As usual, it's a light Thursday night on the NBA schedule, featuring four teams that aren't exactly blowing the doors off the competition. The Spurs are beat up and will be missing players, the Nets are still four games below .500, the Bulls just grind you down and the Warriors are unexpectedly trudging along so far this season. But NBA basketball has a way of offering great entertainment in places you least expect it, so take you pick of games or have both, our menu is open.
The main course: Bulls vs. Warriors
10:30 p.m. ET, TNT
Neither the Chicago Bulls nor the Golden State Warriors have found much consistency of late, but each have the motivation to scratch and claw to find it. They enter a Thursday night contest in sixth place in their respective conferences and harboring expectations that's not where they're supposed to be.
Golden State is 5-7 in its last 12 and coming off a 91-75 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats. It was their second-worst offensive output of the season, and the Warriors shouldn't expect to find an easier time against the Bulls, who have the defensive acumen to bother an offense that in its last outing got little out of anyone other than guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Meanwhile, the Bulls were blown out at Sacramento two games ago, before responding with a gutty road win against Phoenix. They held the high-scoring Suns to just 92 points by contesting threes while also clogging the passing lanes and the paint -- a fine formula to drop Golden State
The Bulls and Warriors respectively enter the game as the second- and third-best teams in terms of defensive ratings, but they stand on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of pace. Chicago plays at 90.6 possessions per 48 minutes, while Golden State will try to get in the open floor and has done so at a pace of 96.7 possessions per 48 minutes.
The appetizer: Spurs vs. Nets
8 p.m., TNT
It might be a good thing David Stern is no longer in office for this nationally televised matchup. The San Antonio Spurs are coming off a double-overtime win in Washington on Wednesday, when Tony Parker exited with tightness in his lower back and Tim Duncan played 41 minutes. Both have already been ruled out of this game. And all this comes on top of the fact Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili are still sidelined due to various injuries. The Spurs will be without their top four players, so perhaps it's good to get this one out of the way first.
Meanwhile, the Nets have been resting since Monday, when they stopped a three-game losing skid with a 108-102 victory over the 76ers. After a hot start to 2014, Brooklyn hasn't exactly surged over the last four games, though matchups with the Raptors, Thunder and Pacers weren't easy, and two of those games were decided by just one point (they lost to OKC by 25 points). Still, the seventh-seed Nets hold a firm three-game lead in the loss column over the eighth-seed Bobcats, and they'll be looking to take advantage of a thinned-out Spurs lineup.
The Nets might be looking to avenge a 113-92 loss in San Antonio on New Year's Eve, but remember, the Half-Spurs always seem to make things interesting. This one might be more entertaining than it looks on paper.