2013 NBA schedule: League-best Thunder host Blazers

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On New Year's Eve, the NBA gives you about as good a reason as possible to stay in front of your TV: Thunder vs. Blazers.

NBA action starts early on New Year's Eve, but the best of the eight-game schedule will be played in primetime. The Portland Trail Blazers will visit Oklahoma City and try to snap their first losing streak of the season.

The main course: Thunder vs. Blazers

8 p.m. ET, NBA TV

When these two teams met on Dec. 4, LaMarcus Aldridge exploded for a season-high 38 points and 13 rebounds and the Portland crowd chanted "M-V-P" for the Blazers' star power forward. Portland earned a 111-104 win, a major statement game for a team that was trying to prove its league-best record was not a fluke. Now the Thunder own the league's best record, and the Blazers have lost two games in a row thanks to game-winners from Chris Bosh and Tyreke Evans.

It'll be tough to pull out a victory at Chesapeake Arena, where Oklahoma City is 14-1 on the season. Sure, Russell Westbrook is out of the Thunder lineup for now, but the Houston Rockets just went to Oklahoma City and took a 117-86 beatdown from Kevin Durant and company.

Just about every Portland game has come down to the final possession lately, and a matchup like this should always be appointment viewing.

The appetizer: Celtics vs. Hawks

1 p.m. ET

Who doesn't want to watch some early-afternoon weekday basketball? Sure, this is a bit of a depressing day for Atlanta, as Al Horford is having what will likely be season-ending surgery today, but the team's two games since he tore his right pectoral muscle haven't been bad at all.

The Celtics and Hawks are pretty similar at this stage of the season, even if Atlanta is a few games ahead in the standings. Both have first-time NBA head coaches who have their teams playing smart basketball. Now, sadly, they're both missing their best players, but these teams are rarely blown out and should provide a solid game.

The dessert: Lakers vs. Bucks

10:30 p.m. ET

If you're not out celebrating, you could do worse than watching Giannis Antetokounmpo's first visit to Los Angeles. If you haven't seen much of the Bucks rookie, allow Brew Hoop's Steve Von Horn to tell you why Milwaukee is so excited about him:

This is not the random walk of exuberance manufactured through trends in Brandon Jennings' jump shooting. Nor is it the stilted enthusiasm generated by Monta Ellis on his good nights. This is different. Giannis demands our full attention. Anything could happen in a blink. It could be a lightning quick dunk, or a prescient pass, or a crafty cut, or an outrageous block, or a slick rebound and push in transition, or all of those things smashed into one glorious sequence that brings us closer to basketball nirvana. They've smuggled a secret weapon onto the roster, and now it's just a matter of figuring out how to use it.

The Lakers have lost five in a row, but the last three of them have at least been entertaining. Pau Gasol will make his return to the lineup after missing a couple of games due to an upper respiratory infection.

The other games (all times ET)

Cleveland Cavaliers @ Indiana Pacers, 3 p.m.

Golden State Warriors @ Orlando Magic, 5 p.m.

Sacramento Kings @ Houston Rockets, 7 p.m.

Brooklyn Nets @ San Antonio Spurs, 7 p.m.

Toronto Raptors @ Chicago Bulls, 8 p.m.

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