NBA schedule 2014: New York gets a little Heat while upstart Nuggets welcome wounded Thunder

Marc Serota

With both home teams on a recent upswing, Thursday night should offer a solid two-course menu of hoops action.

There are only two games on the NBA slate Thursday evening, so you don't get a menu. Just sit back, relax and we'll bring your dinner out for you. At some point earlier this season, these two matchups probably looked better on paper than they do now. But the NBA has been quite surprising lately, so tune in to see what happens next.

Main course: Miami Heat vs. New York Knicks

8 p.m. ET (TNT)

It's the time of the season when most teams put things on cruise-control, try their best to stay healthy and wait out the cold of winter. The thing about the Heat is, their cruise mode is still as entertaining as it gets. Dwyane Wade is playing some of his best — and healthiest — basketball of the year, and LeBron James is still LeBron James. And don't look now, Indiana, but Miami is just a game back in the loss column of reclaiming first place in the East.

Ugh, but unfortunately you have to watch the ... oh no, wait! The Knicks are playing kind of OK these days. They've won three out of their last four, including an impressive win in San Antonio and a near-win in Houston, and aside from a little J.R. Smith drama are looking much better. But what is New York without a little drama?

This will be their biggest test in a while, in front of a national audience, no less. A matchup with the defending champions will provide a barometer for the current state of the Knicks.

Dessert: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Denver Nuggets

10:30 p.m. (TNT)

Uh oh, OKC. The Thunder are struggling without superstar point guard Russell Westbrook, which was certainly to be expected. Still, they've lost to both the Nets (who suddenly seem competent) and the Jazz in the last week, and their grasp on first place in the West is slipping by the day. But Kevin Durant is something else. If there's one reason to tune into this game, it's the spectacle that is the Durant points explosion. In the seven games since Russ went under the knife again, KD is averaging 35.0 points, 9.1 rebounds and 5.4 assists in 38.3 minutes per game. He's must-see TV.

Then there are the Nuggets, who hit "rock bottom" after the sideline spat between Andre Miller and coach Brian Shaw. Now Miller appears to be on his way out of town, and Denver has reeled off three straight wins. It's been an up-and-down season for these guys, but right now they appear to be on the upswing after a nasty eight-game losing streak. The Nuggets have now won three straight and get the wounded Thunder in the rarefied air of Denver.

Should actually be a good night of hoops considering the struggles several of these teams were facing toward the end of December. It's been a good 2014 so far.

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