2018 starts with a strong League Pass slate, surprisingly anchored by the Eastern Conference. Most East teams make the list at least once, plus the Bucks and Raptors face off twice including the Game of the Week on Friday.
Bucks at Raptors, 7:30 p.m.: A great way to start the New Year, with plenty of star talent on two likely Eastern Conference playoff teams who faced off in 2017. Keep an eye on how the Raptors defend Giannis and both teams’ crunch time offense if it stays close.
Magic at Nets, 7:30 p.m.: Orlando has been more competitive since getting Aaron Gordon back, so this could be a fun one. Spencer Dinwiddie has been a revelation this season and will need to build on that for Brooklyn to thrive.
Trail Blazers at Bulls, 8 p.m.: The suddenly dominant Bulls lost a close one in Washington and have to travel on a back-to-back but Portland may be without Damian Lillard again. Either way, CJ McCollum will loom large with Justin Holiday and David Nwaba trying to slow him down.
Spurs at Knicks, 7:30 p.m.: New York has succeeded by relying on their big men, something San Antonio has done for years. Presumably, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kristaps Porzingis will square off for more of this one, which makes it worth watching.
Hawks at Suns, 9 p.m.: A lottery special that could entertain, especially if Devin Booker and Dennis Schroder get rolling.
Hornets at Kings, 10 p.m.: Dwight Howard dominated the Warriors on Friday and the Hornets will need either him or Kemba Walker to step up if they want to keep momentum going on this West Coast road trip.
Knicks at Wizards, 7 p.m.: These are teams with dramatically different strengths, which creates challenges for both coaches in terms of personnel and scheme. Courtney Lee will presumably guard Bradley Beal but watch Frank Ntilikina’s minutes opposite John Wall closely.
Pacers at Bucks, 8 p.m.: The Pacers finished 2017 with a winning record but will need road wins to shore up their playoff position. Darren Collison was actually Eric Bledsoe’s replacement at backup point guard for the Clippers way back in 2013 and the two will square off here.
Raptors at Bulls, 8 p.m.: Chicago makes the list again as Kris Dunn gets his chance to shut down Kyle Lowry and the new-look Raptors offense. The Bulls’ floor-spacing bigs will need to make threes unless their defense can withstand consistent pressure.
Pistons at 76ers, 7 p.m.: Their game almost exactly a month ago was one of the most fun this season, and Drummond vs. Embiid III will hopefully deliver on that promise. Detroit will need to slow down Ben Simmons again, especially since that was not enough to win in December.
Raptors at Bucks, 8 p.m. (Game of the Week): The second time these teams play this week brings a different element with the Bucks at home. Bledsoe and Lowry will definitely bring intensity, while DeMar DeRozan has a big part to play as well.
Jazz at Nuggets, 9 p.m.: Remarkably, this is the fourth and final game between these divisional foes and Denver needs a home win to split the series. Jamal Murray outplayed Donovan Mitchell just over a week before and will need to do it again even though the Jazz are still without Rudy Gobert.
Warriors at Clippers, 3:30 p.m.: Despite personnel turnover, these two teams genuinely do not like each other and the Clippers are looking much better with Blake Griffin and Milos Teodosic back.
Rockets at Pistons, 7 p.m.: Hopefully we get Harden vs. Bradley here but both have been battling injuries recently. Even without one or both of them, expect the frontcourts to play a massive role since both teams have game changers there too.
Bucks at Wizards, 8 p.m.: A brutal back-to-back for Milwaukee sends them to DC to face another potential playoff opponent. College teammates John Wall and Eric Bledsoe will relish the opportunity to square off and bring a jolt to an already competitive game.
Pelicans at Timberwolves, 9 p.m.: A spectacular big man battle also provides a test for New Orleans on the perimeter because they will need someone to guard Jimmy Butler, who has propelled Minnesota almost ten games over .500.
Jazz at Heat, 3:30 p.m.: This could end up being a rock fight but both teams have enough depth and offensive talent to make it substantially more fun than that, especially if Ricky Rubio and Goran Dragic can ignite their respective offenses.
Knicks at Mavericks, 7 p.m.: Dirk vs. Porzingis is worth watching every time we get to see it.
Hawks at Lakers, 9:30 p.m.: Lonzo Ball will hopefully be back in time for this one, which creates different challenges for Dennis Schroder and the Hawks. Depending on how the coaches run their rotations, we may see rookies John Collins and Kyle Kuzma share the court. Both have impressed early but succeed in very different ways.