It's NFL Playoff Sunday, but there are still three NBA games to be played. Here's what you need to know about those three contests.
7 p.m. ET; League Pass
The Timberwolves have been about as mediocre as a team can be in the Western Conference without totally falling out of the playoff race. At 18-18, they sport a top 5 offense and a top 10 defense, via Basketball-Reference, but haven't yet put together any type of sustainable run. Their longest win streak is three games and that came at the start of the season. They are just 1-9 in games decided by four or less points and it's reasonable to wonder whether that will balance out in their favor, eventually.
At some point, however, one has to assume that this is who Minnesota is: a team that beats bad teams, loses to good ones and just kind of sails through the season. San Antonio is, quite obviously, a good team. The Spurs are in first place in a loaded Western Conference and seem to be cruising towards the playoffs. Only one player, Tony Parker, is averaging over 30 minutes per game, yet the Spurs have the third-best offense and the fifth-best defense in the NBA.
6 p.m. ET; League Pass
After swapping Andrew Bynum and picks for Luol Deng, Cleveland is all in for this season. Deng wasn't spectacular in his first game, recording just 10 points and four turnovers, but the Cavaliers steamrolled the Utah Jazz. That was the first leg of a five-game Western Conference road swing. The second is in Sacramento, where a hot Kings team waits.
The Kings won two games in a row for just the third time this season by beating the Portland Trail Blazers in a shootout and then decapitating the lackluster Orlando Magic. After its game against the Cleveland, Sacramento begins a six-game road trip that includes games in Indiana, Oklahoma City and Houston. Taking care of business at home against the Cavaliers would be a nice way to pick up some steam before entering a proverbial slaughterhouse.
6 p.m. ET; League
Dessert comes early today because of a slim NBA schedule. Hawks-Grizzlies features two teams on opposite sides of the injury bug.
Atlanta is learning how to play without its center, and best player, Al Horford. The offense has struggled to produce without him, but the Hawks' stingy defense helped the team upset the Indiana Pacers and the Houston Rockets in its last two outings.
Memphis, on the other hand, is just waiting around for center Marc Gasol to return. The team has played, mostly, uninspiring basketball in his absence, but it has managed a 16-19 record and is just four-and-a-half games back of the eighth spot in the West. With well over 40 games left, there is plenty of time for the Grizzlies to make a run once the reigning Defensive Player of the Year returns.