NBA schedule 2014: Russell Westbrook returns as Thunder host Heat

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

After a third surgery in eight months, Westbrook returns to the floor for the first time since Christmas when the Thunder host the Heat on Thursday night.

The NBA trade deadline has come and gone, with the Indiana Pacers making a bold move at the buzzer by trading Danny Granger and a 2015 second-round pick for Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen. Now that the deadline has passed, we can focus on real basketball again, and there are two dynamite games (and a cruddy third one) on this Thursday night.

Main course: Miami Heat at Oklahoma City Thunder

8 p.m. ET, TNT

In the immediate aftermath of Russell Westbrook's latest knee surgery, it looked like the Thunder could be in a bit of trouble, going 5-5 in their next 10 games. But then Kevin Durant went scorched earth on the rest of the NBA, and now Westbrook returns to a Thunder team that sits on top of the league.

Considering how Durant took his game to the next level with Westbrook sidelined, there are sure to be those who question whether or not the eccentric point guard will actually help Oklahoma City. But while there may be some struggles at first, it's hard to imagine the Thunder not taking their play to new heights once Westbrook returns to full strength.

Westbrook, who will be on a minutes restriction, comes back to face a Heat team out for a bit of revenge. Oklahoma City destroyed Miami just a few weeks ago, with Durant outdueling LeBron James. Expect another epic duel between the two players, as James has raised his game over his last three outings.

Dessert: Houston Rockets at Golden State Warriors

10:30 p.m. ET, TNT

Heat-Thunder will be followed up by an excellent nightcap featuring the red-hot Rockets visiting the always rambunctious Oracle Arena. Both teams love to push the pace and jack threes, so plenty of scoring should be expected.

Houston has won eight games in a row, and they're coming off a 134-108 shellacking of the lowly Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday. James Harden had 29 points in the win, while Dwight Howard had 20 points and 13 rebounds against his former team. Harden has had a lot of success against the Warriors this season, averaging 30.0 points on 50.0 percent shooting in two December victories.

Golden State was also in action on Wednesday, nabbing a 101-92 victory over the Sacramento Kings. The Warriors are searching for their first set of back-to-back wins in February.

The other game: Denver Nuggets at Milwaukee Bucks

8 p.m. ET

Really, the only people who should be watching this game are Nuggets and Bucks fans. And even then, Heat-Thunder is probably a better choice.

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