The NBA has returned, and so we have chosen the best game to watch as the season continues. You’ve been waiting for four months for this, so why waste more time reading intros?
All time in the East.
Jazz at Pelikan (18:30 ET, TNT)
What to note: The opening night’s undercard will be a showcase for Zion Williamson and Pelikan, the hopeful playoff. But with Williamson who had just returned to Orlando after going to deal with a family emergency, his availability for the first match was questioned. Regardless, New Orleans has played well and can take meaningful steps towards the playoffs with a win.
Clippers at Lakers (9pm, TNT)
What to note: The Lakers are banged on, the Clippers have player rotations in and out of the bubble, and this game can easily become useless, but this opens the night and you will watch it.
Grizzlies on Trail Blazers (4 pm, NBA TV)
What to note: Memphis and Portland began their schedule with a very important fight, when the Blazers sat 3.5 games behind the Grizzlies in eighth place with a chance to keep pace. The point guard duel between Damian Lillard and Ja Morant alone will make this an entertaining watch.
Celtics at Bucks (18:30, ESPN)
What to note: Milwaukee is the first and takes care of the game cushion 6.5, so how they decide to set their own pace until the playoffs will be worth watching. Boston still seems to iron the back of the rotation and has Kemba Walker on minute restrictions, so this game should be more of an audition for beginners like Grant Williams and Romeo Langford than a strong indicator of Celtics legitimacy.
Rockets at Mavericks (9 p.m., ESPN)
What to note: The top seven teams in the west are all key to the playoffs, but there are few that separate the Nuggets, Jazz, Thunder, Rockets and Mavericks, and the team will have some say in deciding who they ultimately face in the first round of the playoffs. With Dallas in the seventh game and 1.5 behind Houston (not to mention an interesting fight between Luka Doncic and James Harden), this should be entertaining.
Hot on Nuggets (1 pm, ESPN)
What to note: Much is made of the Nuggets lineup which is short-handed and super-sized, but Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, and various Denver perimeter players should be grateful to be available for a restart game. However, just in case they continue to experiment – or just in case Bol Bol gets a few real minutes – Nuggets must be a destination.
Pelikan at Clippers (6 pm, ESPN)
What to note: At present, this seems more likely to be the Zion Williamson bubble debut, in a meaningful high profile battle with the Clippers. Enough words.
76ers at Pacers (7 nights, League Pass)
What to note: After initially opting out of the restart, Victor Oladipo traveled with Pacers and was suitable for soccer practice. Whether he really will be on the floor when the real game starts remains to be seen.
Lakers at Raptors (8:30 pm, ESPN)
What to note: LeBron takes the defending champions, albeit with a relatively minimal bet. Could this be the Final preview?
Wizards vs. Nets, 2PM, League Pass
What to note: Although I wouldn’t really recommend watching the two teams’ dilute iterations for aesthetics, this game does have a playoff relevance. The Nets are the least permanent team in Orlando, and will likely go down to eighth seed. The question is whether they fell far enough for the Wizards to reach in four matches, which will force the play-in round. Entering the bubble 5.5 game from the playoffs, Washington basically has to win this game to do that.
Kings at Magic, 6 pm, NBATV
What to note: The Kings without Marvin Bagley III and a step behind Pelikan and Blazer as far as the playoff fight goes. If Sacramento is going to make things interesting, this is the kind of fight that is impossible to lose. If Orlando can find minutes, delayed health, for Markelle Fultz, Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba, this must be a good opportunity to assess their young talent.
Bucks on the Rockets (8:30 a.m., ABC)
What to note: Voting has been done, but MVP candidates Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden can kill their beef directly. This could be one of the more competitive non-conference games left on schedule.
Grizzlies in Pelikan (18:30, ESPN)
What to note: This game should have a playoff nuance as a potential preview of the Western Conference play-in round. And it may be as important for Memphis to maintain separation as victory as it is for New Orleans to get a place. Also, old friends and beginners Zion Williamson and Ja Morant faced each other.
Celtics at Heat (6:30 pm, TNT)
What to note: It’s a must-win if Miami will leapfrog Boston for seed No. 3
Rockets on Trail Blazers (21:00, TNT)
What to note: You can always register me for James Harden vs Damian Lillard.
Thunder at Lakers (6:30 p.m., ESPN)
What to note: This might not be a very important match day, but at least you can watch LeBron.
Hot on Bucks (4 pm, TNT)
What to note: Miami has consistently given Milwaukee problems this season, and the Bam Adebayo-Giannis fight must be worth your time.
Celtics at Raptors (9pm, TNT)
What to note: This is a potential conference semifinal fight. Boston is careful about Kemba Walker and his injured knee, but if he approaches full strength, this can be entertaining.
Bucks at Mavericks (8:30 pm, ESPN)
What to note: Giannis and Luka Doncic in the same match.
76ers at Trail Blazers (18:30, NBATV)
What to note: Portland will be nearing the end of its playoff chase. Also, a good opportunity to check in on the Ben Simmons power-forwarding attempt.
Bucks at Raptors (18:30, ESPN)
What to note: This one can simultaneously be the final and final preview of the Eastern Conference, and while no team will show the full results, this is an opportunity to make a statement.
Celtics at Grizzlies (6:30 pm, TNT)
What to note: Although Memphis has a pretty good chance of surviving in the 8th seed, this can be a meaningful match, depending on how the race is shaking.
Pelikan at Kings (9 p.m., TNT)
What to note: Both of these teams can still fight for the playoff position, and I’m not sure if the Lonzo Ball-De’Aaron Fox thing is still a problem, but if there is something at stake in this, it should be worthy of attention.
Raptors at 76ers (18:30, ESPN)
What to note: After last year’s playoffs, history alone makes this a good fight. This should be an opportunity for postseason improvement that will benefit both parties.
Blazers in the Nets, Pelicans in Magic (times TBD)
What to note: It’s as if Portland and New Orleans can get close enough to the standings at this stage so this is a win-or-go-home match for someone. Orlando and Brooklyn could theoretically also play for seeding.
76ers at Rockets, Heat at Pacers (times TBD)
What to note: Maybe these four teams are scrambling for meaningful seeding on the last day of the season. But … it’s also possible that all key players are resting.