it out are both on the upswing compared to a year ago.

What's in a point guard? Maybe it's a matter of opinion. It's also a matter of philosophy. There are a so many All-Star caliber point guards in the NBA, but Kyrie Irving and Ricky Rubio find themselves in unique company as the most unique. To compare them is difficult because of their contrasting styles, but they are both being counted upon to take their teams from the lottery to the playoffs.

Reading material: Fear the Sword believes Cleveland shouldn't hold back in starting center Andrew Bynum, and Canis Hoopus looks back on the last meeting between the two clubs.

Wizards vs. Spurs

8:30 p.m. ET

Gregg Popovich's team is 7-1 and coming off a 120-89 win against the New York Knicks, while the Wizards are still searching for any positive momentum.

Can Washington score more than 100? That's the line needed to beat the Spurs, who haven't allowed the Wizards to hit triple-digits since Tim Duncan was ending his college career. Also, San Antonio averages 100.3 points per game, so if we do the math, hitting 101 would seem to give Randy Wittman's team a change. The issue? The Spurs are allowing only 91.5 points per game.

Reading material: Pounding the Rock dives into the Spurs' new look of changing starting lineups to better match up with opponents. Bullets Forever hopes it doesn't come crashing down on the Wizards on Wednesday.

Lakers vs. Nuggets

9 p.m. ET

This could have high watchability factor because the two teams don't do much of that defense thing.

Who gets on SportsCenter? In the past week, the Nuggets and Lakers have accounted for highlight-reel dunks. Would you take this dunk by Nuggets big man J.J. Hickson? Or perhaps this one by the Lakers' Xavier Henry?

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Reading material: Drew Garrison of Silver Screen and Roll discusses the Lakers' new Jordan Hill and Wesley Johnson starting combo. And according to Denver Stiffs, Nuggets coach Brian Shaw is happy to have Wilson Chandler back.

Suns vs. Blazers

10 p.m. ET

Raise your hand if you thought that, after the 7-1 Spurs and 5-1 Thunder, Phoenix and Portland would be the teams with the best records on a night of 24 teams playing. Bueller? ...  Bueller?

What the 'Kieff? The Suns have gotten three huge games in a row from power forward Markieff Morris, who has shot above 75 percent while taking 12 or more attempts in the last three games. He will likely come off the bench, but should still earn minutes against LaMarcus Aldridge, who scored 32 points in the Blazers' season-opening loss to Phoenix.

Reading material: Are the Suns actually good? Bright Side of the Sun's Kris Habbas wonders if that's the case. After Phoenix pushed the tempo in its season-opening win against Portland, the game on Wednesday is all about transition defense, writes Blazer's Edge's Ben Golliver.

Courses to pass on: Bucks vs. Magic

7 p.m. ET

Milwaukee is fraught with injury issues and the Orlando Magic are likely favorites with a 3-1 record at home.

What young talent stands out most? If you watch this game, you're going to watch because both teams have some intriguing young pieces. The Bucks have Giannis Antetokounmpo and John Henson earning minutes off the bench while the Magic will run out Victor Oladipo, Mo Harkless, Nikola Vucevic and Andrew Nicholson.

Reading material: Brew Hoop previews the game between two struggling teams.

Bobcats vs. Celtics

7:30 p.m. ET

Jordan Crawford is playing point guard for the Boston Celtics, which amazingly has propelled them to a 4-4 record. But does that make a visit from the Charlotte Bobcats must-see television?

Will Al Jefferson make a bigger difference?The Charlotte center and former Celtic has returned from ankle issues but it didn't do enough in his first game back, when the Bobcats fell, 103-94, to the Atlanta Hawks. The Celtics have won four straight games since moving Crawford to the point guard slot and pushing Avery Bradley to shooting guard. Weird, right?

Reading material: Celtics Blog writes on Crawford's rise, and a Celtics diss rap courtesy of Rufus on Fire.

Pelicans vs. Jazz

9 p.m. ET

The Utah Jazz are surprisingly winning the tanking sweepstakes thus far, and the Pelicans still haven't learned how to fly.

Does small beat big? Monty Williams has yet to sort out a very deep guard rotation that features Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans. And Evans, the offseason acquisition on a four-year, $44 million contract, has seen sketchy minutes behind the starters, not to mention reserves Austin Rivers, Brian Roberts and Anthony Morrow.

Meanwhile, the Jazz haven't lived up to their expectations and find themselves at 0-8.

Reading material: SLC Dunk delves into Derrick Favors' regression this season, and The Bird Writes tries to figure out what's wrong in NOLA (hint: Ryan Anderson is sorely missed).

Nets vs. Kings

10 p.m. ET

There are a lot of moving parts in Brooklyn, and so far the Nets haven't figured it out. In Sacramento, the Kings are second in the tank race, just behind Utah.

Who wins the big man battle? If there are two consistent things for both teams, look no further than the center position. DeMarcus Cousins and Brook Lopez are both 20-point per game scorers in the middle, and though what's going on around them needs some shoring up, each will provide the foundation for success as the Kings and Nets get it together.

Reading material: Author Malcolm Gladwell visited talk show host Jimmy Fallon and discussed Kings owner Vivek Ranadive, who is featured in a chapter of Gladwell's book on underdogs. Nets Daily thinks January is the date when panic should set in for Brooklyn fans.

More from SB Nation NBA:

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The Hook: The secret to Eric Bledsoe's explosiveness

Josh Smith benched as Detroit's experiment struggles

The story of Ray Allen and the Miami Heat's "shooter's bus"

Flannery: Anthony Davis is already here

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