As a way to help you set your NBA-watching calendar, this space will get you ready for the best games that aren’t on ABC, ESPN, TNT or NBATV each week. We’ll provide a little insight about why you should check out each matchup and a few nuggets about the teams involved.
Timberwolves at Raptors
This one would have been Jazz at Mavericks, but Utah is on the second night of a back-to-back and Luka Doncic is out for Dallas. Instead, check out the new-look Wolves at the streaking Raptors. Toronto has won 14 games in a row, despite being without key rotation players each game. Marc Gasol, Kyle Lowry and Norman Powell are all dealing with injuries for the Raps, but it doesn’t seem to matter. Pascal Siakam will start his first All-Star game this weekend, while Fred VanVleet has stepped up as a starter. OG Anunoby is showing promise and Serge Ibaka continues to dial back the clock when necessary. All of the absences have forced Nick Nurse to go deep into his bench, and he’s got rookie Terence Davis giving the team great minutes as a reserve or spot-starter. Toronto’s depth issues are no longer a thing.
Minnesota completely rebuilt their team around Karl-Anthony Towns in a series of deals at the trade deadline. Towns and second-year guard Josh Okogie are the only two players who remain on the Timberwolves roster from a year ago. D’Angelo Russell, who the Wolves acquired at the deadline, is questionable to play in this one. If he can go, we’ll get our first look at him and Towns together. This is the duo Gersson Rosas is building around going forward, so Minnesota will want to get a long look at them together the rest of this season. Also, keep an eye on Malik Beasley who had a big game in first game with the Timberwolves after being picked up in a separate deadline deal with the Denver Nuggets.
Spurs at Thunder
Oklahoma City continues to surprise, as they’ve pushed all the way up to sixth in the Western Conference. Chris Paul is again an All-Star, and it might be only a year more before Shai Gilgeous-Alexander breaks through to join him. OKC had a chance to deal Danilo Gallinari to the Miami Heat at the trade deadline, but hung on to the scoring forward while in their pursuit of a playoff spot. In addition, the Thunder are finally getting healthy, as a few key role players have returned from injuries in recent weeks. When all is said done, look for the Thunder to unexpectedly crash the West playoff party.
The Spurs are trying to join the Thunder, but have their work cut out for them. San Antonio starts the week 4.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs. The Spurs will hit the All-Star break without a player in the All-Star Game for the first time since 1997. Not coincidentally, that was the last time San Antonio missed the playoffs. No All-Stars is probably ok with Gregg Popovich, as he can let his veteran-laden roster get some rest for the big playoff push they’ll need to make in the second half of the year if they’re to extend their postseason streak to 23 years.
Heat at Jazz
Miami will go to Utah with trade deadline additions Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder filling rotation roles. Those two should help bolster the Heat bench behind what has been a pretty good starting five. For Miami to be a winner come playoff time, they’re going to have to figure out how to reverse a bad road record. The Heat are dominant in Miami at 22-3, but a paltry 12-15 away from home. With veterans up and down the roster now, that’s something the Heat should be able to figure out.
The Jazz are in the mix for homecourt advantage in the Western Conference and are coming off a huge win on Sunday in Houston on a buzzer-beater from Bojan Bogdanovic. Utah seems to be slotted in behind the Lakers, Clippers and Nuggets and just ahead of the Rockets, Thunder and Mavericks in the West hierarchy. As always, homecourt advantage would be huge for the Jazz, as they’re 19-5 at home, while being just over .500 on the road at 15-13.
Thunder at Pelicans
Only two games on Thursday, as everyone else will have headed off for the All-Star break. TNT has Clippers at Celtics, so League Pass gets Zion Williamson and the Pelicans. Not a bad runner-up there at all! New Orleans is hopeful that they can force their way back in the playoff race now that their roster is mostly healthy. The challenge is that the Pels will have to make up five games, while also passing the Grizzlies, Trail Blazers and Spurs. That’s a tall ask. New Orleans has all sorts of talent, but it hasn’t been together much this season. Figuring out just how youngsters Williamson, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart fit alongside veterans Jrue Holiday, JJ Redick and Derrick Favors is the focus, while also trying to win games, for the rest of the season.
Friday 2/4 – Sunday 2/16
NBA All-Star Break
No games through the weekend, as the NBA world converges in Chicago for the 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend. Friday night features the Rising Stars Games. Saturday will have NBA All-Star Saturday Night with the Dunk Contest, Three-Point Shootout and Skills Challenge. And Sunday night’s showcase is the All-Star Game itself.