1. Red-hot Raptors host Pacers
Indiana is still working Victor Oladipo back into its mix and the returns from their All-Star swingman have been mild. However, he is expected to see an uptick in minutes — and may even start — against the Raptors (7:30 ET, League Pass). This game tips off a two-game, home-and-away set between two squads fighting for a spot in the East hierarchy. Indiana is 1-0 in the series, winning an OT thriller back in late December, but overall the Pacers are slumping with three losses in their last four games. The exact opposite is true of Toronto: it has won 11 in a row and ranks second over the course of the streak and had its second most efficient performance of the season (129 points on just 97 possessions) against Chicago’s 10th-ranked defense on Sunday.
Orlando has a thin grip on the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference, holding a four-game edge over the Chicago Bulls for that spot. When it comes to playing East teams that it could face come playoff time (as in those over .500), the Magic are a meager 15-14. Tonight’s game against the Boston Celtics (7:30 ET, ESPN) comes a little less than two weeks since the team’s last matchup (which Boston won handily). Orlando has lost five of its last six games and hasn’t beaten a team over .500 since Jan. 15, so it needs a win tonight for a variety of reasons.
3. Big man showdown in Salt Lake City
Denver has impressed over the last week, scoring a home win against Utah and road wins against Milwaukee and Portland (last night). The Nuggets can keep things going as they visit (9 ET, League Pass) a Jazz team that has gone backward of late. This game intrigues for a lot of the reason last week’s did: another chance to watch All-Star centers Nikola Jokic and Rudy Gobert go at it in the post. In their last meeting, Gobert guarded Jokic for 8 minutes and 43 seconds and Jokic didn’t shrink in the moment. He scored 19 of his 30 points, going 8-for-14 overall and 1-for-2 on 3-pointers.
4. Critical road swing starts for Heat
Fresh off an impressive 36-point win against the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday, the Miami Heat have a somewhat challenging West coast road trip ahead. The first stop couldn’t be tougher as they visit the Clippers (10 ET, League Pass) followed by Sacramento (on Feb. 7), Portland (Feb. 9), Golden State (Feb. 10) and Utah (Feb. 12). To date, the Heat are struggling to win on the road against the West, going 3-6 this season in those games. Miami has the unenviable task of keeping Kawhi Leonard in check as he is in the midst of a bit of a hot streak (27.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 5.2 apg, 1.9 spg over his last six games).
5. On this date: Some legendary debuts
Two NBA championships. Two Finals MVPs. One Rookie of the Year. Thirty-two All-Star appearances. And so much more. Back on Feb. 5, 1999, the NBA saw the debut of Paul Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki and Vince Carter. Rather than get into each and every one of these living legends’ accomplishments, we instead give you some epic highlights from their careers below.