2014 NBA schedule: Grizzlies bite back against struggling Thunder

Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE

Memphis looks to claw its way back into the Western Conference playoff picture.

The slate of games on Friday night holds a few delectable Western Conference matchups that could prove important come playoff time. We tell you which to savor and which to put in the disposal.

Appetizer: Charlotte Bobcats vs. San Antonio Spurs

8:30 p.m ET (League Pass)

The Spurs have trusted their bench players this season and it's afforded them the second-best record in the Western Conference. Despite losing Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard over the course of the season to rest and injury at various times, players like Patty Mills, Jeff Ayres and Cory Joseph have stepped up in their time of need.

For the Bobcats, they will have to try to stop an explosive Spurs team with their hefty defense. Charlotte is allowing teams just 96.8 points per game this season and a 48.9 percent effective field goal percentage. The Bobcats are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference and have won every game since the All-Star break. With new additions Luke Ridnour and former Spurs guard Gary Neal, expect this game to be a pleasant surprise.

Main Course: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

8 p.m. ET (League Pass)

Memphis has been quietly creeping up on the Dallas Mavericks since getting Marc Gasol back from a knee injury earlier in the season. The Grizzlies have gone 7-4 in the month of February and have started to power back into the playoff picture in the West. Courtney Lee has been playing well lately, boosting his scoring, assists and rebounding averages over the last 10 games.

For the Thunder, they are still adjusting to Russell Westbrook coming back to their lineup. That hasn't stopped them from racking up wins on their way to a conference-best record of 43-15. They've lost three straight games and need to get a win against the Grizzlies to get their swagger back. Kevin Durant certainly hasn't lost his, but their defensive effort as a team has been lacking as they've allowed an average of 114 points over their last three games.

Dessert: Chicago Bulls vs. Dallas Mavericks

8:30 p.m. ET (League Pass)

Chicago's season looked over after Derrick Rose went out early in the season with a knee injury, but the Bulls have surged lately behind a solid effort from Joakim Noah. Chicago is 7-1 in its last eight games and the Bulls are firmly in fourth place in the Eastern Conference. Noah has been a breakout star, posting per-game averages of 14.4 points, 12.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists over the last 10 games.

He will be hard to handle for the Mavericks, a team that's struggled defensively throughout the season. Having to deal with Noah's defense on one end and his offensive prowess on the other should be a fun battle as the Mavericks' guards try to get things going offensively. Dallas has had a great February, going 9-2 on the month and looking to stave off the Grizzlies.

Other Games

All times Eastern

Jazz vs. Cavaliers, 7:30 p.m

Warriors vs. Knicks, 8 p.m

Kings vs. Lakers, 10:30 p.m

Pelicans vs. Suns, 10:30 p.m.

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