NBA schedule: Blazers visit OKC in battle of West's elite

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Can Portland defeat Kevin Durant and the Thunder for the third time this season?

There are five games on the schedule on Tuesday, with the main course a cut above the rest. With the Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder tied for the second best record in the Western Conference at 31-10, that is clearly the game to watch.

Main course: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Portland Trail Blazers

8 p.m. ET

Kevin Durant has been on a tear for the Thunder, to the point where the superstar forward is gaining MVP momentum despite LeBron James' ridiculous efficiency. Durant dropped 54 points on the Warriors on Friday and was the obvious choice for Western Conference player of the week, but that was just a continuation of what he's been doing lately. He has scored 30 points or more in seven straight and 11 of his last 13 games, and he's scored 48 or more three times this month. To be playing the best defense of his career in addition to carrying his team on offense is remarkable, even for him.

The Blazers' loss to the Houston Rockets on Monday notwithstanding, Portland has been rolling again. It lost a couple of close games to inferior teams at the beginning of the month, but has now won five of six. This will be a challenging one for Oklahoma City, as the Blazers won the first two meetings between these teams this season, including a come-from-behind victory at Chesapeake Energy Arena on New Year's Eve, one of the Thunder's three losses at home all year.

Appetizer: Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics

7:30 p.m. ET

The Heat are looking increasingly beatable these days. There's no reason to panic, but they have dropped four of their last six games, their defense giving up over 100 points in each of the losses. Miami can afford to do this for now, but will have to string some wins together if if wants to catch the Indiana Pacers for the first seed in the East. Indiana now has a 4.5-game lead in the standings.

The Celtics always seem to play the Heat hard, as evidenced by their 111-110 win in Miami in early November. Remember Jeff Green's buzzer-beater?

It's always worth watching these two teams battle, even if Boston isn't what it once was. There's also the chance that the Heat bring the best out of Rajon Rondo, who will be playing his third game since tearing his ACL.

Dessert: New Orleans Pelicans vs. Sacramento Kings

8 p.m. ET

This is more of a side dish -- flip to it when the Blazers and Thunder are in timeouts. Throughout the Pelicans' recent eight-game losing streak, they still deserved a bit of your attention, if only because of the insane level at which Anthony Davis is playing. He's producing inside and outside, offensively and defensively, with a style that hardly resembles anyone who has come before him. New Orleans will be looking to build on monday's gritty 95-92 win in Memphis.

Rudy Gay and the Kings cooled off in their two recent road losses against the Grizzlies and Thunder, but they were piling up points to start the new year. They're still a disaster defensively, but with Gay, DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas filling it up, Sacramento has turned into an entertaining league pass choice. The Pelicans are last in the league in defensive efficiency, per Basketball-Reference, so this could be a chance for the Kings to put up huge numbers.

The rest of the games (all times ET):

Brooklyn Nets vs. Orlando Magic, 7:30 p.m.

Utah Jazz vs. Minnesota Timberwolves, 9 p.m.

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