There are seven games on the deck on Tuesday, including a pair of matchups between Western playoff teams. Yeah, I know the Memphis Grizzlies are ninth in the conference right now, but they feel like a playoff team, don't they? They've won seven of their last eight games, by the way. Here's what's on the menu:
Main course: Houston Rockets vs. San Antonio Spurs
8 p.m. ET, NBA TV
The last time these teams met, they were wearing those silly Christmas Day uniforms you see at the top of this post. That was a 13-point win for the Rockets, who were able to put up 40 points in the first quarter. Back then, the Spurs had the services of Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter and Danny Green, who are all injured now. Houston did not have the services of Patrick Beverley, who will be starting at point guard tonight. That Christmas game was the Rockets' second win of the year against San Antonio, and they will be looking to clinch the season series tonight. James Harden is averaging 29.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists on 62 percent shooting against the Spurs this year.
Houston just dropped two straight to the Memphis, while San Antonio has struggled against elite teams all year. It's a big game for both teams, and it's always fun to watch Dwight Howard battle Tim Duncan and James Harden using Manu Ginobili's old tricks against him. The Spurs lost to the Miami Heat on Sunday and haven't lost consecutive games all season long.
Appetizer: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. New Orleans Pelicans
7:00 p.m. ET
I admit this isn't exactly the same caliber as the main course, but the Pelicans are worth paying attention because of this:
We've been saying it since November. Anthony Davis is the NBA's next superstar, and he does otherwordly stuff on a nightly basis. When he closes out on wing players and actually blocks their three-point attempts, it's just as jarring as that ridiculous poster dunk on Glen Davis on Saturday. Already an elite power forward, he sometimes gets lost in the shuffle when talking about the best at his position. His all-around numbers put him right there with LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Bosh, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love, though. Davis is coming off a game in which he had 22 points, 19 rebounds, seven blocks, three assists and two steals.
Another reason to keep an eye on this game? Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving was the subject of a critical column by the Akron Beacon-Journal's Jason Lloyd that has been widely read by now. Maybe he responds by dropping 40.
Dessert: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Memphis Grizzlies
10 p.m. ET
At this point, every Blazers game is at least worth monitoring. Portland's offense is powerful and pretty, and its defense generally lets teams hang around. The Blazers have slipped a little bit lately, losing three of their last five games -- against Houston, Oklahoma City and Golden State, so nothing to be ashamed of -- but should still be seen as the favorites here.
At least one of Damian Lillard and Mike Conley should be named a Western Conference All-Star on Thursday, and it's reasonable to argue they should both make it. The coaches have already submitted their selections, so this point guard battle won't decide anything, but you have to know they'll both be trying to prove a point. The Grizzlies have turned things around lately and will be scrapping for every win, desperate to make it back into the playoff picture. With their strong January and with Marc Gasol back in the lineup, why would you doubt them?
The other games (all times ET):
New York Knicks vs. Boston Cetlics, 7:30