NBA Today complements Keith Smith’s “NBA Yesterday” feature, “The Skip Pass.” While Keith’s feature will emphasize what we “saw,” this will focus on what to look for in the night’s upcoming games.
Memphis Grizzlies at Oklahoma City Thunder
8 p.m. ET, ESPN
When the Thunder visited the Grizzlies earlier this year, they got mauled, 114-80. They’re hoping to flip that script when they play host tonight:
One of the biggest stories this season is whether Thunder star Russell Westbrook can become the second player in history to average a triple-double. If his personal history is any indication, the game with the Grizzlies won’t help that endeavor. For his career, he averages 19.9 points, 7.0 assists and 5.1 rebounds against Memphis. That combined sum of 32.0 is the third-lowest of any team he’s faced at least 20 times. (The San Antonio Spurs are his toughest competitor at 31.0). In the previous contest this year, he had 21 points, five rebounds and failed to register an assist.
The Grizzlies are playing well right now, coming off wins against the Warriors and Jazz. For the Thunder to have a chance, Westbrook will have to go against his instincts and make sure he involves his teammates as much as possible. All Russ all the time isn’t going to work against Memphis, whose defense is enough to hamper him.
Washington Wizards at Boston Celtics
8 p.m. ET, League Pass
The Celtics blew a massive lead last night against the Raptors that would have tied them for second in the East, and now they try to regroup against the Wizards:
Speaking of comebacks, the Wizards pulled off one of their own, although it might not be that impressive since it came against the Bulls, who were playing without Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Nikola Mirotic. Still, a comeback can always be a nice emotional fortifier.
One of the more enjoyable aspects of this game is watching two of the game’s better point guards go head-to-head in John Wall and Isaiah Thomas. Both of these starters should be headed to the All-Star Game.
The Rest of the Slate
New York Knicks at Philadelphia 76ers
7 p.m. ET, League Pass
The bad news is that both of these teams are bad. In fact, while the Knicks have the better record, you can make the case that right now the Sixers are playing better basketball. Over the last 13 games they are 17th in net rating (-1.5) and have a 6-7 record, while the Knicks are 3-10 with a -5.9 net rating, “good” for 26th.
The good news is that Kristaps Porzingis and Joel Embiid, two of the most exciting young big men in the league, are playing:
Oh, and Derrick Rose will start after his weird incident earlier in the week.
Houston Rockets at Minnesota Timberwolves
8 p.m. ET, League Pass
The Rockets have become appointment viewing. They’re seeping their way into that “elite” conversation rather quickly. Since Patrick Beverley made his season debut on Nov. 17, the Rockets are 25-4, the best record in the NBA. James Harden is averaging 28.5 points, 11.8 assists and 8.4 rebounds. That’s not quite a triple-double, but it’s not that far off. Harden’s numbers and the Rockets’ winning have vaulted him to the leader in MVP considerations.
Watching him go against the future of the NBA in Minnesota’s young trio of Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns will be fun.
Orlando Magic at Los Angeles Clippers
10:30 p.m. ET, League Pass
The Clippers have righted the ship. (See what I did there?) After a horrendous six-game losing streak, they have won four straight. There isn’t much chance the 16-23 Magic end that streak at Staples Center.
Aaron Gordon has been finding his stroke, though, and is shooting 34.7 percent from deep over his last 18 games. Considering he was 28.9 percent for his career before this season, that’s a good sign.
Clippers fans who miss Blake Griffin might enjoy watching Gordon play, who has the same kind of otherworldly mix of athleticism and size their injured All-Star power forward has.
Cleveland Cavaliers at Portland Trail Blazers
10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
There’s going to be a whole lot of threes tonight. Cleveland is second and Portland is eighth in shots made from behind the arc. There’s a chance this game is closer than you might expect as well, with Cleveland playing on the second night of a back-to-back on the West Coast. On the other hand, Portland’s defense does not endear confidence, even with some recent improvements: