Definitive Guide to Warriors vs. Spurs and Friday's Top NBA Games

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistNovember 8, 2013

Definitive Guide to Warriors vs. Spurs and Friday's Top NBA Games

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    Noah Graham/Getty Images

    Friday night's 12-game NBA schedule might be headlined by the heavyweight bout out West, but a strong undercard makes this slate a 12-round slugfest for hoops heads.

    The New York Knicks get their second straight shot at the pesky Charlotte Bobcats, and the first chance to prove they can play without Tyson Chandler. The Indiana Pacers will look to build on the league's hottest start with a home date versus a hungry Toronto Raptors squad trying to pump the brakes on a two-game skid.

    Playoff resumes will be polished in Detroit, Minnesota, Washington, D.C. and New Orleans. Ty Lawson and Eric Bledsoe will hold an NBA track meet in Phoenix.

    And Western Conference bragging rights will be up for grabs in the Alamo City.

    These games, and many more, are your perfect excuse to enjoy some quality time with man's true best friend—the couch.

    Don't let the early darkness trick your body. This a marathon night for the NBA, and one you certainly won't want to miss.


    Friday Night's Lineup

    New York Knicks vs. Charlotte Bobcats, 7 p.m. ET (NBATV)

    Toronto Raptors vs. Indiana Pacers, 7 p.m. ET

    Boston Celtics vs. Orlando Magic, 7 p.m. ET

    Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Philadelphia 76ers, 7 p.m. ET

    Brooklyn Nets vs. Washington Wizards, 7 p.m.

    Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Detroit Pistons, 7:30 p.m. ET

    Utah Jazz vs. Chicago Bulls, 8 p.m. ET

    Dallas Mavericks vs. Minnesota Timberwolves, 8 p.m. ET

    Los Angeles Lakers vs. New Orleans Pelicans, 8 p.m. ET

    Golden State Warriors vs. San Antonio Spurs, 8:30 p.m. ET

    Denver Nuggets vs. Phoenix Suns, 9 p.m. ET

    Sacramento Kings vs. Portland Trail Blazers, 10 p.m. ET (NBATV)

Best Matchup of the Night: Golden State Warriors vs. San Antonio Spurs

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    We're months away from any Western Conference belts being awarded, but you won't know that from the atmosphere inside the AT&T Center.

    It's a rematch of the thrilling 2013 Western Conference Semifinals, and the excitement in this matchup might actually trump last season's postseason bout.

    This is one of those special kinds of gifts bestowed on us by the basketball gods. No matter what type of hoops you prefer, this game has a little of everything.

    Sensational point guard play? You're looking at two of the best in the business in Stephen Curry (assuming he's a go, more on that later) and Tony Parker. Old-man post games? Tim Duncan and David Lee have got you covered. Rising wing stars? How does Kawhi Leonard and Harrison Barnes sound?

    You might feel some vibrations through your TV, but don't panic. That'll just be the aftershock from the three-point bombs that will be dropping in bunches.

    The Warriors have tried to downplay the significance of this matchup. "Just two good basketball teams meeting early on in the season," coach Mark Jackson told Marcus Thompson II of Bay Area News Group.

    Good luck keeping the measuring tape away from this game, coach.

    The Warriors are the new kids on the block, even though they were party crashing here last season. The Spurs are facing the same aging questions that they deal with every year.

    Both teams have a lot at stake tonight, even if they won't admit it.

Must-See Individual Matchup: Kevin Love vs. Dirk Nowitzki

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    Defensive-minded fans, look away. For all you point-hungry patrons, though, this is a dream pairing.

    Kevin Love and Dirk Nowitzki are averaging better than 45 points combined on the season. It wouldn't shock me if one—or both—topped that number tonight.

    This should drum up major interest from the analytics crowd. These are two of the premier floor-spacing bigs, each possessing lethal three-point shots and potent post games.

    Selfishness has never matched their production levels. Both are more than willing to share the rock, and for the first time in a long time, both have reliable recipients of those feeds.

    Nowitzki's ceded control of the offense to Monta Ellis, and it's actually worked. Ellis has the scoreboard spinning quickly and efficiently(!). Nowitzki's field-goal attempts per game (13.2) are as low as they've been since his rookie season, and he's still churning out better than 19 points a night.

    Love's finally healthy at the same time as Ricky Rubio, and the pair is every bit the dynamic duo we thought they could be. With Kevin Martin (56.0 three-point percentage) hitting everything in sight, Minnesota has a pick-your-poison attack with no right answers for the defense.

    As much as these supporting casts have helped, though, it's this one-on-one battle that should determine the outcome of tonight's game. The fact that both teams bring playoff hopes into this contest only adds to the intrigue.

Who Has the Most on the Line?

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    The Chicago Bulls. More specifically, Derrick Rose and his paltry 2.9 player efficiency rating.

    There are winnable games, games teams should win and then the ones that true contenders have to win. File a home date with the punchless (and winless) Utah Jazz under the latter.

    Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau told ESPN Chicago's Doug Padilla that his team can't overlook this opponent. "They’re big,” he said. “They’ll be hungry. They’ve played well at times. They’re dangerous. We’re going to have to be ready for their size."

    No word on whether he managed to keep a straight face throughout that quote.

    The Jazz do have size. And they have a lot of players who are only getting better.

    But they also have AARP member Jamaal Tinsley and didn't-LeBron-James-kill-this-guy John Lucas in the backcourt. The starting backcourt.

    Lucas was Utah's opening lead guard for the first two games, while Tinsley has started the last three. Could there be a better way to get the former MVP back on track?

    This game could should get ugly. Chicago prides itself on its defense, and Utah's offense is nonexistent (90.0 points per game, 41.5 field-goal percentage).

    A sluggish 1-3 start hasn't diminished the hope for this team to do great things. But the panic alarms would be blaring after a home loss to the Jazz.

Injury Report

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Charlotte Bobcats

    Al Jefferson (ankle): He's out tonight and hasn't played since Charlotte's opener on Oct. 30. 


    Denver Nuggets

    Wilson Chandler (hamstring): He's another possible play tonight, but who wants to rush back for a matchup against P.J. Tucker?


    Golden State Warriors

    Stephen Curry (ankle): It's a bone bruise, not an ankle sprain, via Marcus Thompson of Bay Area News Group, and may not even cost him any games. But if he wants a reason to avoid another date with Danny Green, this would be it.


    Los Angeles Lakers

    Kobe Bryant (Achilles): No Mamba sightings for the near future. He's probably still celebrating L.A.'s one-point win over Dwight Howard's Houston Rockets on Thursday.


    New York Knicks

    Tyson Chandler (leg): ESPN New York's Ian Begley reports that neither Chandler nor interior defense will be seen in the Big Apple for the next four to six weeks.


    Philadelphia 76ers

    Nerlens Noel (knee): The Sixers really want to see the rookie's debut, but they'd rather see him make it alongside Andrew Wiggins.


    Phoenix Suns

    Goran Dragic (ankle): He's questionable to go tonight. But if he's going to move Eric Bledsoe off the ball, I'd just as soon see him take his time.


    *Unless otherwise noted, injury information used courtesy of CBS Sports.

Pop-in Potential: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Detroit Pistons

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    Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

    This Oklahoma City Thunder-Detroit Pistons tilt feels like Oprah's gift to the basketball world: You get a storyline! You get a storyline! And you get a storyline!

    How healthy is Russell Westbrook's knee? He's only played the last two games, but the early returns look promising. His field-goal percentage could use a boost (41.7), but his scoring numbers are back (21.5).

    Is Andre Drummond ready to take a beating from Kendrick Perkins? When you're 6'10" and 270 pounds, you're probably not walking away from many fights. Then again, why go through a guy when you can just go over him?

    If When Kevin Durant starts flashing his off-the-bus range, who tries to match him first: Josh Smith or Brandon Jennings? Durant can honestly shoot from anywhere. Smith (25.0 percent from three) and Jennings (25.0) just think that they can.

    While the Thunder hold a nine-game winning streak in this series, the Associated Press noted that this matchup has been closer than it seems. "The Thunder haven't lost to Detroit (2-2) since Dec. 26, 2008, but their last two games at the Palace of Auburn Hills have been decided by a combined three points."

    I don't know which I'd rather see: a Durantula dagger or an ill-advised jumper by J-Smoove.


Fantasy Stockwatch

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    David Liam Kyle/Getty Images

    Fantasy matchups are often determined by luck, but sound strategy can help you offset some tough blows.

    There's no need to prove you're the smartest guy in your league. You might have an itch that a bench player is going to erupt, but playing it safe is never a bad way to go.

    Keep your horses in your lineup, then search for a sneaky sleeper from your reserve group. I'll help you get started.


    The Studs

    Kyrie Irving

    Maybe you're feeling a little bit of buyer's remorse right now. That first-round pick you used on Irving hasn't exactly gone the way you thought it would.

    Irving's been a good-not-great scorer (18.0), a struggling sniper (.400/.353/.696) and a solid setup man (7.0 assists). Not a black hole in your lineup by any stretch, but still not the player leading your team to victory.

    That could change tonight. There should be more eyes on this Philadelphia 76ers-Cleveland Cavaliers matchup than we expected before the season started, so expect Irving to come with his best. Michael Carter-Williams has size (6'6"), but Stephen Curry triple-dipped him on Monday (18 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds) and John Wall went for 24 points and nine assists on him two nights later.


    Kevin Love

    As excited as I am about the Love-Nowitzki matchup, I don't plan on seeing too much defensive resistance between them.

    The Mavericks have given up 106.4 points a night (26th), and Nowitzki was never the best defender, even in his prime.

    Love is a must-start under any circumstance. He's bringing your team 26.2 points, 14.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists on a nightly basis. And his three-point shot hasn't even started hitting yet (28.1 percent).

    They might start falling tonight. Once they start, they may never stop.


    The Sleeper

    Anthony Morrow

    Morrow is a two-category guy. He's not going to help you in a lot of areas, but if you're looking for points and threes, look no further.

    Locked in doesn't begin to describe his shooting success this season. Forget 50-40-90, he's going 50-60-100 right now.

    If you can run him off the three-point line, you can limit his effectiveness. Running of any kind is not the Lakers' specialty, but they've had particular problems guarding the perimeter. Lakers opponents are shooting 39.3 percent from distance this season, the eighth-highest mark in the league.

    Morrow's not an every-day play, outside of deeper leagues, but make sure you get him in your lineup tonight.