NBA viewing guide: Pacers visit Heat in Eastern Conference showdown

USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James will play for the Miami Heat against the Indiana Pacers despite an ankle injury.

The NBA docket is self-explanatory on Wednesday. Long as it might be, there's no doubt that the can't-miss game is the Indiana Pacers' visit to South Beach, where they will take on the Miami Heat.

Crazy things always happen when these two squads meet.
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That's Flo Rida's manager getting ejected from an Eastern Conference Finals game last season (if only Flo Rida himself would have gotten ejected from All-Star activities). There's good basketball in between these type of things, too.

Here's the rundown of the Wednesday night NBA action.

The main course: Pacers vs Heat

7 p.m. ET, ESPN

Forget appetizers. Just more than a week ago, Miami fell on the road to Indiana but has responded with two straight wins. The Pacers are coming off their first semi-questionable loss of the year against Detroit.

How much does this game matter in the big-picture? Probably a lot. As usual, Indiana is open about its importance, but with Miami star LeBron James set to play after being a game-time decision with an ankle injury, it's clear this is a big deal. No matter the outcome or the situation, the matchup is another chapter in an important NBA storyline.

Reading material: The Pacers aren't concerned about LeBron James feeling slighted after a late-game dunk by Lance Stephenson the last time the teams met, reports Indy Cornrows. Meanwhile, James says Paul George's confidence is what has set him apart from others, according to Hot Hot Hoops.

Side dishes: Bobcats vs. Raptors

7 p.m. ET

At 4-7, Toronto is record-wise a worse team at home than on the road. But with a new look, the Raptors can tame a Bobcats squad still floundering on the offensive end.

Does Toronto's ball movement continue? The Raptors are 2-1 since the Rudy Gay trade and their offense has been finding much more rhythm since the volume-shooting forward left. Still tied for the worst mark in the league at 18.3 assists per game, Toronto has averaged 24.3 assists in its last three outings. It might be a bit difficult to replicate against Charlotte's quietly impressive defense, however.

Reading material: Raptors HQ discusses general manager Masai Ujiri's vision for the future, and Rufus on Fire presents a game preview.

Kings vs. Hawks

7:30 p.m. ET

One way for the Sacramento Kings to climb the Western Conference ladder is by winning out East.

Is Korver the difference? The Kings are the second-worst three-point defensive club in the league by allowing opponents to hit 38.9 from deep. Hawks guard Kyle Korver is hitting the NBA's second-best individual mark of 48.7 percent accuracy. So yeah, that might be an issue.

Reading material: Sactown Royalty must have an intervention with Kings forward Jason Thompson. In the teams' last meeting, a Hawks win, DeMarcus Cousins was upset -- surprise -- with Atlanta guard Dennis Schroder for a low blow, as Kris Willis mentions in his preview for Peach Tree Hoops. This caused Shaq to make a joke.


Pistons vs. Celtics

7:30 p.m. ET

The limited talent of the rebuilding Boston Celtics hasn't hurt their defense. They are in the top 10 in defensive ratings, but somehow the long, athletic Pistons are in the bottom 10. Both come into Wednesday with 12-14 records. Weird.

Can Detroit top 100 points? The Pistons have won just two games when their opponents score more than 100 points. The point: the Pistons aren't great at defense, so it's pretty much death if they don't score over 100 points. Physically, they should be able to outmuscle Boston like they did in an 87-77 win against the Celtics on Nov. 1.

Reading material: Celtics Blog has the latest on the Omer Asik trade rumors, while Detroit Bad Boys wonders if the Pistons should make a deal themselves.

Wizards vs. Nets

7:30 p.m. ET

Brooklyn is gaining steam, having won four of its last five. The Washington Wizards, meanwhile, are still looking for positives after barely holding off the New York Knicks on Monday by a 102-101 score -- that followed up a four-game skid.

Can the Nets hang in the paint? The only loss in Brooklyn's last five games came against the Pistons, where Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond easily scored 22 apiece and finished with double-doubles. Even though Washington is without Nene, center Marcin Gortat could dole out some damage against Brook Lopez, who is expected to return from an ankle sprain.

Reading material: Nets general manager Billy King said Lopez may start shooting treys in the future, writes Nets Daily. Thomas Pruitt of Bullets Forever discusses just how much the Wizards miss Nene.

Trail Blazers vs. Timberwolves

8 p.m. ET

Two top-5 scoring offenses clash in Minnesota.

Can the T-Wolves hit some threes or easy twos? The Blazers and T-Wolves are respectively second and third in shot attempts so far this year. Both teams rank in the top six in three-point attempts. But in the latter category, the Blazers hit a league-best 41.5 percent from long range while the Timberwolves shoot 33.9 percent. Minnesota has to find good shots in the paint or hit its threes if it wants to keep up with Portland.

Reading material: SB Nation's Drew Garrison gives us the cold hard facts -- Damian Lillard has ice cold blood running through those veins.

Grizzlies vs. Mavericks

8:30 p.m. ET

Memphis has lost four in a row and six of its last seven. Meanwhile, Dallas hosts with, arguably, the healthiest team it's had this year.

Who wins the Ed Davis-Brandan Wright matchup? Who doesn't like a matchup between two lanky, backup power forwards out of North Carolina? A punch off the bench could be what puts either team over the top on Wednesday, though the starting power forward matchup between Dirk Nowitzki and Zach Randolph has its own, more obvious entertainment value.

Reading material: Hal Brown of Mav Moneyball takes look at how exactly the Mavs get buckets. There are few positives in Grizzy land, and those include Davis, Tony Allen and Jon Leueraccording to Grizzly Bear Blues.

Spurs vs. Suns

9 p.m. ET

Natural rivals considering their postseason history meet in what should be a doozy considering this year's early postseason outlook.

How much will San Antonio miss Tony Parker? When the Suns and Spurs met earlier this year, San Antonio needed everything to hold off Phoenix, then without point guard Goran Dragic, 99-96. Dragic is back, but now it's Spurs guard Tony Parker who is out with a shin injury. Phoenix has won five in a row and should be a tough out on its home court.

Reading material: Coach Nick breaks down the Suns' victory on Sunday against the Golden State Warriors. (Hint: don't hedge too long on pick-and-rolls against Phoenix.) Pounding the Rock realizes the obviousMarco Belinelli is shooting out of his mind.

The desserts: Bulls vs. Rockets

9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

The talk in Chicago has quickly gone from Derrick Rose's injury to tanking, and the team has lost five of six. Houston has lost two of three but will be tough to bring down for an offensively-challenged Bulls team.

Can Tom Thibodeau's team find scoring? Chicago is and will always be a defensive-minded squad, yet it hasn't mattered since the offense has been so putrid of late. The Bulls have averaged 79.5 points per game over the last six outings. Not good news at all against the league's second-highest scoring squad.

Reading material: Blog a Bull tries to understand what to make of the rumors that Derrick Rose doesn't want to be part of a rebuilding team when he returns from injury.

Pelicans vs. Clippers

10:30 p.m. ET

The final game of the night probably won't put you to sleep. Both of these squads can get buckets.

Can Blake and DeAndre get versatile? Defensively, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan need to wipe any memories of success from a big win against the Spurs on Monday. While beating up on Tim Duncan is a solid confidence-booster, handling the perimeter-oriented Pelican duo of Ryan Anderson and Jason Smith is a completely different challenge. Pick-and-roll defense against athletic guards and pick-and-pop bigs will be crucial to the Clippers' success.

Reading material: The Alexis Ajinca era in New Orleans begins, and The Bird Writes has some thoughts on it. Some Jekyll and Hyde stuff is going on in Clipper land, according to Clips Nation.

Pass on it: Jazz vs. Magic

7 p.m. ET

Combined 14-38 records don't make for the most exciting game of the night.

Which young players shine? This is one of those games you watch for the individuals more than the teams. But there are plenty of good ones. Magic youngsters Victor Oladipo and Nikola Vucevic will square off against Utah's Trey Burke and Gordon Hayward, among others.

Reading material: With Arron Afflalo out with an illness, Tobias Harris will earn his first start of the season, reports Orlando Pinstriped Post.

Knicks vs. Bucks

8 p.m. ET

And we thought the Jazz and Magic would be bad. This just might be sad.

Who can be fun to watch? Offensive ratings, defensive ratings, pace ... it doesn't matter. Neither the Knicks nor the Bucks have any statistic -- or many eye tests from this season -- that say they'll be a fun team to watch. But hey, there's at least some pride to be factored into a winnable game for both teams. There are some lineup changes that might make it more intriguing, however.

Reading material: In Brew Hoop's preview, Frank Madden takes a look at Giannis Antetokounmpo's potential to start for the first time. Tyson Chandler will start for the Knicks after missing time because of a fractured leg, which is great news, Posting and Toasting's Seth Rosenthal imagines.

More from SB Nation NBA:

The Hook: Tanking and the pride of NBA GMs

Omer Asik trade saga nears its conclusion

Herbert: Tony Wroten, Terrence Ross starting to stand out

Flannery: The Knicks are a disaster in 3 acts

They're Playing Basketball: An oral history of Kurtis Blow's iconic song and video

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