NBA schedule 2014: Heat and Spurs eye Finals rematch, Clips battle Lakers for LA

Kevin C. Cox

Quality over quantity is a cliche to be sure, but it applies to Thursday night as there are three captivating games on the slate.

Three games make up the NBA schedule on Thursday night, and all have some sort of playoff implication. Albeit some more than others. Let's take a look at the action.

Main course: Heat vs. Spurs

8 p.m. ET, TNT

NBA Finals rematches never get old. The Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs are situated to do battle for the second time since the Spurs fell in seven games to the reigning champs last season. LeBron James struggled to score 22 points in a loss to the Houston Rockets soon after a career-high 61 points against the Charlotte Bobcats, but he should be fully engaged for the difficult test in the Lone Star State.

Danny Green, Tiago Splitter and Kawhi Leonard are finally healthy and should again be back in the starting lineup for San Antonio, which will give Gregg Popovich's team the firepower it'll need in order to compete with a strong Miami team and test their own mettle during the season's stretch run.

Appetizer: Thunder vs. Suns

9 p.m. ET

Phoenix, while clinging to its playoff positioning, is in the midst of a crucial and difficult stretch of four games that includes the Thursday matchup with the Thunder and a visit to the Warriors sandwiched between two games against the Clippers. It's off to a rough start after the Suns gave up 37 points to Los Angeles in a backbreaking third quarter on Tuesday.

Kevin Durant and the Thunder could be pleased to face a team dealing with defensive lapses. Oklahoma City has won three games in a row by an average of 18.7 points, and that's come despite Scott Brooks' team losing starting shooting guard Thabo Sefolosha to a calf strain. Neither their defense nor their offense has dropped off.

Dessert: Clippers vs. Lakers

10:30 p.m. ET, TNT

Even if the Los Angeles Lakers see a matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers as an opportunity to remain the big brother of the city despite the realities of where the two teams are going this year, it'll be tough to pull out a victory. Mike D'Antoni's Lakers will need to find ways to make up for their depleted frontcourt, one that on paper has no shot at keeping up with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.

The Clippers, who have won five straight including wins over Western Conference playoff teams in Houston, Oklahoma City and Phoenix. They are getting into a groove with strong early offense and timely defensive stops. And that's with injuries sucking the production from their bench.

Michael Jones and Kevin Zimmerman contributed to this article.

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