2014 NBA schedule: Pacers take on Rockets in battle of East vs. West

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Indiana's matchup with the Rockets will test its league-best defense on Friday night.

The NBA's Friday night features three kinds of porridge to choose from, starting with a defense vs. defense matchup in Chicago that's just too cold for some. Then, an offense vs. offense matchup in Texas could prove too hot if all goes as planned. Finally, the best defense in the NBA squares off against a prolific offense in a marquee matchup that feels just right. Heck, there are even some (Grizzly) bears involved.

Appetizer: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Chicago Bulls

7 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Once quite promising, the Grizzlies have sputtered a bit after gaining Marc Gasol back from injury earlier in the season. Memphis has trailed Dallas for the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff race all year and hasn't really made a big postseason push yet. The Grizz offense has shown the propensity to stumble often this year, relying on bench scoring rather than distributing the scoring load evenly.

That will be a problem against the resurgent Bulls, who are being kept afloat by center Joakim Noah. Chicago is 10-2 in its last 12 games and the offense is clicking alongside its defense. Chicago is as tough on the defensive side of the floor as it's ever been, and with Noah passing and scoring out of the high post, the Grizzlies will need to be on their best game to beat the Bulls at home.

Main Course: Indiana Pacers vs. Houston Rockets

9:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Indiana has lost two games in a row to the Bobcats and the Warriors, and needs to find its offense again on Friday night. The Rockets might just be the team to do it against, as they are allowing a middling 101.7 points per game to opponents. For the Pacers, the matchup between Roy Hibbert and Dwight Howard will be front and center. Hibbert has struggled over the last 10 games, producing less than his season per-game averages in points, rebounds, blocks and field goal percentage.

The Rockets, meanwhile, have caught fire and have lost just two games since Jan. 28. James Harden has been particularly impressive offensively, averaging 27.8 points and 7.4 assists per game over the last 10 contests. Other than its two losses, Houston hasn't scored fewer than 100 points in a game for more than a month.

Dessert: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Dallas Mavericks

8:30 p.m. ET (League Pass)

Portland is slowly getting its footing back after the All-Star Game, having lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the team's first game back and to the Los Angeles Lakers by one point on Monday. The Trail Blazers' hot offense isn't making highlight reels on the late edition of SportsCenter, but the contribution from Will Barton and Damian Lillard's increased ability to finish at the rim have helped them stay atop of opposing defenses.

For the Mavericks, they will need to try to clinch this game against Portland if they want to try to hold off the Grizzlies from below and try to crawl away from the Phoenix Suns. Dirk Nowitzki still has the ability to amaze fans in Big D and the combination of Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon and Shawn Marion makes the Mavericks one of the more fun teams to watch in the NBA. Both teams are offense-first clubs, so expect big scoring on Friday night in Texas.

Other games

All times Eastern.

Cavaliers vs. Bobcats, 7 p.m.

Kings vs. Raptors, 7 p.m.

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

Jazz vs. Knicks, 7:30 p.m.

Pistons vs. Timberwolves, 8 p.m.

Bucks vs. Pelicans, 8 p.m.

Lakers vs. Nuggets, 9 p.m.

Hawks vs. Warriors, 10:30 p.m.

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