2014 NBA schedule: Suns visit Raptors, Houston battles Miami

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday's slate of NBA games has four big marquee matchups between eight playoff-hopeful teams.

The NBA is in the broiler on Sunday, with eight potential playoff teams squaring off against one another as the season dwindles down. Several of the day's games could have an impact on seeding in the Western Conference. Here, we tell you which games are sure to sizzle.

Amouse-bouche: Phoenix Suns vs. Toronto Raptors

1 p.m. ET (League Pass)

Phoenix continues to try and right their playoff ship as Eric Bledose finds his sea legs. Bledsoe returned on Wednesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Suns desperately missed him, as they have gone just 4-6 in their last 10 games and have dropped to ninth place in the Western Conference playoff race.

In Toronto, it's team play and a strong sense of finally belonging that has allowed them to grind out wins against some of the league's best teams on their way to a record of 37-27, good enough for third place in the Eastern Conference. Kyle Lowry has been impressive in the month of March, averaging 17.8 points, 8.5 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game.

Appetizer: Dallas Mavericks vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

7 p.m. ET (League Pass)

The Mavericks have done a great job staying afloat at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff race thanks in large part to their ability to score points. Dallas has the fourth-best offense in the NBA and is fifth in assists per game. Look for Dallas to try and get Monta Ellis going early, as an efficient night for him usually spells success for the Mavs.

Oklahoma City is still trying to find their footing since Russell Westbrook returned to the lineup on Feb. 20. The Thunder have gone just 5-5 since the star point guard re-entered the lineup, but things are looking up. Westbrook is averaging 24.7 points on 50.5-percent shooting, including 8.7 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game over the last five games.

Main Course: Houston Rockets vs. Miami Heat

3:30 p.m. ET (ABC)

There's not been a hotter team since the All-Star break than the Rockets, who are dominating opponents and beating some of the best teams in the NBA. That being said, Houston is on a two-game slide after losing to the Thunder and Bulls and they will be looking to right themselves against Miami. James Harden has been a statistical freak since the All-Star break, averaging 27.4 points, seven assists and 4.9 rebounds per game. Dwight Howard has dominated in his own right, putting up 17.5 points, 11.7 rebounds and 1.75 blocks per game over that time period.

The Heat have struggled mightily as of late, and they lost their last contest against the Rockets back on Mar. 4. Miami's trapping defense on pick-and-rolls hasn't served them well, with teams gameplanning to avoid them on the rotation and grab easy buckets as they swing the ball. It's been no picnic on offense in South Beach either, with the Heat averaging 17 turnovers per game in their last five losses.

Dessert: Golden State Warriors vs. Portland Trail Blazers

9 p.m. ET (League Pass)

Golden State has been climbing up the Western Conference table during the last two months, but a confusing and disappointing loss at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday has them looking inward as they travel to Portland to take on the Blazers. The Warriors blew a 16-point lead they had built up in the first quarter, allowing Spencer Hawes to dominate them as their offense stalled down the stretch.

The Blazers will need to be on their toes as they will be playing without LaMarcus Aldridge (back) and Mo Williams (hip) for the second straight game. Portland started small forward Dorell Wright in place of Aldridge in a win against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday with surprisingly good results. The Trail Blazers will have to make sure they keep the ball moving on offense if they want to beat the Warriors' third-rated defense.

Other games

All times Eastern

Bobcats vs. Bucks, 1 p.m.

Celtics vs. Pelicans, 6 p.m.

Kings vs. Timberwolves, 7 p.m.

Jazz vs. Spurs, 7 p.m.

Cavs vs. Clippers, 9:30 p.m.

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