One game we highlighted last week featured the Eastern Conference leading Hawks visiting the New Orleans Pelicans. We thought Atlanta might have some trouble with the Pelicans, and they did as they lost 115-100. We noted that they would be controlled under the rim by New Orleans, and they were, as the Pelicans out rebounded the Hawks 52-32. Also last week, we saw the Bulls at the Rockets as being a toss-up, but it was not, as Houston won easily 101-90.
We were on target in noting that Dallas would find it tough going when visiting Golden State. State won in a high-scoring contest, 128-114. Finally, the Clippers and Raptors contest started out with L.A. dominating in quarter one (34-19), but ended with Toronto in command, winning 123-107.
L.A. Clippers and Dallas Mavericks (February 9th)
When the Clippers visit the Mavs, they will be minus injured forward Blake Griffin, the team’s leading scorer and All-Star Game selection. That’s a big help for Dallas, which is 5-5 in their last 10 games. Look for Dallas shooting guard Monta Ellis (20.4 PPG, 46% FG%, 1.82 SPG) to have a big night, as Dallas wins.
Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors (February 11th)
The Wizards bring their solid defense, which is ninth in the league in points allowed (97.7 PPG), to Toronto. They will need it, as the Raptors are averaging 106.2 PPG, fourth-best in the NBA. If Toronto is not hitting its shots, then they can get in trouble, as their defense and rebounding are both below average. Washington has a chance, but will need strong output from guards Stephen Curry (23.4 PPG) and Klay Thompson (22.6 PPG).
Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers (February 11th)
The Miami Heat have a losing record, but they still may make the playoffs. This week they visit their former teammate LeBron James. The Cavs had been struggling early in the season, but some adjustments to their roster have put them on the winning track. They have been victorious on nine of their last 10 games.
Cleveland, with more than 30 wins, is ½ game out of first in their division, while the Heat, with barely 20 victories, are over 20 games out of first in the Southeast Division. The best thing Miami has going is its defense, which is second in the league in points allowed. But the rest is problematic. The Cavaliers will bring a solid, balanced offense and defense to the floor and look to win this one.
Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls (February 12th)
This is a very fine game on which to end the first half of the 2014-2015 NBA season. Chicago and Cleveland are now neck-and-neck in the Central Division standings. The Bulls are sputtering and Cleveland is on the rise. For Cleveland, point guard Kyle Irving (21.8 PPG, 47 FG%, 41 3PT%, 1.51 SPG) offers a fine shot and sold defense, and LeBron James (26.1 PPG, 1.52 SPG) is still very tough in the frontcourt. The Bulls are superior when rebounding, with Pau Gasol averaging 12 per game and Joakim Noah 9.7 per game. This should be a very tough battle and one worth watching.
The All-Star Game (February 15th)
Part of next week the NBA takes a break for their all-star competition and game. The NBA All-Star Game features the finest players from the Eastern Conference playing the best from the Western Conference. The game, which will be hosted by the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks, will be held on Sunday.
Starters for the East include first-time selection Kyle Lowry (Toronto) and 11-time selection LeBron James. New York Knick forward Carmelo Anthony will play in his eighth game as an all-star with guard John Wall (Washington) and forward/center Pau Gasol (Chicago) rounding out the starters for the East.
The squad for the West includes two injured players who will not appear- guard Kobe Bryant (L.A. Lakers), who was selected for the 17th time, and forward/center Blake Griffin (L.A. Clippers), who is now a five-time selection. The three other starters for the Western Conference, guard Stephen Curry (Golden State), forward/center Anthony Davis (New Orleans), and center Marc Gasol (Memphis), are all on the team for the second time. Replacing Bryant is first-time all-star center DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento) and replacing Griffin is second-time all-star Damian Lillard (Portland).
The NBA All-Star break offers fans a full series of events, with a Celebrity Game on Friday and various competitions on Saturday, including the Skills Challenge, Three-Point Contest, Slam Dunk Contest, and Shooting Stars competition. There’s also a Rising Stars Challenge with Team U.S.A. taking on Team World. This game, which is played on Friday, features first and second-year NBA players who have been selected by the league’s assistant coaches.
Upcoming Games Starting February 16th
The regular season will begin again on Thursday, February 19th. We’ll look at the Thursday match up that has the Dallas Mavericks at the Oklahoma City Thunder. On Friday, there are some key games, including the Toronto Raptors at the Atlanta Hawks, the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Washington Wizards, and the Houston Rockets at the Dallas Mavericks. On Saturday, there’s a very interesting contest on hand as the visiting Sacramento Kings are tested by the L.A. Clippers.