Often, I find myself looking back on games – what happened last night? What big highlights did I miss? Who dropped 40? Who is the hottest team right now? As we have now crossed the All-Star break and the season is really getting into the stretch run, I wanted to be more proactive in looking forward to what’s coming next. Let’s get hyped for what’s on the horizon! Here are the key teams, players and games that have caught my eye in the next two weeks that I will be paying attention to and I think you should too. Here’s your 14-day NBA forecast.
NBA Dates: 2/20/20 – 3/4/20
- New Orleans @ Portland: Friday 2/21 10:30 ET ESPN – On paper, the 9th and 11th best West teams may not scream must-watch, but this one is circled on my calendar. Though Damian Lillard (coming off of 35 PPG on 45% 3PT averages in January) will be missed, this battle among teams scraping for the 8 seed will be exciting thanks to a certain Pelican angle. Zion is can’t-miss TV and is going to be guarded by who in this game? Ariza? Whiteside? Carmelo? He is probably salivating already.
- Philadelphia @ Milwaukee Saturday 2/22 8:30 ET ABC – Beginning way back in the preseason, this seemed to be the premiere, highly-anticipated East showdown everyone wanted to see. Can Giannis still dominate in his typical MVP fashion against the tenacious Embiid-anchored defense? The Bucks were handled by the Sixers on Christmas but got their revenge a few weeks ago to even the season series at one apiece. This might be our final real look at this matchup. Their final meeting is game 78 for Milwaukee, which will very likely be after they have the #1 seed well locked up.
- Boston @ Los Angeles Lakers Sunday 2/23 2:30 ET ABC- With this trio airing Friday-Saturday-Sunday, the NBA really comes out with a bang in terms of their primetime schedule right out of the All-Star break. Boston-LA speaks for itself, and the Lakers have a bad taste in their mouths from their largest defeat of the year (32 points) the last time these teams played.
- New York @ Charlotte Wednesday 2/26 7:00 ET LeaguePass Only – These next two weeks are very bad for Tank-a-thon games, as none of the six worst teams in the league face each other, so you’ll have to settle for this one (Do not actually watch this game).
- Los Angeles Lakers @ New Orleans Sunday 3/1 8:00 ET ESPN LeBron. Zion. Throw in The Brow playing back in his old hometown, and I’m in.
- Philadelphia: The 76ers find themselves in a very precarious spot in the East standings sitting in 5th place, which currently would pit them against Miami in round one. They have struggled against the Heat (1-3 on the year, only victory back in November) and should they even advance, the giants in Milwaukee would certainly await them in round two. If they want to scrape their way out of the five seed, they really have to act now. They are five games back in the loss column of the #3 seed Celtics with just 27 games to play. To put that in perspective, they would need to go 20-7 and have Boston go 15-13 or worse to pass them. Their upcoming schedule holds what should be four “comfortable” wins: BKN, ATL, NYK and @CLE, but is also mixed with the three toughest games you could have this year: @MIL, @LAL and @LAC. Mix in the fact that the LA games kick off a four-game trip on the road, where Philly is an abysmal 9-19 (same as NYK, worse than PHX, SAC). Throw in the recent Horford benching and I feel like these next two weeks will be very intriguing to watch as well as provide a great measuring stick for how the 76ers will finish the regular season.
- Houston: Lots of words have been spilled on the Rockets recently, so I’ll just pile on rather briefly. While I don’t love some of the foul-drawing-antics certain bearded players on this team utilize to succeed, I am fascinated by the ‘5-out’ lineups they are experimenting with. I’m all in (at least from a viewer and entertainment aspect) on the no-center squads Houston is trying. I like creativity. I like a variety of playing styles. I like Westbrook being a charging bull straight to the cup over and over to the tune of his most successful stretch in years. I like PJ Tucker digging his heels in against guys 6+ inches taller than him. While they are just 2-2 since the Capela trade, one loss was without Westbrook, and the other was a miraculous dagger from Bojan at the buzzer, so I’m not writing off this newfangled crew just yet. The recent additions of Jeff Green and DeMarre Carroll only provide more stretchy, rangy, versatile bodies to be thrown into the fray. Houston, you have piqued my interest.
- Steph Curry – Plans to return in early March, possibly as early as March 1st against Washington. We have been deprived of the two-time MVP for 3+ months now, and at home against the Wizards seems like a brilliant spot to re-introduce him and have him do something special.
- D’Angelo Russell – While we thought he was joining his best big buddy at last, it turns out a wrist injury will be sidelining KAT for at least some number of games after the break. Can Russell begin to establish any continuity with his new teammates, such as Malik Beasley, Juancho, or Jarrett Culver? Can he lift a shaky roster without their star big man, or will Russell travel 2,000 miles only to pile up a bunch more losses with a different colored jersey? With six playoff teams right off the jump, including a four-game road trip, odds definitely favor the latter.
- Jamal Murray – Keeping the PG trend going, Murray has long been a favorite of mine, but he is having a bit of a meh season on the legs of his big extension last summer. However, since returning from injury, he has been looking much more like the potent scoring threat the Nuggets envisioned. In his last four he’s averaged 31 PPG and nearly 4 3PM per game and has shot 46% from three since his return. In the next two weeks, he’ll face Lowry, CP3, Beverly, D-Lo, and (possibly) Steph Curry. I’m excited to see if he can keep up his hot streak and go toe-to-toe with some of the better adversaries at his position.
- Buyout Boys – Will any of DeMarre Carroll, Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, or Reggie Jackson carve out a significant role for their new contenders?
Semi-serious & Semi-educated Bold Predictions:
- The Heat go undefeated. 6 home and just 2 away games (ATL & CLE) with the toughest being Milwaukee, who will be playing the second night of a back to back. Also, thanks to All-Star Saturday, I recently found out that Bam is the most skilled player in the NBA.
- The Cavs go winless. They have 6 playoff teams on their schedule, and both of their non-playoff opponents are on the road. Also, their best four players might all be centers. Also, they are 14-40.