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Sunday March 16 in the NBA

There are several key games in the Western Conference race tonight, notably Golden State at Portland and Dallas at Oklahoma City.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Clippers play the Cavs at 6:30 tonight, but by the time that game tips off, seven other NBA games should be in the books, and a crucial eighth game will have begun.

Charlotte at Milwaukee 10:00 AM

Phoenix at Toronto 10:00 AM

Houston at Miami 12:30 PM ABC

Boston at New Orleans 3:00 PM

Sacramento at Minnesota 4:00 PM

Dallas at Oklahoma City 4:00 PM

Utah at San Antonio 4:00 PM

Golden State at Portland 6:00 PM

Cleveland at LA Clippers 6:30 PM NBATV

Phoenix is in Toronto in one of the early early games, and the Suns are fighting for their playoff lives at this point, a game and a half out of the playoffs in the West as of this morning. But they could make up a game on Dallas today, as the Mavs have to face the Thunder in Oklahoma City. The Mavericks could certainly do the Clippers a big favor by winning.

The 12:30 ABC game is a big one: Houston traveling to Miami. The Rockets beat the Heat in Houston last week, and Miami is no doubt still thinking about that. But the Heat have been struggling to say the least, losers of five of their last six. The Clippers are two games ahead of Houston (only one in the loss column) and they own the tie breaker with the Rockets. As it happens, the Clippers are also a few percentage points ahead of the Heat in the standings. The West standings are the more immediate concern of course, but the Clippers are playing well enough that home court advantage against a potential Finals opponent is also a consideration.

The next to last game of the evening, tipping off just a half hour before the Clippers, has the Warriors traveling to Portland. Golden State is currently two and a half games back of the Blazers in the battle for the five seed. There's a long way to go of course, but the Clippers are most likely to finish the season as the third seed, so their first round opponent will like be the sixth seed. If you'd prefer to play Portland than to play Golden State, then root for the Warriors in this one.

The Spurs, owners of a nine game winning streak and the only team in the NBA just as hot as the Clippers, are hosting the Jazz tonight, so they're streak is as good as at 10 games already.