The NBA All Star Game’s new Kobe-inspired format was a huge hit, with Team LeBron winning 157-155 after trailing by 9 through the first three quarters. With 30 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists in 20 minutes of play, Kawhi Leonard took home the MVP trophy, but it was Anthony Davis who sealed the win with a free throw. If there was a complaint about the new format, it was that the game could be won with a freebie, so maybe they’ll tweak it next time. But for now, we’re on to the the final stretch of the season.
Here’s a look at this week’s NBA action on Sling…
Thursday, February 20
Brooklyn Nets (25-28) vs Philadelphia 76ers (34-21)
8pm ET on TNT
Despite a brutal 2-12 stretch that started the day after Christmas, the Nets come out of the All-Star break in 7th place in the East, with a 5 game cushion between them and #9 Washington. If Kyrie Irving can get healthy and stay on the floor, they could make a little noise. The Sixers picked up Golden State’s Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks just before the break, but they won’t be enough for this underachieving squad.
Houston Rockets (34-20) vs Golden State Warriors (12-43)
10:30pm ET on TNT
The Rockets closed out the season’s first half with a 116-105 win over the Celtics. Houston killed them with free throws, as James Harden sank 17-of-18 and the team hit 37-of-42, compared to Boston’s 20-of-25. How bad are things in Golden State? The Warriors are on pace for the fourth-worst season in their 74-year history, and they’ve had just one 4-game winning streak, compared to six 4-game losing streaks. Trading away the two dudes with the most minutes — Robinson and Burks — won’t help things in the near term, though those three second-round picks may bear fruit some day.
Friday, February 21
Denver Nuggets (38-17) vs Oklahoma City Thunder (33-22)
8pm ET on ESPN
The Nuggets were without Will Barton last Thursday for their 120-116 overtime loss to the Lakers, despite 32 points and 10 assists from Jamal Murray. OKC has won 10 of their last 13 games to move past the Mavs into the 6th spot in the West.
New Orleans Pelicans (23-32) vs Portland Trail Blazers (25-31)
10:30pm ET on ESPN
Through his first 10 games, the Pels’ Zion Williamson is averaging 22.1 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists. For context, there have been 11 rookies in NBA history to average 22-7-2; eight of them are in the Hall of Fame, and Blake Griffin will likely make it nine after he retires. Damian Lillard’s groin injury cost him appearances in the All-Star game and 3-point contest, but at least he’s not (yet) missing real games — with the Blazers trailing the Griz by 4 games in the battle for the 8 seed, they can’t afford to be without Dame.
Saturday, February 22
Philadelphia 76ers (34-21) vs Milwaukee Bucks (46-8)
8:30pm ET on ABC/ESPN3
Ben Simmons has attempted just six 3-pointers all season — to put that into context, James Harden has fewer than six 3-point attempts in exactly one game this season. The Bucks’ 118-11 loss to the Pacers before All-Star weekend dropped their winning percentage to .852, which translates to 69.85 wins. That loss was the Bucks’ first without Giannis Antetokounmpo after previously winning five games without him.
Sunday, February 23
Boston Celtics (38-16) vs Los Angeles Lakers (41-12)
3:30pm ET on ABC/ESPN3
Jayson Tatum scored a game high 39 points Thursday in the Celtics 141-133 double-overtime win over the Clippers. Chances are this will be the game in which LeBron James passes Celtics legend John Havlicek for 10th all time in 2-point field goals; he currently trails Hondo 10,490 to 10,513.