NBA viewing guide: Mavs - Heat square off in 2011 Finals rematch

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Can the Pacers stay undefeated? We'll see if the Bucks are able to pull off the surprise win.

It's a Friday night, so there's nothing better to do than watch the 11 games on the NBA slate, right? Right. OK, so it's not the most appealing schedule you've ever seen, but 'unpredictability' has been the key word so far this season. We're bound to see results we weren't quite expecting, and if you're into the sure thing, go ahead and set your League Pass to record Mavericks vs. Heat from Miami.

But first things first.

The appetizer: Bucks vs. Pacers

7 p.m. ET

The "When will they lose?" watch continues for the Pacers out East, and the Bucks aren't exactly the team you expect to end Indy's current run. Then again, the NBA has been pretty weird so far. Still, Milwaukee is currently on a three-game losing streak, and its only victories have come against a tanking Celtics team — they're tanking, right? — and a struggling Cleveland Cavaliers team — they're tanking, ri....oh, no?

Will the Bucks be able to operate against Pacers' suffocating defense? Not many teams have been able to, so it doesn't feel like a great bet to hope for Milwaukee to do much of anything. Indiana is allowing just 89.5 points per 100 possessions, according to, and the Bucks' are putting up just 98.4 points in the same span, offensively. Indy has shut down better teams than this, but we've already seen crazier things.

Reading material: Here are some NBA Power Rankings over at Indy Cornrows, where the Pacers are top dog. Over at wonderful Brew Hoop, the dudes discuss Larry Sanders' injury.

The main course: Mavericks vs. Heat

7:30 p.m. ET

The revamped Dallas Mavericks are currently rolling offensively behind a healthy Dirk Nowitzki and a reformed Monta Ellis, who apparently actually does have it all. Miami, on the other hand, responded with a 23-point win against the Bucks following a last-second loss to the Celtics at home. But the appeal of this one is, of course, the fact that it's a recent Finals matchup — the one the Heat did NOT win. Dirk is back, the Mavs are playing well and the Heat are always must-see, so this is going to be fun.

Will one of these teams play defense, or nah? Dallas actually ranks 16th in defensive-efficiency rating, but Miami is hanging out at 24th in the league. Now, we all know that's not the real Heat defense, but they have yet to really lock anyone down. The Mavs are rolling offensively right now, so it should be interesting to see if Miami can get the ball rolling as we sit roughly 10 percent into the new season.

Is Dallas for real? We know that Miami is, ya know, for real, but what about the Mavs? This is a big game to make an early statement that their fourth-ranked offense (106.4 ORtg) is for real. Who better to prove that against than the defending champions?

Reading Material: For those runnin' and gunnin' Mavs, head over to Mavs Moneyball for more on their hot start. As for the Heat, well, they're always fun to talk about.

The dessert: Grizzlies vs. Lakers

10:30 p.m. ET

Memphis reached the Western Conference Finals last season after another year of grindhouse-ing. But after relieving Lionel Hollins of his coaching duties over the offseason, the Grizzlies just don't look like the same team.

The Grizz are one of the worst 10 offenses in the league, but considering their defensive identity, it's the performance on that side of the ball that's most disconcerting. Memphis currently owns the fourth worst defensive rating in the NBA, and for a team that can't shoot, that's not good at all.

On the other side of the ball is a team that can shoot, however. Those scrappy, Kobe-less Lakers are currently third in the league at 25.1 three-pointers taken per game, and they're hitting 40.6 percent of them. That's good for seventh in the NBA.

Behind the scenes: Without Kobe Bryant, who's still recovering from his torn Achilles, the Lakers are getting contributions from a relatively unknown supporting cast out in Hollywood. Yes, they have one of the worst defenses in the NBA — which was expected — but Mike D'Antoni is actually getting decent offensive performances by several young league journeymen, including Xavier Henry, Jordan Farmar, Nick Young and Wesley Johnson, among others.

Los Angeles is much better at home, which means you could see a late-night scoring binge from the purple and gold. Unless the Grizz happen to suddenly figure things out, that is.

Reading material: You can find more on what in the world has gone wrong in Memphis over at Grizzly Bear Blues, and the folks at Silver Screen and Roll are doing a great job covering one of the strangest Lakers seasons in recent memory.

The side dishes: Bulls vs. Raptors

7 p.m. ET

The Chicago Bulls are off to a slow start while Derrick Rose tries to shake off the rust after his year-long layoff. The Toronto Raptors are struggling to survive the duo of DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay putting up 36.9 shots per game and making just 37.1 percent of said attempts. Someon's gotta' win, though.

76ers vs. Hawks

7:30 p.m. ET

The Philadelphia 76ers may be the biggest surprise of the season, holders of the third-best record in the NBA. Evan Turner suddenly looks like the high-potential draft pick out of Ohio State Philadelphia had always hoped for and he's putting up 23.1 points per game. The Hawks are .500 on the season, led by Al Horford's 19.4 points per game. Oh, and keep an eye on Kyle Korver, who's approaching the all-time record for consecutive games with a made three-point field goal.

Trail Blazers vs. Celtics

7:30 p.m. ET

The Trail Blazers are off to a 6-2 start and leaning on big man LaMarcus Aldridge. Watch out for Wesley Matthews, though, who is shooting 54 percent from deep and averaging a career-high 15.3 points per game. This Boston team is another ofn

Bobcats vs. Cavaliers

7:30 p.m. ET

The Bobcats would make the playoffs if the NBA season ended today and the Cavaliers would send Nick Gilbert to the draft lottery with their fingers crossed again. Whether or not that holds up is anybody's guess, so why not just enjoy a good ole' fashioned duel between Kemba Walker and Kyrie Irving?

Timberwolves vs. Nuggets

8 p.m. ET

Kevin Love is in a groove to start the season, averaging 27.1 points per game with 14.2 rebounds. The Nuggets have struggled early in the season under rookie head coach Brian Shaw, but are fresh off a win over the Lakers. Defending Love is going to be a challenge for Kenneth Faried and company, so watch out for another big game from Love.

Nets vs. Suns

9 p.m. ET

This is a great tale of two teams. The Phoenix Suns are exceeding the most optimistic of expectations with a 5-2 start while the Brooklyn Nets are 2-5 and floundering despite "upgrading" their starting five with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. A compelling game if only to see the Suns continue their hot start with Eric Bledsoe or the Nets potentially find some traction on the road.

Spurs vs. Jazz

9 p.m. ET

If there's a game that may be worth turning away from this is it. The San Antonio Spurs are 8-1. The Utah Jazz are 1-8. Utah has struggled without their frontcourt duo of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, their two leading scorers last season. This could get ugly real quick and turn into a patented Pop' rest fest.

Pistons vs. Kings

10:30 p.m. ET

What's not to love in a game featuring Josh Smith and DeMarcus Cousins? The Pistons are struggling with their new lineup, which is a wide trend to start the season, and the best you can say about the Kings is they're still in Sacramento. Sacramento's offense is ok, as expected, but they're in the bottom-three of defensive efficiency, allowing 107 points per 100 possessions according to Basketball-Reference. No bueno.

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