2014 NBA schedule: Grizzlies battle Raptors, Nuggets visit Heat

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Two of the most exciting rising teams from the East and West will square off at the Air Canada Centre on Friday.

Friday is a veritable feast in the NBA, with 10 games taking place between several potential playoff teams. Watch as they try to bolster their record as we move toward the final month of the regular season.

Appetizer: Denver Nuggets vs. Miami Heat

7:30 p.m ET (League Pass)

Denver has struggled mightily this season despite several flashes of competency. The Nuggets are just 26-46 under first-year coach Brian Shaw. Despite their proficiency scoring and rebounding the basketball, the Nuggets are living in the basement of the Western Conference due to their low field goal percentage and lack of defense. Unfortunately for Shaw, his team is fourth in the NBA in offensive rebounding partly due to the fact they are ranked just 19th at putting the ball through the net.

That's bad news against a team like the Miami Heat, whose mobility can shut down the transition offense and keep the Nuggets off the glass. That's to say nothing of the fact LeBron James is averaging 28.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 6.1 assists per-game since the All-Star break. Miami needs to get back on track after losing four of their last five games against top-shelf opponents. Beating the Nuggets should be a lock at American Airlines Arena.

Main Course: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Toronto Raptors

7 p.m. ET (League Pass)

Memphis looks like a team on a mission after the All-Star Game, posting a record of 10-2 as they've clawed their way back into the Western Conference playoff picture. With everyone now healthy, the Grizzlies are making the case they are the same team they've always been despite falling off at season's beginning. They've balanced the scoring load on offense and Zach Randolph is averaging a double-double since Feb. 19.

Toronto, meanwhile, have been one of the pleasant surprises out East. The Raptors are 8-3 in their last 11 games and are taking care of business in-conference. Their schedule is much the same to finish out the season, and they will likely win upward of 45 games. DeMar DeRozan remains a solid NBA starter and scorer, while Kyle Lowry is averaging 18 points, 8.3 assists and 5.5 rebounds per-game since All-Star weekend. This one should be hotly contested.

Portland Trail Blazers vs. New Orleans Pelicans

8 p.m. ET (League Pass)

The Trail Blazers are in the middle of a four-game skid and trying to finish strong on the final game of their five-game roadtrip. Portland has been a bit off lately, failing to rebound effectively and shooting the ball beyond the arc at just 31 percent in the month of March. The Blazers will be without Mo Williams (hip) LaMarcus Aldridge (back) and Joel Freeland (knee) as they try to right themselves in the Big Easy.

New Orleans has played like a marionette with tangled strings since the start of 2014. They recently stopped an eight-game losing streak on Mar. 4 and will try to take advantage of a stumbling Blazers squad. Portland's lackadaisical defense might help the Pelicans, who have trouble passing the ball to take advantage of opponents. How -- or if -- New Orleans can utilize Anthony Davis in the absence of Aldridge could be the story to this game.

Other games

All times Eastern

Timberwolves vs. Bobcats, 7 p.m. (League Pass)

Wizards vs. Magic, 7 p.m. (League Pass)

Pacers vs. 76ers, 7 p.m. (League Pass)

Suns vs. Celtics, 7:30 p.m. (League Pass)

Lakers vs. Spurs, 8:30 p.m. (NBATV)

Clippers vs. Jazz, 9 p.m. (League Pass)

Cavaliers vs. Warriors, 10:30 p.m. (League Pass)

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