- The NBA has a full slate of games scheduled for Martin Luther King Day. What should you watch for? Our Viewer’s Guide will catch you up on all you need to know.
Outside of Christmas, the best day to be an NBA fan during the regular season is arguably Martin Luther King Day, with the Association scheduling a full day of games to give you just enough of an excuse to avoid your family and/or remain indoors all day. There are nine matchups scheduled for MLK Day, a 12-hour block beginning at 1 p.m. ET that will take you to early Tuesday morning. Here’s your handy viewer’s guide for a) when you can get your chores done and b) when you need to commandeer the couch.
Hawks vs. Knicks, 1 p.m. ET
The Hawks are currently one of the hottest teams in the East, winners of eight of nine entering Monday, good enough to vault them to fourth in the conference. The Knicks have been a major disappointment to start the new year, squandering their early season success on the court while also dealing with the fallout of the Derrick Rose situation. This matchup is set to be something of a potential statement game for the Knicks, who have been decent on their homecourt for much of the season. A win could springboard New York to salvaging its season. With both teams in action the day before though, expecting a great game could be asking for a bit too much.
Trail Blazers vs. Wizards, 2 p.m.
Washington has greatly improved since an early season malaise, and the Wiz look to be a solid playoff team as long as they have consistent play from Bradley Beal. Meanwhile, the Blazers have also seen an uptick since performance after a horrendous start to the season, though Portland’s defense still leaves a lot to be desired. This game should be a treat, with two young, high-powered backcourts trading buckets for a couple hours. Beal, John Wall, Damian Lillard and a hot-streaking C.J. McCollum should treat us to some MLK Day fireworks.
76ers vs. Bucks, 3:30 p.m.
The Process vs. The Greek Freak! Two of the East’s young, exciting teams will face off here, with Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo taking top billing in a matchup filled rising talent. Philly has won five of seven, much to the titillation of Process truthers everywhere. The Bucks have also won five of seven, becoming basketball twitter’s darlings while doing so. This matchup is the best of the afternoon slate, and hopefully we see Embiid and Antetokounmpo go head-to-head on more than one occasion. This one is worth skipping your afternoon nap for.
Pelicans vs. Pacers, 4 p.m.
The Solomon Hill revenge game! Honestly, this is not the most appealing contest, and I wouldn’t suggest you watch Pels-Pacers over 76ers-Bucks. But keep an eye out just in case Paul George and/or Anthony Davis go off.
Magic vs. Nuggets, 5 p.m.
The Magic have roughly nine centers or power forwards on their roster, none of whom are as talented as Nikola Jokic. Elfrid Payton has been playing better for Orlando lately, with his outside shooting showing signs of growth. Other than that, I’m not really sure the NBA realizes it scheduled these two teams on what is supposed to be a marquee day for the league.
Hornets vs. Celtics, 7:30 p.m.
Teams with two All-Star caliber guards who are going in opposite directions. The Hornets have lost six of seven and sit at 20–20, which is disheartening for a team that won 48 games last season. Charlotte desperately needs more consistent production from guys like Nicolas Batum and Marvin Williams to complement the brilliance of Kemba Walker. Meanwhile, Boston has won six of seven, thanks in large part to a healthy roster and continued heroics from Isaiah Thomas. The Suns outcast has found his home in Boston, and he’s been the driving force for Boston’s climb up the East standings. The Celtics could run away with this one if Charlotte’s role players don’t step up.
Cavaliers vs. Warriors, 8 p.m.
The Warriors have been great this season, but a disproportionate number of their losses have come in national TV games. Golden State would certainly like this win, but Steve Kerr is smart enough to know the outcome doesn’t really matter in the long run. Cleveland has been moving its stars in and out of the lineup in recent games, so we’ll get a sense of how seriously the Cavs are taking this game depending on who actually plays. A wrinkle that could make this rivalry extra fun: Watching how the Warriors’ death lineup counters Cleveland’s new shooting-heavy unit featuring Kyle Korver.
Jazz vs. Suns, 9 p.m.
Did you see the previous matchup? You’re not watching this game. But be glad Rodney Hood doesn’t have a serious injury, we deserve to see this Jazz team at full strength.
Thunder vs. Clippers, 10:30 p.m.
The Clippers are unbeaten in 2017, winning all six of their January games, the last four of which have come with Chris Paul back in the lineup. Even with Blake Griffin out, L.A. has an explosive offense, currently ranking sixth in offensive rating. The Thunder, of course, are seemingly living and dying by the Russell Westbrook triple double. The Clips’ last loss came to OKC on New Year’s Eve. The Thunder will be on the second night of a back-to-back on Monday, but Russ matching up with Paul will be a worthy dessert to the Cavs-Warriors main course.