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Viewing guide: Trail Blazers-Thunder is a must-watch Wednesday

The Western Conference has two games that are must-watch Wednesday night.

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It wasn't long ago that the Portland Trail Blazers were a team that was up-and-coming. By not long ago I surely mean last season after rookie Damian Lillard swooped in and picked up Rookie of the Year honors. Portland has the best record in the West and their battle with the Oklahoma City Thunder is the highlight of the night.

Here's a look at what to expect Wednesday night:


Los Angeles Clippers vs. Atlanta Hawks

7:30 p.m. ET, PRIME, FSS

The Clippers and Hawks aren't the first game of the night, but there are some pretty darn good late games tonight so give yourself an extra 30 minutes of non-NBA action and kick off the night with this game if you're itching for some action.

The Clippers' last outing was a 105-100 loss to the Indiana Pacers in their first game without J.J. Redick. The offense didn't struggle as much as anticipated against the best defense in the NBA, so perhaps there's hope they can keep do alright for the next month or so without the sharpshooter. The Hawks are 9-10 under rookie head coach Brett Brown and are one of the better Eastern Conference teams.

Korver, anyone? It feels like Kyle Korver has been out for an eternity with bruised ribs. The Hawk's three-point specialist is on the cusp on tying an NBA record and provides an important dimension to their offense. The Clippers defense is still a work in progress and Korver could be big in exposing their deficiencies. Especially without Redick to chase Korver around on defense.

Reading Material: Clippers and their big road tripThe latest on Kyle Korver's injury

Phoenix Suns vs. Houston Rockets

8 p.m. ET, FSAZ, CSH

This is a gut feeling, but this game should be pretty entertaining. Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic are an interesting backcourt pairing if nothing else for what could be their one and only season together. Houston currently has the most efficient offense in the NBA at 111.6 points per 100 possessions on average but their defense is 17th in the NBA and only .7 per 100 more effective than last season, according to Basketball-Reference.

Bounce back Bledsoe? Bledsoe went 4-for-13 last night in the Suns loss to the Grizzlies. The Rockets' backcourt makes endless mistakes on defense, especially James Harden, so perhaps a bounce back is in order for the Suns and Bledsoe.

Reading Material: Suns going with a tight rotationReflecting on the Rockets' big win over San Antonio

Main Course

San Antonio Spurs vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

9:30 p.m. ET, NBATV, FSN, FSSW

The main course is being served late tonight but should be worth the wait. The game is being played in Mexico City, Mexico for starters, so there should be some interesting shenanigans during timeouts and halftime at the very least.

A nice battle between Tim Duncan and Kevin Love? Ricky Rubio and Tony Parker dishing delicious dimes? A nice spot-up shooting showdown between Danny Green and Kevin Martin? There's plenty to like about this match up, even if the Timberwolves are under .500 at 9-10. They'd be tied for fifth in the East, but out in the Wild West that's a trip to the lottery.

Will the Spurs' defense hold up? San Antonio is the second-best defensive team in the NBA right now and should be put to task by Minnesota. They play at the second-fastest pace in the NBA and rank in the top-10 in efficiency, per Basketball-Reference. This could turn into a fast-paced game that will be dictated by how the Spurs' defense responds.

Reading Material: The Spurs' experimenting with starting lineupsAn extremely expansive Euroleague review

Side Dishes

Dallas Mavericks vs. New Orleans Pelicans

8 p.m. ET, FSSW, FSNO

Options are always good, and watching the Mavericks and Pelicans is a solid way to spend the evening even if Anthony Davis is out of action. Ryan Anderson has been phenomenal for the Pelicans since returning and the Mavericks have a seemingly bipolar Monta Ellis on deck. Some games he's incredibly efficient. Some games he plays like he have it all. You never know what you'll get from Monta, but there's always Dirk Nowitzki to catch as well.

Reading Material: Reactions to the Mavs' comeback against the BobcatsLatest power rankings of the Pelicans

Indiana Pacers vs. Utah Jazz

9 p.m. ET FSIN, RTRM+

This could have wound up in the "pass it on" category, but Paul George is becoming must-watch this season. He's been named the Eastern Conference Player for the first time in his career and you can only suspect many more are to come. The Jazz aren't doing very good this season but they're riding a two-game winning streak that includes a dubya' over Houston.

Reading Material: Player tracking and Lance StephensonAnalyzing Trey Burke


Oklahoma City vs. Portland Trail Blazers

10 p.m. ET FSOK, KGW

This is the on-paper champion for game of the night, but on-paper doesn't always translate (see: '13-'12 Lakers, '13-'14 Nets). Still, this is a pretty safe bet. The Thunder will be on the second half of a back-to-back on the road and Portland is always a tough outing at the Moda Center (miss you, Rose Garden).

Portland put on the me-proclaimed game of the year against the Indiana Pacers and picked up a signature victory early in the season. They look like world beaters out there and have the best record in the West after flat missing the playoffs last season. Lillard has bulldozed through any and all sophomore season walls, LaMarcus Aldridge is playing like the best big man in the Western Conference and Wesley Matthews is having a career year while shooting 51 percent from beyond the arc.

Is this a preview of what's to come? Who knows how the conference will shake out once the smoke clears, but we're getting deeper into the season and Portland looks like a serious player in the West. The Thunder, Spurs and Warriors were somewhat expected locks to be in the conversation, but how will the Trail Blazers affect the marathon to the NBA Finals? This could be a glimpse into what's to come for the Blazers.

Reading Material: Reactions and more after the Blazers staple win over IndianaIs Ibaka less dependent on offense?

Pass it on

Denver Nuggets vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

7 p.m. ET, ALT, FSOH

Sorry, Nuggets and Cav's, but it's going to be a long night with two of the best games starting after 9 p.m. Eastern and that extra half an hour is the difference between making pasta and eating tortillas for dinner for some of us. Go get em, Kyrie and Ty.

Reading Material: Mozgov dominated the NetsShould Mike Brown start Anthony Bennett at small forward?

Detroit Pistons vs. Milwaukee Bucks

8 p.m. ET, FSD, FSWI

Detroit just snapped the Heat's 10-game winning streak and that's the Detroit I want to remember for now. I'll pass this game along, though Giannis Antetokounmpo doing something amazing will likely make me regret it.

Reading Material: Pistons hope to keep momentumWho makes the Bucks watchable?

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