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Feast for the eyes: 9 games on tap for MLK Day holiday

Eight of the last 10 Kia NBA MVP winners are featured on Monday’s schedule, including Kevin Durant and James Harden.

Michael C. Wright

Michael C. Wright

Kevin Durant, James Harden and the Nets host Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks on MLK Day.

The NBA’s second basketball holiday serves up a feast for the eyes Monday with nine games on the menu for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, including five nationally-televised matchups on NBA TV and TNT.

You’ll see eight of the last 10 Kia NBA Most Valuable Player Award winners featured on Monday’s schedule in Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, as well as a couple of potential future MVPs in Ja Morant, Trae Young and Devin Booker.

Eight players that earned All-NBA honors last season are set to take the court on Monday, which also just happens to be a Free NBA League Pass day. So, take advantage. Outside of the five nationally-televised contests, there’s plenty of excitement on tap, such as the surprising young San Antonio Spurs visiting the Portland Trail Blazers (2 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass), who have won five of their last six games.

Here’s a quick look at the national TV menu on MLK Day:

Magic at Knicks (Noon ET, NBA TV)

A couple of squads in the midst of five-game losing streaks tips off a doubleheader on NBA TV. Orlando sits below .500 for the first time this season and has allowed 120 points or more in four of its last five games. But Nikola Vucevic is on a tear, having racked up 30 points or more in two of his last four games. This matchup represents what could be a difficult stretch for the resurgent Knicks as they start off a stretch of four games in six days. Even though the Knicks rank 29th in points per game (101.0), they’re No. 5 in opponent scoring, limiting teams to 106.4 points per game.

Keep an eye on: Check out Julius Randle, who is averaging 23.2 points on 50.2% shooting, 10.5 rebounds and 6.7 assists. Knicks rookie Immanuel Quickley is becoming a must-watch player, too. Quickley has poured in 42 points to go with seven assists, seven rebounds and six made 3-pointers over his last two outings.

Timberwolves at Hawks (2:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV)

COVID-19 infections swept through the Minnesota roster, keeping the team off the court since Jan. 13, and star center Karl-Anthony Towns recently revealed he tested positive for coronavirus. So, the Timberwolves could be thin for this one. But they face a Hawks squad that has lost two in a row with a record of 1-6 in their last seven outings. Star Hawks guard Trae Young is 4-of-26 from 3-point range in his last five games. So, he’s due for a big night in front of a national audience. Young’s counterpart, D’Angelo Russell, has racked up 25 points or more in his last two appearances.

Keep an eye on: Hawks big man Clint Capela is coming off a season-high 25 points on 11-of-16 shooting and is making an impact on both ends of the floor. Capela has logged 11 rebounds or more in nine consecutive games and is averaging 12.9 rebounds, good for No. 3 in the NBA.

Suns at Grizzlies (5 p.m. ET, TNT)

Devin Booker and Chris Paul have the Suns competing strongly in the West.

The first matchup of a tripleheader on TNT features three of the NBA’s most dynamic guards in Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Ja Morant, who returned to the lineup on Saturday after missing eight games due to a sprained ankle. The Suns haven’t played since Jan. 11, but they’re 4-2 on the road this season (with a record of 3-0 when they dish 30 assists or more) facing a Memphis club with a record of 2-5 at home. The Grizzlies are riding their first four-game winning streak since Jan. 24-29 of 2020 and ranked No. 2 in the NBA in points in the paint (54.7 per game). The Grizzlies scored a franchise-record 80 points in the paint on Jan. 13.

Keep an eye on: Naturally, you’ll be drawn to Paul, Booker and Morant. But pay attention to Dillon Brooks because Memphis owns a record of 4-0 this season when he scores 20 points or more. He’s fighting through a shooting slump now. But the Grizzlies, which will be wearing their “Memphis Soul” City Edition uniforms in this one, finished with a record of 20-6 last season when Brooks hit the 20-point mark.

Bucks at Nets (7:30 p.m. ET, TNT)

There’s star power galore in this one. Former Kia MVP winners in Durant and Harden headline a Brooklyn squad coached by a former two-time MVP winner in Steve Nash as it battles reigning two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks. Milwaukee has won four games in a row and seven of its last eight, while the Nets are riding a three-game winning streak. Kyrie Irving’s availability remains uncertain, as Brooklyn continues to ramp up his activity since he hasn’t played since Jan. 5. That’s of little consequence with Harden in the fold, considering he logged a 30-point triple double for the Nets without ever practicing with the team.

Keep an eye on: The chemistry between former Oklahoma City teammates Durant and Harden in their Brooklyn reunion. The duo scored or assisted on 107 of the Nets’ 122 points in Harden’s debut, as Durant produced his first 30-point game since Nov. 29, 2018. The Nets have knocked down at least 16 3-pointers in three consecutive outings.

Warriors at Lakers (10 p.m. ET, TNT)

We haven’t seen Stephen Curry and LeBron James face off against one another since Christmas of 2018, when the latter scored 17 points to go with 13 rebounds and five assists in 21 minutes before leaving a Lakers win over the Warriors in the third quarter due to a groin strain. The matchup seems almost unfair considering where the Lakers and Warriors stand today, but this game features some of the league’s ultimate competitors in Curry, James, Anthony Davis and Draymond Green. The Warriors are coming off their first loss of the season in a game that Curry scored 30 points or more. The Lakers, meanwhile, are on a five-game winning streak and have won four in a row by double-digits.

Keep an eye on: The fit of Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre with Curry in the Warriors’ offense. Oubre has connected on 30% or worse in 5 of 12 games this season, while Wiggins has shot worse than 44% in three consecutive outings. Curry has started games more aggressively as of late, but you have to wonder how that affects the supporting cast’s ability to find a rhythm.

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Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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