The class of this Thursday schedule comes in a Western Conference meeting between the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers. Also in the four-game slate, the Philadelphia 76ers will aim to avoid being on the wrong side of history in a game against the Houston Rockets.
8:30 p.m. ET
The Dallas Mavericks exuded a bit of urgency on Tuesday, dropping the Oklahoma City Thunder in overtime to keep themselves in the three-team race for the final two Western Conference playoff spots. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Clippers needed more urgency in their last outing, a 98-96 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.
It's not that Los Angeles doesn't have anything to play for, either. Doc Rivers' team sits a game ahead of the fourth-place Houston Rockets in the standings and Houston is a heavy favorite Thursday against the Philadelphia 76ers. Dallas finds itself with the same record as the Phoenix Suns and tied for the final playoff slot, and Dirk Nowitzki is coming off a 32-point outing in a 128-119 win against the Thunder.
What could swing the game in either the Mavs' or Clips' favor? According to ESPN Dallas' Tim MacMahon, the Mavs will be awaiting word on the availability of center Samuel Dalembert, who woke up with a stiff back but has come on strong as a rebounding and shot-blocking presence this month.
The appetizer: Blazers vs. Hawks
7:30 p.m. ET
It couldn't have come soon enough. Losers of three straight, the Portland Trail Blazers will get a boost from the return of All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who said his back is feeling well enough for him to play on Thursday, reports CSN Northwest's Chris Haynes. And with the return of Aldridge comes the potential for Portland to get out of an offensive funk. They've failed to score more than 94 points during the three-game skid.
The Blazers' opponents, the Atlanta Hawks, haven't done any better lately. Mike Budenholzer's squad has lost four straight and is coming off a 107-83 loss to a Minnesota Timberwolves squad not exactly known for its defense.
The dessert: 76ers vs. Rockets
8 p.m. ET
It's called the dessert because you don't really need it. The Rockets and 76ers meet in what should be a fast-paced, run-and-gun affair, but there's a sound likelihood that Houston comes out with the victory. Philadelphia has lost 25 straight and with a loss on Thursday will tie a record for most consecutive losses in NBA history. Perhaps ending up on the bad side of history will motivate them to pull off the upset.
The remaining schedule
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Milwaukee Bucks, 8 p.m. ET