NBA viewing guide: Weak early games topped off with Golden State-Houston


The Western Conference will treat us to some solid matchups on Friday night. The Eastern Conference? Not so much.

Don't worry, everyone: we survived Knicks-Nets on Thursday night. We're all safe and sound and ready to watch a mostly improved slate of basketball action. With the Western Conference matchups taking priority, as usual, Friday is about wading through some weaker contests to get to the meatier stuff.

Here's a look at what to expect Friday night:


Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Atlanta Hawks

7:30 p.m. ET, TSOH, FSS

We're pretty much picking our poison with some pretty weak Eastern Conference matchups to start, but we'll go with Cavs-Hawks. While this game obviously isn't a primetime event, Cleveland has won back-to-back games against Chicago and Atlanta in the past week, so the Hawks could have some trouble if they're expecting an easy win.

There are also some intriguing matchups that could play out during this game, including the PG duel between Kyrie Irving and Jeff Teague. Irving torched Atlanta in a pair of games last season, putting up 61 points on 23-of-35 (66 percent) shooting.

Korver? Korver. As if we needed more reasons to fawn over the shooting ability of Kyle Korver, the Hawks' sharpshooting specialist could set the NBA record for most consecutive games with a made three-pointer on Friday. Currently, he's tied with former Celtics guard Dana Barros at 89 games, so this will be the make-or-break game for sole possession of the record.

Reading Material: Cavs try to keep rolling in Hotlanta, Korver credits teammates for record streak

Main Course

Golden State Warriors vs. Houston Rockets

8 p.m. ET, CSNH, CSNBA

We're skipping right ahead to the main course now, because Friday's appetizers were served cold, soggy and 20 minutes too late. But hey, at least we have Rockets-Warriors, which is about as fun a matchup as you could put together in the NBA.

While both Houston and Golden State have sputtered at times already this season, they're talented, fast-paced, high-scoring teams ready to put on a show. Even if Andre Iguodala and Jeremy Lin won't be out there Friday night, this is the game you'll want to watch.

Here's a three for you, and a three for you, and a three for you: In a league that's happily embraced the three-pointer in recent years, few teams hoist 'em up like Houston and Golden State. This season, the Rockets and Warriors are No. 1 and No. 2 in three-pointers made, respectively, though the latter does so at a much higher clip. Either way, THREES!

Reading Material: Reflecting on Golden State's recent 27-point comeback vs. Toronto, Jeremy Lin injury update

Side Dishes

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. New Orleans Pelicans

8 p.m. ET, FSO, FSNOLA

If Anthony Davis was healthy, this would probably challenge for the main course, but instead it'll have to settle for being an especially delicious side dish. With the Thunder riding an eight-game winning streak, this will be a tough challenge for the Pelicans, but they can lean on Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson to keep the offense afloat.

The bigger challenges will come on defense, where the rim protection and helping abilities of Davis would've been huge in limiting the Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook combination. Without him, expect some smaller lineups from New Orleans to really struggle defensively.

Reading Material: An expanded role for Jason Smith?, Beyond The Arc: Weekly awards for the Thunder


Utah Jazz vs. Portland Trail Blazers

10 p.m. ET, CSNNW, ROOT Sports

On paper, the 16-3 Trail Blazers facing the 4-16 Jazz seems like a horrible matchup, but folks may be sleeping on Utah a little at this point. After a miserable start to the season without rookie guard Trey Burke, his return has helped the Jazz find some form in recent weeks.

With the former Michigan star in the lineup, Utah has won three of its past five contests, including home wins over the Rockets and Bulls. Obviously taking a game from Portland at the former Rose Garden is a different task, but it's clear Burke makes the Jazz a far more formidable opponent.

Can Burke be the next Lillard? For folks in Salt Lake City wondering just how good Burke can be, Friday's matchup against Damian Lillard could be a nice glimpse. While they're not totally similar players, Burke's scoring flair and shooting ability should put him in the running to match Lillard's Rookie of the Year honors last season. Over his past four contests, Burke is averaging 16.8 points and 5.3 assists while committing fewer than one turnover per game.

Reading Material: Jazz fans get excited about Burke, How LaMarcus Aldridge handles extra defensive pressure

Pass it on

Milwaukee Bucks vs. Washington Wizards

7 p.m. ET, CSNDC, FSWI

The idea of the Wizards going above .500 is pretty exciting, and John Wall makes Washington a League Pass-worthy watch every time they play, but the middling Bucks take some of the flavor from this one. The last time the Wizards were above .500? Three games into the 2009-10 season, when then-rookie Wall led the team to two wins in its first three games. They would go 24-55 from there.

Also, No. 3 pick Otto Porter may be making his NBA debut in this game. If anything, that could be the best reason to watch.

Reading Material: How will Porter's debut affect the Wiz?, Caron Butler wants to buy the Bucks

Philadelphia 76ers vs. Charlotte Bobcats

7 p.m. ET, CSNP, SportSouth

You survived Knicks-Nets, so why not do the whole thing again Friday? This one won't have the NEW YORK! aspect of Thursday's game, but it will surely have lots of basketball that leaves you screaming at the TV.

Reading Material: Bobcats-Sixers diss rap, Spencer Hawes as a trade asset

Denver Nuggets vs. Boston Celtics

7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

With four wins in their past six games, the Celtics have risen to the top of the Atlantic Division despite being 8-12 overall. Meanwhile, the Nuggets have won 11 games already this season, but are less than two games from being out of the playoff picture. So that's what's up in the East and West so far.

Reading Material: Evan Fournier struggles to find role on Shaw's Nuggets, Rondo to the Knicks? No way

Orlando Magic vs. New York Knicks

7:30 p.m. ET, MSG, FS-Fla.

Somehow just 1-7 at Madison Square Garden this season, the Knicks should be able to get their second home win Friday night. Coming off a blowout win in Brooklyn, which was admittedly a quasi-home game of sorts given the crowd's makeup, they're facing a young Magic team that's struggled on the road this season.

Reading Material: What if Mike Woodson gets fired?, Jameer Nelson injury status update

Toronto Raptors vs. Phoenix Suns

9 p.m. ET, TSN2, FSAZ

Phoenix looks to continue its surprisingly hot start at home against the Raptors. Toronto has been struggling lately, losing four straight and 10 of its past 14, primarily due to the struggles of Rudy Gay. He's shot better than 50 percent in just one game this season, proving to be one of the game's most inefficient players in the early going.

Reading Material: Rudy Gay, the lone crusader, How good would Phoenix be in the East?

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Sacramento Kings


If everything goes according to plan, this will be the Lakers' last game for a while without Kobe Bryant. Expected to return Sunday against the Raptors, Bryant's status has overshadowed a Lakers team that's quietly been pretty competitive in his absence. With a win over Sacramento on Friday, the L.A. would complete its Kobe-less run with a 10-9 record.

Reading Material: Kobe is almost back!, Why one Kings fan doesn't miss Tyreke Evans

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Deeks: When should NBA teams pay the luxury tax?

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