After a lot of hoopla and hoop ball in NYC during the All-Star weekend, the NBA took Monday through Wednesday off this week, starting games, once again, on Thursday, February 19. Although the league has not played any games the first three days of this week, they will more than make up for it during the next four days.
The NBA All-Star weekend celebrated the past as much as the present. At any of the various events, you could find some of the many legends of the game, including Julius Irving, Bill Russell, Nate “Tiny” Archibald, Dell Curry, Oscar Robertson, Grant Hill, Dominique Wilkens, Ralph Sampson, Moses Malone, Scottie Pippen, Chris Mullin, Charles Barkley, Phil Jackson, Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, Bill Bradley, Willis Reed, Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny Anderson, Penny Hardaway, and Clyde Frazier. It was a who’s who of storied NBA teams and dynasties.
Here’s how the games and competitions went:
- Sprint Celebrity Game (Friday): 57-51, the West over the East. (MVP: Kevin Hart, 15 points)
- BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge (Friday): US against the World, with the World winning 121-112. (MVP: Canadian Andrew Wiggins, 22 points)
- Degree Shooting Stars (Saturday): Team Dominique Wilkens, Chris Bosh, and Swin Cash won its third-straight title, beating Team Anfernee Hardaway, Russell Westbrook, and Tamika Catchings in final round.
- Taco Bell Skills Challenge (Saturday): Patrick Beverly (Houston Rockets) wins after various major comebacks during the competition.
- Foot Locker Three-Point Contest (Saturday): In the final round Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors) hit 13 straight threes to win.
- Sprite Slam Dunk Contest (Saturday): Rookie Zach LaVine (Minnesota Timberwolves) wins. He’s 19 years old.
- 64th NBA All Star Game (Sunday): West beats East 163-158. West’s Russell Westbrook (MVP) leads all scorers with 41 points.
It was a great weekend to celebrate the NBA, enjoy fun competition, and see a whole lot of scoring and fine play. Now let’s look at some of the more important regular season games that will be played this week.
Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder (February 19th)
Dallas, a team that does well on the road, visits Oklahoma City. This is a contest in which one of the best scoring and ball movement clubs, the Mavs, must contend with the top rebounding franchise, the Thunder. Point guard Russell Westbrook, who blew everyone away in the All-Star game, is averaging 25.8 PPG for Oklahoma City. Teammate small forward Kevin Durant is good for 25.9 PPG. There’s also a lot of good rebounding chops on this team with veteran power forward Serg Ibaka and rookie center Steven Adams each pulling down seven per game. The Mavs will rely on shooting guard Monta Ellis (19.8 PPG), small forward Chandler Parson (15.6 PPG), and power forward Dirk Nowitzki (18.3 PPG) to keep them in the game. You’ve got to like the Thunder in this one.
Toronto Raptors and Atlanta Hawks (February 20th)
The team with the second-most wins in the East, the Raptors (36), visits the team with the most, the Hawks (43). Neither of these clubs is stellar under the boards and both can certainly score. But Atlanta has a major edge when it comes to defense and assists. Ranked fourth on D, the Hawks allow an average of just 96.8 PPG. The 22nd ranked Raptors give up 100.7. That’s enough to be the difference-maker in this game.
Cleveland Cavaliers and Washington Wizards (February 20th)
That same night the Cavs play the Wizards. Both teams have 33 wins and both are second in their respective divisions. As of late, LeBron James and company have been tearing up the court. A win in Washington against the Wizards would be big for Cleveland. Likewise, if Washington can manufacture a W that would certainly say something about their potential. The point guards will be key in this one. Kyrie Irving (21.7 PPG .466 FG%) is the man for Cleveland and John Wall (17.4 PPG, .460 FG%) for the Wizards. Look for the visitors to take this contest.
Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks (February 20th)
Yes, it’s true that the Mavs are in back-to-back big games. This time they host their division rivals, the Houston Rockets. Dallas allows about two more points per game than Houston, but they score about three more points per game than their counterpart. Dallas is favored, but Houston shooting guard James Harden (27.4 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 6.8 APG) and center Dwight Howard (16.3 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 1.38 BPG) can certainly change that. Look for a Rockets’ upset here.
Upcoming Games Starting March 1st)
Next week, we look at some teams that we have not considered much this season. That is, those that appear as if they could be on the bubble and just squeak into the playoffs. They include, the Miami Heat, Charlotte Hornets, Boston Celtics, and Brooklyn Nets in the East and the Phoenix Suns, Oklahoma City Thunder, and New Orleans Pelicans in the West. All of these clubs and a few more still have a shot at getting into the first round of the NBA playoffs. We’ll consider their chances.