NBA schedule 2013: Lakers battle Grizzlies, Thunder clash with Pacers on Friday

USA TODAY Sports

The best games of the night on Friday will not be on ESPN. The stakes are highest for the Lakers, Grizzlies, Thunder and Pacers as the NBA action heats up heading into the weekend.

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
Sixers Hawks 7:30 PM CSN-Philadelphia SportsSouth-Atlanta
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
Raptors Timberwolves 8:00 PM TSN2
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
Rockets Blazers 10:30 PM ESPN CSN-Houston CSN-Portland

More from SB Nation:

Carmelo Anthony's bittersweet symphony

Jeff Green breaks out for Celtics ... again

Chris Bosh robbed during awesome birthday party

Video playbook: Dwight Howard's defense is alive

Andrew Wiggins is the anti-LeBron

Lon Babby's greatest hits: Should Suns have kept him in power?

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.