Friday's are always busy in the NBA, and tonight is not exception. There are 11 games on the slate, meaning that 22 of the 30 NBA teams are in action. The Clippers are not among them, but there are plenty of games out there that will affect the Clippers. The national TV games tonight are both on ESPN, Chicago at New York at 5 PM and the Thunder at the Lakers at 7:30.
- Charlotte at Toronto, 4:00 PM
- Houston at Boston, 4:30 PM
- Phoenix at Brooklyn, 4:30 PM
- Utah at Atlanta, 4:30 PM
- Chicago at New York, 5:00 PM, ESPN
- San Antonio at Memphis, 5:00 PM
- Minnesota at New Orleans, 5:00 PM
- Detroit at Milwaukee, 5:30 PM
- Cleveland at Denver, 6:00 PM
- Oklahoma City at LA Lakers, 7:30 PM, ESPN, Time Warner Cable Sports
- Portland at Golden State, 7:30 PM
Let's start with the ESPN games. Root for whichever team you want to in the Chicago-New York game. The Knicks have lost 7 of their last 12 and probably aren't the second best team in the East. The Bulls are hanging tough at 19-14 and could be scary when the get Derrick Rose back. But I don't see either team challenging the Clippers for overall record in the end, so there's really no direct Clippers interest in this game.
As for the Thunder and the Lakers, we once again find ourselves rooting for the Lakers, though it's probably a lost cause. In San Antonio Wednesday night, playing on the second game of a road back-to-back while severely shorthanded, the Lakers cut the Spurs lead to three late in the game but came up short. So maybe, just maybe, they can find a way against OKC tonight, despite playing without Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill. If the Thunder win, they will tie the Clippers for best overall record in the NBA.
There are two other huge games from the Clippers perspective. The Grizzlies and the Spurs square off in a meeting of Southwest Division powers. The game is in Memphis, so the Grizz have a real chance to win and put some more distance between the Clippes and the Spurs. Then again, with the Clippers taking their own trip to Memphis on Monday, maybe we don't want the Grizz building a bunch of momentum. Bottom line, one of these teams is going to win and one is going to lose. It's marginally preferable for Memphis to win, but both teams are scary adversaries.
The other late game is Portland visiting Oakland to play the Warriors. The Clippers would love to see Portland pull out a win against the team chasing them in the Pacific Division, but after a hard fought win over the Heat last night in which four of their starters played 40 minutes or more, it seems highly unlikely.
I have a quick aside on inter-conference games as well. There are four east-west matchups tonight (HOU-BOS, PHO-BRK, UTA-ATL and CLE-DEN). As Clipper fans you might be inclined to always root for the East in these games to hand a loss to a more immediate conference rival. But bear in mind also that the West has won over 60% of these games this season, and being from the stronger conference has certain advantages in things like strength of schedule and power rankings. In the end, those things don't really matter -- there is no concrete playoff seeding advantage based on strength of schedule -- but being the best team from the best conference definitely pulls some weight analysts. So if you care about that, then you probably want to West to win. Truth is, all four of these will probably be won by the home team, which would be three to one for the East tonight.