NBA viewing guide: T-Wolves and Rockets highlight Saturday schedule

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Timberwolves and Houston Rockets clash on Saturday.

Only one of Saturday's 10 NBA games will be seen on national television on this slow Saturday. The headliner is an 8 p.m. ET tip between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Houston Rockets on NBA TV.

Here's what to watch for around the association.

The afternoon game: Kings at Clippers

3:30 p.m. ET

The Sacramento Kings have won two games in a row for the first time this season, both over the Phoenix Suns. A handful of challenges stand in the way of extending that streak to three.

Can Sacramento beat the Clippers at Staples Center? As long as DeMarcus Cousins and Blake Griffin have been playing in the league, it hasn't happened. The Clippers are 5-0 at home against Sacramento since the beginning of the 2010-11 season when both were rookies. Los Angeles is 10-2 overall against the Kings in that span. Cousins has averaged 21.5 points and 9.9 rebounds per game, but Griffin is averaging 23.0 points and 10.8 rebounds. Chris Paul has at least 10 points and 10 assists in each of the Clippers' 13 games so far this season, breaking the record of 11 such games that Magic Johnson previously owned.

Adding to the excitement: Apparently, Paul and Griffin aren't tight with Boogie.

Reading material: Tom Ziller has a preview at Sactown Royalty simply entitled, "Stop Chris Paul!"

The evening games: 76ers at Pacers

7 p.m. ET

The Pacers are tied for the NBA's best record at 11-1. All six of their home games have been wins and and only one was by a margin of fewer than 10 points.

Will Indiana play in the first half? The Pacers have amassed their 11-1 record despite trailing at halftime in nine games (including their lone loss, 110-94 at Chicago on Nov. 16) and averaging 41.2 points in the first half of games this season. As Tom Lewis wrote at Indy Cornrows, the Pacers will likely wake up at some point and realize the importance of not sleepwalking through first halves. But when will that happen? Will it happen Saturday, or will Philadelphia pounce? After all, they can only rely on this for so long:

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Reading material: Indy Cornrows delves deeper into what has plagued Indiana's slow starts this season.

Knicks at Wizards

7 p.m. ET

The Knicks haven't taken the floor since giving away a 103-96 overtime loss to the Pacers, and that's the kind of season it's been so far for New York. Washington hasn't been much better.

Whose superstar performance won't be wasted? If you like to take one data point and call it a trend, that seems to be what's happening in both Washington and New York. John Wall scored a season-high 37 points Friday against the Raptors, but Toronto still claimed a 96-88 win. Meanwhile in New York's overtime loss to the Pacers on Wednesday, Carmelo Anthony finished with 30 points and 18 rebounds. Anthony is averaging 9.5 boards per game, well above his career average of 6.4, to go with his 26.1 points per contest.

Reading material: At Bullets Forever, Mike Prada wrote on John Wall finding balance in his offensive game as a point guard.

Celtics at Hawks

7:30 p.m. ET

The Celtics haven't lost seven games in a row since April 2007, before the formation of the now-departed Big Three. A loss Saturday in Atlanta would be Boston's seventh in a row after the Celtics fell to Indiana on Friday 97-82.

Are the Hawks for real, and when will we find out? The Hawks have pieced together an 8-5 record good enough for second in the Southeast Division, but before sweeping a home-and-home with the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday and Friday, Atlanta's wins had not come against particularly impressive competition -- the Hawks have beaten Toronto, Sacramento, Orlando, Charlotte, Philadelphia and New York. The schedule will heat up in early December, but until then the Hawks will have a chance to pile up more wins against weaker competition.

Reading material: It isn't really "reading material," but CelticsBlog has a video breakdown of Celtics center Jared Sullinger.

Magic at Heat

7:30 p.m. ET

The Miami Heat are hot, and you're not surprised because they're the Heat. Miami posted a 120-92 win over the Magic on Wednesday in Orlando, and Saturday's game is the return half of the home-and-home.

Is there anything Orlando can do to slow down Miami at home? The Magic had no answer for the Heat on Wednesday, and Miami is anticipating the return of Dwyane Wade. The Heat have won their last five games by an average of nearly 18 points, the most lopsided of which was Wednesday's win against Orlando. LeBron James hasn't been doing it all by himself -- James Jones scored 17 points against the Magic, filling in for Wade in the starting lineup.

Reading material: Evan Dunlap at Orlando Pinstriped Post has an in-depth analysis on how the Magic can get back on track.

Timberwolves at Rockets

8 p.m. ET, NBATV

There should be plenty of scoring on Saturday in Houston; both teams are among the league leaders in points per game. Houston scores 109.7 points per game, and Minnesota scores 107.3 points per game, which leads us to the question: What's a defense, Kevin?

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Who will win the rebounding battle? With so many shots going up in what should be a fast-paced game, two of the league's best rebounders will be stationed opposite one another in the paint: Minnesota's Kevin Love (13.3 boards per game) and Houston's Dwight Howard (13.7 boards per game). After a 5-2 start, the Timberwolves have slipped a bit in the standings, losing four of their last seven games. Keeping Howard and the Rockets from second-chance points will be important if Minnesota is to prevent Houston from winning its third game in a row at home.

Reading material: The Dream Shake has a position-by-position breakdown of the Wolves-Rockets matchup.

Bobcats at Bucks

8:30 p.m. ET

The Bobcats have been unexpectedly mediocre so far this season, and the Bucks have been one of the worst teams in the NBA. If you are not a Bobcats or Bucks fans and you watch this game, please let us know in the comments why you did so.

Will the Bucks ever win a game again, ever? Milwaukee has dropped seven straight after Friday's loss to Philadelphia. It's been five years since the Bucks' last eight-game losing streak, but at least the Bucks fare well historically at home against the Bobcats. Charlotte is 1-15 all-time at Milwaukee, and that includes 10 losses in a row. Of course, none of those teams were this year's Bobcats, and none of those teams were this year's Bucks. Milwaukee's best hope seems to be a big game from O.J. Mayo, who is averaging nearly 17 points per game so far this season.

Reading material: Rufus On Fire previewed the game here, mostly because it covers the Bobcats for SB Nation, but also because somebody had to.

Cavaliers at Spurs

8:30 p.m. ET

Coming off a blown game against the New Orleans Pelicans, the Cavs have been a miserable 1-7 on the road this season, and they face an 11-1 Spurs team in Alamo City.

Can Kyrie match Tony Parker? Kyrie Irving has been relied upon to score a lot for Cleveland, but he can't carry a team by himself. The disappointing Cavaliers have one of the league's worst offenses so far this season. Irving could take a lesson from Parker, who has been spreading the wealth and turning to his own scoring at the right moments. Chances are that the Spurs and their No. 2-ranked defensive rating of 94.7 points per 100 possessions won't make it easy on the talented point guard.

Reading material: Fear the Sword's Sam Vincente has his thoughts on GM Chris Grant's shaky footing.

Mavericks vs. Nuggets

9 p.m. ET

Like offense? So do we. The Mavs and Nuggets can put up the points, but the biggest question in this one is about matchups.

How do the Nuggets stop a perimeter scorer? Monta Ellis has been on a rampage this season, averaging 23.5 points and 5.7 assists per game and shooting 48.9 percent from the floor. But after Denver lost Andre Iguodala over the summer, it's not clear if it has any scheme -- or one player -- to limit the league's best guards and wings. The Nuggets need to contain either Ellis or Dirk Nowitzki. If both go off, the Denver will at best find itself in a tough game late -- and you know, defense is important then too. Can Monta have it all?

Reading material: At Denver Stiffs, Nate Simmons remembers that Samuel Dalembert had a big game against the Nuggets as a member of the Bucks in February.

Trail Blazers vs. Warriors

10:30 p.m. ET

Golden State is reeling after falling to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday and losing Andre Iguodala to a hamstring injury in the process. Still, a homecourt advantage will make it tough on a visiting Portland team that has won nine in a row.

Do the Warriors have an answer for Damian Lillard? The second-year point guard is scoring nearly 20 points and dishing 5.8 assists per game, but the Warriors could be without Stephen Curry because of his recovery from a concussion. Iguodala was filling in as a makeshift point guard, but if both he and Curry are out -- backup Toney Douglas is also injured -- it'll come down to inexperienced combo guard Kent Bazemore playing, at the very least, steady ball.

Reading material: Golden State of Mind previews the game around the storyline of the Warriors' thin bench.

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