The stakes are high in a Western Conference showdown between the San Antonio Spurs and Portland Trail Blazers, even though Tony Parker and LaMarcus Aldridge are injured. Meanwhile, the ESPN schedule includes an offense-defense matchup as the Indiana Pacers face the Minnesota Timberwolves, and later, Dwight Howard returns to Los Angeles as the Rockets visit the Lakers. These are just a few of the contests on the NBA's 11 game slate.
The main course: Spurs vs. Trail Blazers
10 p.m. ET
LaMarcus Aldridge is out, and for the first time this year, the Portland Trail Blazers will be forced to play without their very solid starting lineup. But San Antonio will also be without its best player. Tony Parker's maladies have added up, but the Spurs know how to play without him. It hardly seems San Antonio will skip a beat.
Patty Mills filled in admirably off the bench on Tuesday, scoring 25 points as Gregg Popovich's offense put up 113 points in a win against the Los Angeles Clippers. Tim Duncan did his usual Tim Duncan thing, and Marco Belinelli added 20. So for the Blazers, it's on Damian Lillard, Nicolas Batum and Wes Matthews to find opportunities without the pick-and-roll help from Aldridge.
While a game lacking two All-Stars might take from the entertainment value, no other game on Wednesday includes two very good teams with so much to fight for.
The appetizer: Pacers vs. Timberwolves
8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Indiana has its place atop the Eastern Conference, but expect the Minnesota Timberwolves to come out of the All-Star break swinging. Rick Adelman's team came into the week off stumbling with six losses in its last eight outings. The T-Wolves are six games back from the eighth-seeded Dallas Mavericks, and will need to spark a run soon -- and without Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic, who are out Wednesday.
The Pacers own a 2.5-game lead on Miami in the East, and they expect to take the rest of the season quite seriously with homecourt advantage through the playoffs on their minds.
10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
It's not the most appealing matchup, though it should be a fast-paced affair. However, the drama will be there in Dwight Howard's return to Los Angeles for the first time since he left the Lakers hanging in the offseason. Who's available for the injured-plagued Lakers will be an interesting sidenote, especially with forward Jordan Hill being heavily cited in trade rumor news heading into the evening game.
Houston enters the game on a seven-game winning streak that has it behind just Oklahoma City and San Antonio in the Western Conference standings. Will it have cooled off having last played a week ago?