The appetizer: Nets vs. Hawks
3 p.m. ET, NBATV
A few weeks ago, this matchup didn't look so suave. Now, it's not projecting to be a sad exhibition of NBA basketball in front of a European audience.
Brooklyn is coming off a loss to the pesky Toronto Raptors, but before that rattled off five straight wins despite all its injury woes. Veterans Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce have been relatively solid offensive options of late, and their legs should be rested well enough since they've been traveling and running through the media rounds rather than playing extended minutes over the last few days.
Atlanta isn't too shabby itself despite losing center Al Horford a couple of weeks ago. The Hawks are coming off a loss to the Grizzlies but before that game had won two home outings against the Indiana Pacers and Houston Rockets. Pero Antic traveled with the Hawks after missing the last game due to back spasms, and when healthy he's been a pleasant surprise in place of Horford. Point guard Jeff Teague hasn't skipped a beat, and Paul Millsap has likewise carried a bigger load.
One under-the-radar player is Mike Scott, the Hawks' backup power forward who has four double-digit scoring outings in his last five games.
But the key in this one could be three-point defense. Both the Nets and Hawks are top-10 in percentage, but Brooklyn is conservative with its long-range shooting and also has the worst three-point defense in the league, allowing 38.8 percent shooting from deep.
The main course: Knicks vs. Pacers
7 p.m., TNT
The Knicks had won five in a row before dropping their last game, but despite the tensions between New York coach Mike Woodson and guard J.R. Smith, they have seemingly found a spark. Carmelo Anthony has gotten much-needed scoring support in waves from Raymond Felton, Amare Stoudemire and Tim Hardaway Jr., and the return of Tyson Chandler in the last game, a 108-98 loss to Charlotte, is reason for optimism.
Like New York, Indiana has also won five of its last six. Both teams fall into the slower third of all NBA squads in terms of pace, and the Pacers will certainly have the advantage with so few possessions expected. The Knicks can't turn it over, because as is they'll have it tough against an elite Indiana defense. The Pacers don't force a high number of turnovers, but they do suffocate shots taken late in the shot clock, allowing just 94.8 points per 100 possessions. The next-closest NBA squad in that regard is Chicago, which allows 100.5 points per 100 possessions.
The dessert: Thunder vs. Rockets
9:30 p.m., TNT
Oklahoma City may be trailing off since point guard Russell Westbrook went down with another knee issue, and it doesn't help that the Thunder are on the road. Scott Brooks' team has lost three of four -- all of those losses are on the road -- and the Thunder are just 12-7 away from their home floor. Kevin Durant scored 37 points and shot better than a 50 percent clip in his last game, yet it wasn't enough as Oklahoma City fell to Memphis.
If the Thunder have any hope, it's that they've already beaten the Houston Rockets without Westbrook. Houston, which has won three in a row, fell in Oklahoma City, 117-86, in December, but the good news for the Rockets is that both center Dwight Howard and guard James Harden failed to reach double-figures. Lightening of that sort is unlikely to strike twice.