NBA schedule 2013: New look Raptors challenge Thunder, Timberwolves square off with Clippers

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

There are three games on the NBA's slim Sunday night plate.

There are only three games on the NBA's plate Sunday, which means you'll have a clean cut schedule with our viewing guide.

Main Course

Toronto Raptors vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

League Pass; 7 p.m. ET

The Thunder have won nine games in a row, winning by at least nine points each time, and the Raptors have won four of their last six. This isn't the sexiest matchup the league has to offer, but it's a surprisingly nice showing between a red-hot, championship caliber team and one that is finding its groove.

Is Toronto better with Rudy Gay? The basic consensus is that, yes, the Raptors are better in the long term without Gay. It gives them financial flexibility and the ability to focus on giving young guys more playing time. But it's been a win in the short-term, too. Gay's 18.6 hoists a game are gone and those shots have been spread out through a more balanced attack. That balanced attack has resulted in 104.5 points per game since Gay's departure.

Will the Thunder keep on steamrolling? No team has really had the fire to halt the Thunder's deadly combination of star power and bench depth. They've won each of their last nine games with relative ease, beating the Pacers and the Spurs in that stretch. The Raptors will struggle defending Oklahoma City's bombarding offensive attack and they will have a hard time finding easy shots against the league's fourth-best defense.

Appetizer

Boston Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers

League Pass; 6 p.m. ET

A couple of weeks ago, this may have looked like a slaughter waiting to happen, but we're learning this season to never discount a Brad Stevens coached team. Stevens has these undermanned Celtics playing stout defense despite a glaring lack of rim protection, and they are oozing out just enough on offense to stay in games.

Indiana's sheer size up front will give Boston a lot of trouble and it's fair to wonder just how, exactly, the Celtics will score against the league's most stifling defense. Those Celtics managed just 82 points a month ago against the Pacers and it's tough to imagine a scenario in which they score much more than that on Sunday. Boston, in turn, will need to fight defense with defense, but that's easier said than done.

Dessert

Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Los Angeles Clippers

League Pass; 9:30 p.m. ET

The Timberwolves haven't found their footing this season, one in which many NBA thinkers assumed they would fight for a playoff spot. A loss Friday night to the Lakers sunk Minnesota back under .500, despite sporting a top 10 offense and defense. One can imagine the team fighting off a tough early schedule to get back into the playoff chase, but losing to the Clippers would certainly be another step in the wrong direction.

The fourth-best offense and a top 10 defense has catapulted the Clippers near the top of the Western Conference. Chris Paul may very well be a point guard deity and the stable of perimeter players has given Los Angeles a rangy offensive attack that also defends opponents' three-point shooting. Also, Blake Griffin is, apparently, giving it a go at point guard:

Griffinpg_medium

More from SB Nation NBA:

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The Hook: Rookie coaches struggling at defense

How Kevin Love is reviving the Timberwolves

Kobe injures knee, out six weeks | Setback explained

The "Nail": Ex-NBA assistant explains the key to help defense

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