The New York Knicks will play host to the Indiana Pacers before the Los Angeles Lakers entertain the San Antonio Spurs on a busy Wednesday night full of NBA action. The league's best players will be at their best as there's plenty on the line at this late juncture in the season.
Main Course: Pacers vs. Knicks, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Coaching legend Phil Jackson will make his debut as the head of New York's front office and get a first-hand look at what his new team is up against this season while facing one of the league's elite. The Pacers are gunning for the defending Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat and will have to go through Madison Square Garden on national television in order to build key momentum down the stretch.
Both teams are 6-4 in their last 10 games and are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to their short-term aspirations. The Knicks would do well to make the postseason after a dismal start, while the Pacers expect to come out on top behind a squad assembled to win beyond the regular season.
With each squad in the bottom five of the league in terms of pace, the game figures to play like an even boxing match with each opponent trading jabs until the later rounds. In this case, stars Carmelo Anthony and Paul George will be poised to carry their teams late in what could be an exciting finish.
This game will tip off in primetime at 8 p.m. ET, but there is plenty more to whet fans' appetites before and after the marquee event.
Appetizer: Charlotte Bobcats vs. Brooklyn Nets, 7:30 p.m. ET
Brooklyn turned its season around at the start of the new year and finds itself in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff hunt, while Charlotte lurks close behind while vying for one of the final spots.
That means this contest has the makings of a de facto playoff game, and the atmosphere at Barclay's Center should reflect the high stakes. The Nets are dealing with high expectations gone unfulfilled while the Bobcats are working to take a major step forward as a franchise.
One key aspect of the game will be to find out what the Nets will throw at big man Al Jefferson in order to slow him down. He and guard Kemba Walker have formed a strong one-two punch. Will Paul Pierce and the collection of savvy veterans on the other sideline be able to keep pace?
Dessert: Spurs vs. Lakers, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Lakers can't shake the injury bug, and their constant struggle to keep the best players on the floor for extended stretches has been the calling card of the dismal season. When the Spurs come to town, things figure to get worse for the once-dominant franchise that now finds itself firmly entrenched in the NBA's cellar.
The Spurs are a longtime rival and going places this postseason as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. Though there's a clear talent disparity this year, expect the Lakers to show some resilience and bring their best effort on national television in order to avoid total embarrassment on their home floor.
The night owls may want to tune in for this one as it could either be an "A" or an "F" in terms of competitiveness. Either way, it should be an intriguing end to the evening.
The rest of the games on the slate are as follows (all times Eastern):
Heat vs. Boston Celtics, 7:30 p.m.
Orlando Magic vs. Phoenix Suns, 10 p.m.