After two days of scrimmage action, the remaining six teams take the court for their first scrimmage games in Orlando.
Given the long break prior to the season restart, here's a quick primer on the biggest storylines surrounding each of these squads.
Grizzlies vs 76ers - 1 AM IST
Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies, current owners of the West's eighth and final playoff spot. were one of the teams for whom the NBA hiatus came at a good time. They were facing a tough remaining schedule with a couple of key players in Jaren Jackson Jr. (knee) and Brandon Clarke (quadriceps) injured. Now, in the bubble, both players are fit and ready to go but the team still has the sixth-toughest seeding games schedule. To make matters worse, Justise Winslow, who was expected to begin his career for the Grizzlies in the bubble is ruled out of the restart with a hip injury. Yes, the franchise has the Rookie of the Year favourite in Ja Morant but can they hold on?
Philadelphia 76ers: The 76ers were among the other benefactors from the timing of the NBA season's suspension. Back in March, Ben Simmons was sidelined with a back injury and Joel Embiid had only just returned from a five-game absence. Now, both are healthy and raring to go. Sitting in 6th in the East, the 76ers could evolve into a dark house contender if they can figure out and develop the on-court chemistry between all of their key rotation players. Will the move to play Simmons as a power forward benefit the team? Only time will tell.
Thunder vs Celtics - 2:30 AM IST
Oklahoma City Thunder: From the Thanksgiving break, leading upto the season's suspension, the OKC Thunder's record of 34-13 was only behind the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers. In clutch situations since Thanksgiving, the Thunder had a league-best record of 25-5 with the league's leading clutch scorer Chris Paul taking over more often than not. Prior to the suspension, they had won 8 of their last 10. The big question for the Thunder would be to find this form and ride it in the seeding games. With players like Shai-Gilgeous Alexander, Dennis Schroder, and Steve Adams, they certainly have the talent. It's all about the execution.
Boston Celtics: No Kemba Walker for this first game but otherwise the Celtics will look to get some much-needed reps in these scrimmage and seeding games. One of only three teams this season (Lakers and Clippers are other) to rank in the top 5 of both offensive and defensive rating, the Celtics have a chance at a deep playoff run if they can have all their players, including their superstar Jayson Tatum, healthy and then firing as a unit. The Celtics, who are more or less stuck with the third seed in the East, should easily get their reps with their schedule - the sixth easiest in the bubble.
Rockets vs Raptors - 5 AM IST
Toronto Raptors: After battling and overcoming all the injuries through the season, the Raptors, in the bubble, are completely healthy. That gives Nick Nurse a good problem - deciding his rotation. The defending champs have the third-best record in the league, and have a firm grip on the second-seed in the East. These scrimmages and seeding games will be great court time for Nurse and the team to finalise rotations and line-ups before the playoffs.
Houston Rockets: Upon going super-small midway through the season, the Rockets found some early momentum but were faltering as the NBA announced its season's suspension. After winning seven of nine, they had lost four of five including defeats in Charlotte, Orlando, and New York. This break has certainly given the Rockets' players time to re-charge but the big question is two-fold - with everybody healthy - Can the Rockets find their small-ball momentum once again? And can they maintain that till October for a deep postseason run?
The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.