The final week of fixtures before the much anticipated All-Star Break/Week includes an exciting slate of games throughout the NBA.
Game: Phoenix Suns @ Los Angeles Lakers Time: Saturday 18th February- 2:30pm AEDT (ESPN)
Generally for every Suns-Lakers game it's always enjoyable viewing due to the heated rivalry between the two Pacific Division sides. Saturday’s matchup should be no different as these teams prepare to face each other twice in three days.
The Suns come into this game with some ominous stats: Firstly, they have lost nine of the last ten games at Staples Centre, secondly, they have dropped 17 of the last 23 to Kobe and Co. and finally last time these two sides played Kobe dropped a league season high of 48.
Hoping to put these statistics behind them, the Suns will most likely lean on Steve Nash to pull off a win. Nash leads the league with assists and is shooting at 56% - an insane percentage for a guard.
With a win here the Lakers can keep in range of the Lob City Clippers at the top of their division. While they aren’t playing like the dominant side we have become accustomed to over years past, they are still planted firmly in the playoff race. #24 is the league leader for scoring, whilst first year all-star Andrew Bynum is having a career year averaging 16ppg and 12rpg.
Who to Watch For
Suns C Marcin Gortat- Gortat’s play has been one of the few bright spots of Phoenix’s season. He is 4th in the league for shooting percentage and is averaging a double double for points and rebounds. His matchup with Andrew Bynum will be intriguing as he and Bynum are arguably two of the best centers in the Western Conference. If Gortat can get the upper hand on Bynum, the Suns have a decent chance of picking up the W.
Prediction: Lakers to win by 6-10
Game: Boston Celtics @ Oklahoma City Thunder Time: Thursday 23rd February - 11:00am AEDT (ESPN)
This game is expected to be great viewing, with one of the most successful NBA franchises in recent history going up against the young, upstart Oklahoma City Thunder.
These sides have a little history going into this matchup after the Kendrick Perkins-Jeff Green trade last year. It’s safe to say that deal worked out much better for the Thunder, and in turn triggered a below average turn of form for the Celtics (currently underachieving with a .500 record). Admittedly, injuries have taken its toll on the men in green with Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett all going down at some point throughout the shortened season.
The Thunder on the other hand is in the midst of a fantastic season. They currently sit atop the Western Conference with a 22-7 record. Again, it’s been all-stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook carrying the majority of the scoring load for the Thunder this year. Both Durant and Westbrook sit in the top 5 in the league in scoring with 27.0 and 22.8ppg respectively.
However, they do face a stiff challenge against the league best Celtics defence who are only allowing opponents to score on average 87 points a game.
Who to Watch For
Celtics PG Rajon Rondo- The 6th year guard has been tearing it up of late for Boston. In his last four appearances (Chicago x2, Detroit) Rondo has averaged 28ppg, 7.3rpg and 9.7apg with a 32point, 10rebound, 15assist performance in a win against the Bulls. Let’s see if he can keep it up to lead Boston to an upset.
Prediction: Thunder by 6-10.