NBA schedule 2014: Rolling Warriors visit Heat

USA TODAY Sports

Among the nine games on the Thursday night NBA schedule is Golden State's visit to Miami.

The nine-game NBA slate is unusually busy for a Thursday night, and with college football bowl season in full swing there are no TNT games to enjoy. But we hope your hearts aren't too broken at the loss of Chuck, Shaq, Kenny and E.J. this evening, because there are plenty of other reasons to tune in this evening as the holidays wind down.

And let's dive right in without an appetizer; you won't need one.

The main course: Warriors vs. Heat

7:30 p.m. ET

It is no doubt the game of the night will take place in Miami, and with an early start time there's no need to whet your appetite beforehand while you wait. It's the Big Three vs. the 'Splash Brothers,' and both the Heat and Warriors are on some serious rolls right now.

Golden State is 7-1 since the return of Andre Iguodala and is currently riding a six-game winning streak into Thursday action. But this isn't a Warriors team you're perhaps accustomed to seeing; they're winning with defense. The Dubs have allowed just 90.8 points per 100 possessions to the opposition since Iggy returned, and their net-efficiency rating is 12.5 points better when their star swingman is on the floor this season. The results speak for themselves: He's as important an acquisition as there was over the offseason.

Then there's Miami. What else can you say here? The Heat are still really, really good. They've won 10 of their last 12.

The other main course: Nets vs. Thunder

8 p.m. ET, NBATV

The featured game on NBATV might be fitting if you'd like to see continuity playing next to dysfunction, but it's hard to fault the scheduling gurus for assuming this would be a fun one.

The Oklahoma City Thunder face the Brooklyn Nets without point guard Russell Westbrook, but they've still gone 2-1 without his services. Meanwhile, the Nets are seemingly about to crumble. They'll be trying to avoid their fifth loss in a row, and Kevin Garnett made headlines this week by calling the season his most frustrating while questioning his role within coach Jason Kidd's offense.

It appears that it can't get worse in Brooklyn, but it just might.

The dessert: Grizzlies vs. Suns

9 p.m. ET

The 13-17 Grizzlies aren't what they've been, but they are one of the few teams that can say they've dominated the Phoenix Suns this season. Memphis bludgeoned Phoenix 110-91 on Dec. 3, but since the Suns have ran off 10 of their last 12 and won their final game of 2013 by belting the Los Angeles Clippers, 107-88. For such a young team, handling such a significant win is the thing for Suns coach Jeff Hornacek to worry about.

What Memphis has that Phoenix doesn't is size in the paint -- even if Marc Gasol remains out recovering from an MCL sprain. The Suns are at their best when they're jumping passing lanes and running, and as usual, the Grizzlies will attempt to keep it in the halfcourt so forward Zach Randolph can muscle his way to a big night.

What else is on the schedule?

Orlando Magic vs. Cleveland Cavaliers, 7 p.m. ET

Boston Celtics vs. Chicago Bulls, 8 p.m. ET

New York Knicks vs. San Antonio Spurs, 8:30 p.m. ET

Milwaukee Bucks vs. Utah Jazz, 9 p.m. ET

Charlotte Bobcats vs. Portland Trail Blazers, 10 p.m. ET

Philadelphia 76ers vs. Sacramento Kings, 10 p.m. ET

Kevin Zimmerman and Matthew Tynan contributed to this article.

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