The NBA is back in business after a night spent in deference to a terrific NCAA final on Monday night. There are 10 games to take in, all featuring various combinations of busted stars, tanking teams, playoff hopefuls and honest-to-goodness great matchups.
Because this is the internet, we’ve decided to rank each game in terms of watch-o-bility. Click the jump for our viewing guide.
Both outfits feature some of the least-imaginative offenses in the NBA, and despite Brooklyn’s status as a middling playoff team, both squads are among the tougher NBA teams to watch this season. It’s true that this particular 76ers/Nets contest is “topped” by an injury-plagued Bulls/Raptors game and a one-sided Cavaliers/Pacers affair … but nobody’s really going to sit down to watch this one, are they?
Chicago will be without Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Richard Hamilton, and Taj Gibson. Marco Belinelli and Carlos Boozer will be asked to run a workable offense against a Toronto Raptors team playing without anything that resembles a future NBA playoff team. And without naming names, if you do tune into this game we highly suggest finding a way to use the radio portion of the NBA’s online League Pass as your audio helper.
Kyrie Irving has made fewer than a quarter of his shots since returning from a painful shoulder injury three games ago, and he’s made fewer than a third of his shots in two games against the Pacers this season. The Pacers are smarting from borderline embarrassing blowout losses to the Thunder (somewhat understandable, even though it was on Indiana’s home floor) and the Wizards (no), and anger has a habit of getting in the way of really good-looking basketball.
LeBron James will likely be back in uniform for the Heat on Tuesday, potentially just playing the first part of a back to back, and Chris Bosh could be along for the ride (while Dwyane Wade sits out). Milwaukee could potentially be wearing its very cool throwback red road uniforms, and the team (to these eyes) has made its offensive sets a little more unpredictable of late, even though he team has lost seven of 10. This game will be played in Miami, though, and it will feature Miami Heat public address announcer Michael Baiamonte. Therefore, it shan’t make our top five.
A shot-happy pairing of a quickly-paced Houston Rockets lineup and a defense-averse Phoenix Suns squad would seem to be a pleasant League Pass diversion, but the NBA and its fans have decided to vote it in as the game of the night, and we’re just not feeling that. Houston remains one of the league’s great watches, but the Suns aren’t one of those terrible lottery teams that inspire a click over to their channel. Something about Michael Beasley, and those earplugs.
There’s always the chance that Minnesota, fresh off the suddenly official news that Kevin Love will be out for the rest of the year, could pack it in and start to act like their terrible miss of a 2012-13 season has gotten to them. Then again, the team has been working without Love for 58 out of the team’s 76 games so far this year, so it’s not as if this news should register as a shock (though the injury, pertaining to his knee, is surprising). Meanwhile, the Golden State Warriors continue to impress with their in-season offensive development and goofball moving screens.
Though we respect the Knicks and their championship ambitions, when Dan Devine put together a “Streak Watch” column on the team over two weeks ago, it was with tongue planted firmly in cheek. The Knicks have gone on to double that initial six-game streak, though, downing a LeBron-less Heat team along the way and putting together an impressive road win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday. Washington is hardly the most entertaining team to watch in the NBA, with that 30th-ranked offense, but the team’s defense will provide a formidable challenge as the Knicks attempt to pull further ahead of the Indiana Pacers for the East’s second seed.
It would be unconscionable to suggest, back in October, that a game pitting the mighty Lakers and rebuilding New Orleans Hornets on April 9 would be in any way interesting to watch, much less important. And yet, here we are – with the Lakers potentially needing to win four of five games (in a season that has seen them run just three games over .500) just to hope to vault past the Utah Jazz for the last spot in the Western playoff bracket. Embarrassing stuff all around, and the Hornets (who tend to overplay on the interior, which could force the iffy Laker outside shooters to bomb away) could make things even more disastrous by pulling out the spoiler win.
Even without the playoff implications, this would probably be our pick of the night – one of the league’s top teams heading into perhaps the nastiest road arena to work out of, with just enough nasty history between DeMarre Carroll and Kevin Durant to make a view worth it. The playoff implications are significant, though, with the Jazz looking to tighten their grip on the last playoff seed in the West, and the Thunder not only looking to move within a half game of the top seed in their conference (with the injured San Antonio Spurs barely clinging on to the top rung), but also send a message to their potential first round partners in Utah along the way.
Watch it, chums.