NBA schedule 2014: Spurs visit OKC for showdown with Thunder; Clippers host Mavs

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The top two teams in the Western Conference square off in Oklahoma City, and the Los Angeles Clippers face a Dallas Mavericks squad battling for its postseason livelihood.

TNT will return to its two-game Thursday schedule this week with two Western Conference battles that will dictate the playoff landscape.

The main course: Spurs vs. Thunder

8 p.m. ET, TNT

A significant streak is on the line for both the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder when the best of the West square off Thursday night in Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Thunder's Kevin Durant is just two games off a 40-game streak of consecutive 25-point or better performances, a record in the last 50 years set by Michael Jordan. Meanwhile, Gregg Popovich's Spurs haven't won in Oklahoma City in their last six tries, which makes the likelihood of their winning streak hitting 20 games a bit of a toss-up.

Will one streak fall? Both? Neither?

San Antonio is playing well, but it's not as if Oklahoma City isn't. The Thunder have won eight of their last 10 games and sit four games back of the Spurs. While San Antonio seems to have it pieced together, ready for a playoff run, Oklahoma City will see the remaining nine games as necessary to develop a cohesiveness with rookie center Steven Adams readying for his first playoff experience and forward Caron Butler starting to hit his stride.

How they and the Thunder's bench can back Durant and Russell Westbrook against the Spurs' deep rotation that blew out Golden State, 111-90, on Wednesday will be the thing to watch.

Saddle up for what should be a good one. Ridinfisher_medium

The dessert: Mavericks vs. Clippers

10:30 p.m., TNT

The Dallas Mavericks were idle on Wednesday but got a bit of help from their Thursday night opponent. The Los Angeles Clippers rallied on the road to beat the Suns, 112-108, keeping Phoenix tied with the Mavs in the Western Conference playoff race. The Memphis Grizzlies also fell at Minnesota, making for a three-way tie of 44-31 records for the final two Western Conference playoff spots.

Rick Carlisle's team has split its last six games and comes off a Tuesday loss to the Warriors, the result of a Stephen Curry game-winner in overtime. That play followed a blown goaltending call that went against the Mavs, who could use some luck to swing in their favor.

The Clippers have lost only two games dating back to Feb. 23 and return home after sweeping a four-game road swing that began with a 109-103 win at Dallas. That game included six combined technical fouls, and with the Clips coming off a gritty 17-point comeback victory at Phoenix despite Blake Griffin's achy back, it seems Los Angeles is hitting its playoff form in the first year under Doc Rivers.

And Rivers could have more firepower with the potential return of J.J. Redick to the starting lineup, reports ESPN Los Angeles' Arash Markazi.

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