2014 NBA schedule: Marc Gasol goes head-to-head with Dwight Howard

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Friday's slate of games features a big-time matchup between two of the best centers in the Western Conference.

There are 13 NBA games on Friday night, some appetizing and others a bit less palatable. There are three big games to watch between potential playoff teams, including the upstart Suns and the inconsistent Wizards. At the heart of it all is the battle between Marc Gasol and Dwight Howard, which should make for a great night of basketball.

Appetizer: Dallas Mavericks at Brooklyn Nets

7:30 p.m. ET (NBA League Pass)

Dallas is fighting for the last playoff spot in the West and face a Memphis Grizzlies team that is chasing them down from a spot below. The Mavericks have been able to score consistently this year but they haven't really been able to stop much.

That will count against a team like the Nets, who have flourished since 2014 began. Brooklyn has allowed an opponent 100 points just one time in the month of January, and they are 8-1 in the month and back in the seventh playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Main Course: Memphis Grizzlies at Houston Rockets

8:00 p.m. ET (NBA League Pass)

Memphis is a team on the rise in the Western Conference after the return of star center Marc Gasol on Jan. 14, as many expected. The Grizzlies were expected to be in the playoff hunt all year -- and maybe even a top team -- before the big man went down with a knee injury in November.

The Grizzlies will have to battle one of the league's hottest teams in the Houston Rockets, who are 8-2 in January. The Rockets' uptempo pace has really caused problems for opposing defenses. The emergence of forward Terrence Ross has been a surprise for Houston, who were rumored to be looking for another forward at the trade deadline. Over the last 10 games, Ross is averaging 17 points, 11.4 rebounds and two blocks per game.

This is a big-time Western Conference showdown and should be a good barometer of just how stable Gasol might be for the Grizzlies moving forward.

Dessert: Washington Wizards at Phoenix Suns

9:00 p.m. ET (NBA League Pass)

The Wizards have shown flashes of brilliance along with completely uninspired play that would have them out of the playoff hunt save for the niggling detail that they play in the Eastern Conference. If we get the Wizards with a distributing John Wall, an offensively-efficient Marcin Gortat and an in-control Bradley Beal, they have a chance to defeat one of the toughest teams in the West.

Phoenix, on the other hand, are a treat all to themselves. They've been the surprise of the Western Conference in terms of their performance, and before the season began many had them looking to dive into the tank to nab a coveted draft pick. That's not been the case, and the Suns are currently in seventh place in the Western Conference. Goran Dragic has had a career year so far and the evolution of Miles Plumlee is something nobody expected. This game should be entertaining.

Other games (all times ET)

Lakers at Magic, 7:00 p.m.

Raptors at 76ers, 7:00 p.m.

Spurs at Hawks, 7:30 p.m.

Thunder at Celtics, 7:30 p.m.

Bucks at Cavaliers, 7:30 p.m.

Pelicans at Pistons, 7:30 p.m.

Bobcats at Knicks, 7:30 p.m.

Clippers at Bulls, 8:00 p.m.

Pacers at Kings, 10:00 p.m.

Timberwolves at Warriors, 10:30 p.m.

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