All-Star week is upon us and with Team LeBron set to take on Team Giannis on Sunday, the race for the playoffs continue to heat up.
All-Star weekend bears watching just for the sheer talent on the court, but before that the teams pushing for a postseason birth have important games they will need to win.
Portland Trailblazers @ Oklahoma City Thunder – 02/12/19
Paul George continues to raise his stock in the MVP conversation with a string of great performances, averaging 35.4 points 7.7 assists and 2.4 steals over his last 10 games. Both he and Russell Westbrook have been leading a thin Thunder squad into the playoff in the positions and will be challenged when the star backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum travel to Oklahoma City on Monday.
Portland can close the gap between themselves and the Thunder with a win that would put them two games back of the third seed in the Western Conference. The Blazers lost their last game and will need to put that right as they also have the Rockets in pursuit of their fourth seed.
Boston Celtics @ Philadelphia 76ers – 02/13/19
Philadelphia came out with a big win over LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday. Tobias Harris has impressed in his two games since being traded to the 76ers to create their own big 4 along with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler. The big games keep rolling for the Philadelphia ball club after beating the Nuggets and the Lakers.
The Celtics are going the opposite way at the moment. They were booed off of their home court after blowing a 28-point lead, and have lost two straight. They will look to get right when they travel to Philadelphia and will need to be at their best to contend with a big 4 that seem intent on making a run late into the playoffs.
Milwaukee Bucks @ Indianna Pacers – 02/14/19
Many thought that Victor Oladipo’s injury would be a turning point for Indiana and the start of a skid down the playoff seedings. It has however, been anything but. The Pacers have won their last 5 contests and many of their role players have stepped up in the absence of their former All-Star guard who went down for the season last month. Myles Turner’s frontcourt play has been a major factor in the success of the Pacers since losing Oladipo, playing great defence in the paint forcing players to change their shots.
For the Bucks, All-Star captain Giannis continues to be great. He has helped Milwaukee to an 8-2 record over the last 10 games including a big win over the Toronto Raptors that has given them the tiebreaker at the top of the Eastern Conference. A win over the streaking Indiana Pacers will guarantee that the Bucks enter the All-Star break the number one seed in the East.
*All records and stats are correct as of Monday 11th February 2019
By Sonny Cohen