NBA Bubble Viewers Guide: Rounding Up the Best Games to Watch

Not sure what games you should watch ahead of the NBA restart? Don't worry we got you covered.
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The NBA is back, and so we’ve hand-picked the best games to watch as the season resumes. You already waited four months for this, so why waste any more time reading an intro?

All times Eastern.

July 30

Jazz at Pelicans (6:30 p.m. ET, TNT)

What to watch for: The opening-night undercard would have been a showcase for Zion Williamson and the playoff-hopeful Pelicans. But with Williamson having just returned to Orlando after leaving to deal with a family emergency, his availability for this first game is in question. Regardless, New Orleans has been playing well and can take a meaningful step toward the playoffs with a win.

Clippers at Lakers (9 p.m., TNT)

What to watch for: The Lakers are banged up, the Clippers have had rotation players in and out of the bubble, and this game could easily be a dud, but it’s opening night and you’ll watch it anyway.

July 31

Grizzlies at Trail Blazers (4 p.m., NBA TV)

What to watch for: Memphis and Portland start their schedules with a hugely important matchup, as the Blazers sit 3.5 games behind the eighth-place Grizzlies with a chance to make up ground. The point guard duel between Damian Lillard and Ja Morant alone would have made this an entertaining watch.

Celtics at Bucks (6:30 p.m., ESPN)

What to watch for: Milwaukee is in first place and nursing a 6.5 game cushion, so how they decide to pace themselves until the playoffs start will be worth monitoring. Boston seems to still be ironing out the back part of its rotation and has Kemba Walker on a minutes restriction, so these games should more of an audition for rookies like Grant Williams and Romeo Langford than a strong indicator of the Celtics’ legitimacy.

Rockets at Mavericks (9 p.m., ESPN)

What to watch for: The top seven teams in the west are all playoff locks, but there’s little separating the Nuggets, Jazz, Thunder, Rockets and Mavericks, and teams will have some say in determining who they ultimately face in the first round of the playoffs. With Dallas in seventh and 1.5 games behind Houston (not to mention an enticing matchup between Luka Doncic and James Harden), this should be entertaining.

August 1

Heat at Nuggets (1 p.m., ESPN)

What to watch for: Much was made of the Nuggets’ short-handed, super-sized scrimmage lineups, but Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Denver’s various perimeter players should thankfully be available for the restart games. Still, in case they keep experimenting—or on the off chance Bol Bol gets some real minutes—the Nuggets should be a point of interest.

Pelicans at Clippers (6 p.m., ESPN)

What to watch for: At present, this seems more likely to be Zion Williamson’s bubble debut, in a meaningful, high-profile matchup with the Clippers. Enough said.

76ers at Pacers (7 p.m., League Pass)

What to watch for: After initially opting out of the restart, Victor Oladipo traveled with the Pacers and suited up for scrimmages. Whether he’ll actually be on the floor when the real games start remains to be seen.

Lakers at Raptors (8:30 p.m., ESPN)

What to watch for: LeBron takes on the defending champs, albeit with relatively minimal stakes. Could this sneakily be a Finals preview?

August 2

Wizards vs. Nets, 2 p.m., League Pass

What to watch for: While I wouldn’t earnestly recommend watching the current watered-down iteration of either team for the aesthetics, this game does have playoff relevance. The Nets are the most undermanned team in Orlando, and are likely to drop to the eighth seed. The question is whether they fall far enough for the Wizards to get within four games, which would force a a play-in round. Entering the bubble 5.5 games out of the playoffs, Washington basically has to win this game to pull that off.

Kings at Magic, 6 p.m., NBATV

What to watch for: The Kings are without Marvin Bagley III and are a step behind the Pelicans and Blazers as far as playoff contention goes. If Sacramento is going to make things interesting, this is the type of matchup it can’t afford to lose. If Orlando is able to find minutes, health pending, for Markelle Fultz, Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba, this should be a good opportunity to assess their young talent.

Bucks at Rockets (8:30 p.m., ABC)

What to watch for: Awards voting will have already taken place, but MVP candidates Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden get to hash out their beef head to head. This could be one of the more competitive non-conference games left on the schedule.

August 3

Grizzlies at Pelicans (6:30 p.m., ESPN)

What to watch for: This game should have a playoff feel to it as a potential preview of the Western Conference play-in round. And it may be equally important for Memphis to maintain separation with a win as it is for New Orleans to gain ground. Also, longtime friends and top rookies Zion Williamson and Ja Morant go head to head.

August 4

Celtics at Heat (6:30 p.m., TNT)

What to watch for: This is a must-win if Miami is going to leapfrog Boston for the No. 3 seed.

Rockets at Trail Blazers (9 p.m., TNT)

What to watch for: You can always sign me up for James Harden vs. Damian Lillard.

August 5

Thunder at Lakers (6:30 p.m., ESPN)

What to watch for: This may not be a day of extremely consequential games, but at least you can watch LeBron.

August 6

Heat at Bucks (4 p.m., TNT)

What to watch for: Miami has consistently given Milwaukee problems this season, and the Bam Adebayo-Giannis matchup should be worth your time.

August 7

Celtics at Raptors (9 p.m., TNT)

What to watch for: This is a potential conference semifinals matchup. Boston is being cautious with Kemba Walker and his injured knee, but if he’s close to full strength, this could be entertaining.

August 8

Bucks at Mavericks (8:30 p.m., ESPN)

What to watch for: Giannis and Luka Doncic in the same game.

August 9

76ers at Trail Blazers (6:30 p.m., NBATV)

What to watch for: Portland will be nearing the end of its playoff chase. Also, a good opportunity to check in on the Ben Simmons power forward experiment.

August 10

Bucks at Raptors (6:30 p.m., ESPN)

What to watch for: This one could simultaneously be an Eastern Conference finals rematch and preview, and while neither team will show its full hand, it’s an opportunity to make a statement.

August 11

Celtics at Grizzlies (6:30 p.m., TNT)

What to watch for: Although Memphis has a pretty good chance of hanging on to the 8th seed, this could be a meaningful game, depending on how the race shakes out.

Pelicans at Kings (9 p.m., TNT)

What to watch for: Both these teams could still be fighting for playoff position, and I’m not sure if the Lonzo Ball-De’Aaron Fox thing is still a thing, but if there’s something at stake in this one, it should be worth a watch.

August 12

Raptors at 76ers (6:30 p.m., ESPN)

What to watch for: After last year’s playoffs, the history alone makes this a good matchup. This should be a useful postseason tune-up opportunity for both sides.

August 13

Trail Blazers at Nets, Pelicans at Magic (times TBD)

What to watch for: Ostensibly, Portland and New Orleans could be close enough in the standings at this stage that these become win-or-go-home games for someone. Orlando and Brooklyn could theoretically also be playing for seeding.

August 14

76ers at Rockets, Heat at Pacers (times TBD)

What to watch for: It’s possible all four these teams are jockeying for meaningful seeding on the final day of the season. But…it’s also possible all the key players rest.