NBA Games of the Week 2/19-2/25
Nov. 2, 2017 - Source: Rob Carr/Getty Images North America
The All-Star break is officially over on Thursday, meaning each team has less than 30 games before the end of the season. Despite being at the top of their respective conferences, the Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors find themselves in the number two spots in the East and West. The Toronto Raptors hold a 2 game lead over the Celtics, while the Houston Rockets have just a half game lead over the defending champion Warriors. The playoffs will be very interesting and this last month and a half of the season will be extremely interesting in terms of playoff seeding. The number 3 seed in the East, the Cleveland Cavaliers are only six and a half games ahead of the number 9 seed, Detroit Pistons. Out West, it is even tighter, the number 3 seed San Antoni Spurs have only four and a half games separating them from the number 10 seed, Utah Jazz. In addition to that, there are multiple teams that are tanking to get a high draft pick. The NBA regular season is awesome. Let’s get to the games.
Thursday February 22nd
Washington Wizards at Cleveland Cavaliers (8PM EST)
This will be the third game of the four game season series between these two teams. The first two games were losses by the Wizards and both were in Washington. The series shifts to Cleveland for the final two games. At the moment, the Wizards are only a game and a half behind the Cavaliers for the three seed in the East.
The Wizards are still without John Wall and they have been successful without him. They are 6-2 since he went down and they will need to continue that type of winning if they hope to keep a top four seed in the East. Washington has relied a great deal on Bradley Beal and Otto Porter for their scoring and they have had a perfectly timed breakout by Tomas Satoransky. Satoransky has put up three of his highest scoring outputs of the season in the last 6 games including 25 points in a win against the Bulls. If the Wizards can continue to get that kind of play from those three, they should be fine.
The Cavaliers are still enjoying the honeymoon of their new roster. They are only 2-0 with the new roster and after their two wins over the Celtics and Thunder, expectations have gone back to NBA Finals. They seem to have the Wizards’ number this season and if the Cavaliers hope to maintain a top three seed they cannot afford to have a losing streak and this game in particular is the difference between a half game lead over the Wizards with a loss or two and a half games over the Wizards with a win.
Friday February 23rd
Portland Trail Blazers at Utah Jazz (9PM EST)
This will be the third game of the four game season series between these two teams. The Utah Jazz have won the first two games, one at home and one on the road. These teams are separated by just two games in the standings and that makes this game so important.
The Trail Blazers had a great January, but are just 3-4 since the start of February. However, their big Valentine’s Day win over the Warriors has to give them some confidence heading into this contest. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum have been really good and the Trail Blazers have to feel that if those two get hot, they are in any game. They combined for 61 points in the last meeting between these two teams, but still lost by 19. Going into Utah, they are going to need another game like that and more if they hope to beat the Jazz.
The Jazz are the hottest team in the NBA. Many thought that the Western Conference playoffs was a 9 team race, but after an 11 game win streak heading into the All-Star break, the Jazz are back in the playoff picture. The big question has to be that with all of the time off, will the Jazz lose the rhythm they have been playing with as of late. As a team, they have shot 44% from three and they are holding opponents to just 44% shooting from the field in the month of February. Needless to say, they are clicking. Even with their great play, they are still on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff race and they will need to keep up their winning if they hope to extend their season.
Saturday February 24th
Oklahoma City Thunder at Golden State Warriors (8:30PM EST)
This will be the third game of the four game season series between these two teams. The Warriors were beaten badly in both games, one on the road and one at home. The Thunder seem to get up for their games against the Warriors. They are currently sitting in the 5th spot in the West and are 2 games back of the 4th and 3rd spot in the standings.
The Thunder are a strange team. When they play at their best, they look pretty good. However, there have been too many instances this season where they have played badly and lost to teams they should beat. Oklahoma City had a great December and January before stumbling in the month of February before the All-Star Break. They even lost to the Lakers, beat the Warriors, and then got embarrassed by the Lakers in Los Angeles, losing by 25 points in early February. There is no way to know which team is going to show up and the Thunder have to put together good basketball if they hope to make the playoffs. They are only two and a half games ahead of the Jazz.
The Warriors are so great that people are beginning to look for even the slightest hint of weakness from them and they pounce all over it. At the end of the day, the Warriors are 44-14 and do not seem to feel the pressure that other teams may feel. They understand that they are going to lose games and it is business as usual. There are still nine and a half games between them and the third seed in the Western Conference. There will be no sense of desperation from them. However, this game feels like one that the Warriors will want badly. They do not like to lose and they are going to hope to avenge their 20 point home loss they took on February 6th to this same Thunder team.
Sunday February 25th
Houston Rockets at Denver Nuggets (8PM EST)
This is the third and final game of the season between these two teams. The Rockets won the first two games quite convincingly, by 30 and 26 points. However, this is the first game in Denver and Denver happens to be a very good home team.
The Rockets took over 1st place in the Western Conference and they have to be feeling pretty good at this moment. Despite being arguably the best team in basketball, they only had one All-Star. I could see Houston finishing this season on a great run. However, this will be their 2nd game in what will be their toughest stretch of the season. Their schedule for the next month, from February 23rd to March 24th involves 16 games. Of those 16 games, 10 games are on the road and only one game is against a team that is more than one game under .500. If Houston gets through this stretch with more than 12 wins, that would be a major boost to their confidence.
The Denver Nuggets are currently in 6th place in the West, just half a game behind Oklahoma City for the 5th seed. Despite missing their big free agent acquisition for a large chunk of the season, the Nuggets have to be excited to be where they are. They are expecting Paul Millsap back by the middle of March and getting him back will give them a real chance to make some noise in the playoffs. The key for the Nuggets is to get up to the 5th or 6th seed to avoid the Warriors or Rockets in round one. However, a good showing in this game could give them some confidence against a Rockets team that has embarrassed them twice this year. Both games have been duds by Jamal Murray, so there is no telling what they might be able to do if Murray can get it going.
All Stats Courtesy of Basketball Reference