It's a strange night in the NBA on Friday. Most of the head-to-head matchups look lopsided on paper. Teams with playoff aspirations will take on lottery-bound squads across the association, and the two best matchups of the night will not be featured on ESPN. The Heat will take on the Bobcats in the first ESPN game, and the Rockets will look to knock off the Blazers in the second prime time matchup. That leaves you to hunt for Thunder versus Pacers and Grizzlies against Lakers on NBA League Pass.
OKC picked up a big win over the Spurs on Thursday and consequently pulled within a half-game of San Antonio for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. The Thunder already hold an edge in the secondary tiebreaker -- conference record -- so now they just need a win on Friday to claim the top spot (at least for the moment). The Pacers won't be easy to knock off, however. They have won eight of their last 10 and they will be looking to gain ground on the Knicks for the No. 2 spot in the East. New York holds a half-game lead, and the Knicks will host the Bucks on Friday.
The Lakers and Jazz are both in action on Friday night as well, which means the eighth seed drama out West will be fully charged. L.A. is up one half of a game on Utah at the moment, but that could flip flop if the Lakers lose to the Grizzlies and the Jazz dispatch the Hornets. The Lakers have more home games down the stretch than Utah does, but they also have more games against plus-.500 teams. It will be interesting to see how that double-edged sword cuts on Friday night.
At Lakers blog Silver Screen and Roll, they are putting the onus on Dwight Howard to carry the team to the playoffs with big defensive efforts:
Fair or unfair, Howard will need to play heavy minutes. Fair or unfair, Howard will be asked to destroy opposing pick-and-rolls, rotate to contest shots, and the recover for the rebound all in a span of seconds. Fair or unfair, Howard will need to keep the opposition to fewer than 100 points each game. These are the type of demands that are placed on whoever is to assume the role of franchise cornerstone.
If Dwight is ready to take the torch, carry the burden, and lead the team on that end of the floor, the Lakers will not only make the playoffs, but they may even put a scare in the opposition when they get there. The Lakers still have the superstar who can drive the offense to victory; they just need their other superstar to do the same on the defensive end. Playoffs or no playoffs, it's in your hands now Dwight.
NBA Schedule for Friday, April 5, 2013
|AWAY||HOME||TIME (ET)||NATIONAL TV||AWAY TV||HOME TV|
|Bucks||Knicks||7:30 PM||FOX Sports Wisconsin+||MSG|
|Cavaliers||Celtics||7:30 PM||FOX Sports Ohio||CSN-NewEngland|
|Magic||Bulls||8:00 PM||FOX Sports Florida||CSN-Chicago|
|Thunder||Pacers||8:00 PM||FOX Sports Oklahoma||FOX Sports Indiana|
|Heat||Bobcats||8:00 PM||ESPN||Sun Sports||SportsSouth-Charlotte|
|Hornets||Jazz||9:00 PM||FOX Sports New Orleans||Root Sports Utah|
|Mavericks||Kings||10:00 PM||FOX Sports Southwest||CSN-California|
|Warriors||Suns||10:00 PM||CSN-BayArea||FOX Sports Arizona|
|Grizzlies||Lakers||10:30 PM||TWC Sportsnet|