2014 NBA schedule: Bulls take on Pacers in top-tier Eastern Conference battle

Six playoff teams will duke it out for playoff seeding on Friday as the regular season winds down.

Friday night's games include three matchups between playoff-hopeful squads that are chomping at the bit to improve their standing before the end of April. Check out which of these games are crème brûlée and which are day-old cookies from the school cafeteria.

Appetizer: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Toronto Raptors

7 p.m. ET (League Pass)

Toronto could really use a win against a top-tier team such as Oklahoma City as it finishes out the rest of its schedule against some of the weaker teams in the Eastern Conference. The Raptors still have games against the Rockets, Pacers and Heat to look forward to, but running headfirst into the playoffs without a meaningful win in weeks will shake the confidence of the team and its fans moving into the first round. Toronto beat the Thunder in Oklahoma in their first and only matchup this season.

Oklahoma City is trying to recover after letting the Cleveland Cavaliers claw their way back into Thursday night's game in the fourth quarter and barely eking out a win, 102-95. The Thunder are starting to get their feet under them after injecting Russell Westbrook back into the lineup. With their rotations more comfortable, it is likely the Thunder will need all they can get as their final two weeks of the regular season are incredibly tough on paper. Defensively, look for Westbrook to try to stop Kyle Lowry, who has been putting up 19.6 points and 8.8 assists per game over the last 10 games.

Main Course: Chicago Bulls vs. Indiana Pacers

7 p.m. ET (League Pass, WGN)

Chicago continues to be the surprise of the Eastern Conference, first as hangers-on and now as a legitimate power. The Bulls are led by Joakim Noah, who will be a hassle for Roy Hibbert and David West to contain as he directs traffic from the top of the key. Chicago has also seen D.J. Augustin surprise as the team's leading scorer in the month of March at 18 points per game. The former Bobcat is prone to streakiness, and if George Hill has his way with him on Friday, the Bulls could be in for a long night.

Pig in a wagon, your argument in invalid.

For the Pacers, finding some kind of consistency as they close out the season now seems necessary. They haven't been themselves since the All-Star break, and a recent loss to the Knicks, 92-86, stands as the beacon for all the Pacers have lost. With its swagger gone and its grip on first place waning, Indiana needs to get some confidence back before the end of the season. Finally, the Pacers have something to actually be angry about as they sit atop the Eastern Conference.

Dessert: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Miami Heat

7:30 p.m. ET (League Pass)

The Grizzlies have quietly snuck their way into the Western Conference playoff race and stand at a healthy 40-27 on the season. They appear to be their old selves at just the right time, locking down on defense, dominating the boards and lacking entirely from the three-point line. What they try to do on offense is move the ball, and they do it well. Miami runs heavy pressure on the pick-and-roll, and if the Heat can force some turnovers and get out on the break, Memphis might be in trouble.

Miami is trying to track down Indiana from behind for first place in the East, and a win against Memphis at home would be a nice boost as the team gets ready for the postseason. The Heat recently lost home games to Brooklyn and Denver, and lost on Wednesday in Boston, 101-96. The two-time defending NBA champions haven't looked like the dominant team we've normally seen come March and April in seasons past, and a win against the charging Grizzlies should give us some indication if the sleeping giant is ever going to wake.

Other games

All times Eastern

Knicks vs. 76ers, 7 p.m.

Pelicans vs. Hawks, 7:30 p.m.

Celtics vs. Nets, 7:30 p.m.

Nuggets vs. Mavericks, 8:30 p.m.

Pistons vs. Suns, 10 p.m.

Spurs vs. Kings, 10 p.m.

Wizards vs. Lakers, 10:30 p.m.

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