The NBA gets numerous competitive matchups on a fun 9-game Friday night, but none are more tantalizing than James Harden’s return to Oklahoma City. Harden has been back to face the Thunder before, and truth be told, this would be a big game even if it were in Houston. Still, it’s amplified by the location and we can probably expect big performances out of Harden, Dwight Howard, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.

The real question, of course, is who wins? We’ll touch on that and the rest of tonight’s NBA action in tonight’s picks:

Magic @ Celtics

Boston and Orlando are headed in very opposite directions, with the Celtics riding a four-game winning streak and Orlando simply lost in the midst of seven straight defeats. The Celtics are the better team and are at home, while Orlando is just 8-13 on the road this year.¬†Even though it doesn’t look good for the Magic, I expect them to fight hard and keep this one tight.

Pick: Celtics 104, Magic 101

Suns @ Knicks

New York is badly beaten up, so even against the Suns at home, they will need Jose Calderon, Carmelo Anthony and/or Kristaps Porzingis back. Phoenix is also under-manned, but they’ve been getting strong efforts out of Archie Goodwin and Devin Booker. Melo and Zinger figure to be back tonight, though, which should allow the Knicks to halt a four-game skid.

Pick: Knicks 101, Suns 98

Heat @ Bucks

Miami takes on Milwaukee for the second time in January, having lost to the Bucks at home 10 days ago. Now a lot healthier than they were then, the Heat should be able to enter the Bradley Center and get a win. The Bucks have been just mediocre in their last 10 games (5-5), while Goran Dragic is due back and Dwyane Wade has been white hot in his last three games.

Pick: Heat 97, Bucks 92

Hornets @ Blazers

Portland has turned their second around lately, winning two straight and six of their last 10 to pull into the Western Conference playoff picture. They’re still below .500 and have a tough test tonight, though, as the Hornets come to town and are looking a little healthier with Nicolas Batum back in the starting lineup. Charlotte has kept things together despite being ravaged by injury, but they’re the better team in this matchup and Batum could be out for some revenge against his former squad.

Pick: Hornets 105, Blazers 102

Lakers @ Clippers

The battle of Los Angeles goes down tonight, although it has certainly lost its luster (and unpredictability) with the Lakers being as bad as ever. Blake Griffin remains out but the Clippers won’t need much to take down the Lakers “at home” in this one.

Pick: Clips 112, Lakers 104

Cavs @ Pistons

Cleveland heads back to Detroit for the second time this year, as they faced the Pistons earlier this year and lost. The Cavs are still the best team in the Eastern Conference and have gotten things going a bit with two straight wins, so look for them to keep pushing in a big road win.

Pick: Cavs 102, Pistons 96

Rockets @ Thunder

In what is without a doubt the game of the night, James Harden returns to OKC to battle his former team. Harden went nuts with 37 points in their meeting earlier this year in Houston. The Rockets have won five in a row in this series, but OKC is 9-1 in their last 10 games and an impressive 21-5 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Pick: Thunder 107, Rockets 105

Nets @ Mavs

Dallas and Brooklyn fought hard in a surprise overtime thriller earlier this year, a game in which Dallas escaped with a 119-118 win. Deron Williams was absent from that game, but will be on hand tonight as the Mavs try to go 2-0 in the season series. That’s fairly likely, considering Dallas is a strong 13-8 at home and the Nets are atrocious on the road (4-16).

Pick: Mavs 105, Nets 101

Timberwolves @ Jazz

The Timberwolves have shown their youth lately, losing 8 of their last 10 games. That hasn’t kept them from being competitive, though, as Zach Lavine and Karl-Anthony Towns have handed in some big performances in some tough losses. Things could get tougher tonight, as they take it to the road to face a good defensive Jazz squad. With Derrick Favors back and healthy, Utah should get the job done on their home floor.

Pick: Jazz 96, Timberwolves 90

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