Raptors vs. Pelicans
February 15, 9:00 AM on NBA League Pass
This game has every chance to spiral into a blowout since Toronto has been red-hot recently. Their seven-game win streak might be a thing of the past but the Raptors still feel like one of the scariest in the East.
Their ascent from 11th to sixth in the conference has a lot to do with Pascal Siakam rekindling his spiciness over the last two months. Siakam enters this game averaging 29 points and 10 rebounds last week. Siakam's resurgence has allowed Toronto to clobber teams offensively with their up-and-down, no-center system. Nick Nurse conjures some of the most entertaining basketball in the league on a daily basis.
New Orleans has some reason for optimism after the trade deadline. Instead of bottoming out, the Pelicans cashed in more of their chips and loaded up for Zion Williamson’s eventual return, whenever that may be.
Plucked from Portland, CJ McCollum has already put up a big game as a Pelican, dropping 36 points in a loss against San Antonio. While we wait for signs of a Zion return, watching this Pelicans team find their way against one of the most fun teams in the league should sustain us for Tuesday.
Celtics vs. 76ers
February 16, 8:30 AM on NBA League Pass
Whether or not this game marks the start of the James Harden era in Philly, there’s still plenty of reason to tuck into a clash between two of the best teams in the East.
The Celtics are in the midst of the longest winning streak in the league at eight games. Even if they lose against Atlanta, Boston deserves plenty of credit for turning things around from nearly trading one of their stars to now holding seventh in the East, just a half game behind Toronto.
A rejuvenated defense and a more efficient effort from both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are the reasons the Celtics momentarily saved themselves from a midseason collapse. They even managed to turn a bench player into a much-needed defensive point guard in Derrick White at the trade deadline.
The Sixers should push these Celtics to the limit, regardless of whether they have Harden or not. Joel Embiid has been scorching hot, picking up at least 25 points and 10 rebounds over the last seven games.
Embiid just pounded the third-place Cleveland Cavaliers for 40 points and 14 boards, making barbecue chicken of the Cavs’ frontline of Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley. Al Horford has had Embiid’s number in the past but this Embiid is gassed up by another new star teammate.
Sixers vs. Bucks
February 18, 9:30 AM on ONE Sports
Philadelphia media has Harden’s debut tabbed for their game against the Celtics but a more realistic target might be their Friday game against the Bucks.
It would be quite a debut for Harden if his first game as a Sixer comes against the defending champions, whom he failed to beat in the playoffs last season due to the hamstring injury. Harden has had a difficult time recovering from that injury but he should feel better after recent events.
Milwaukee is still one of the best teams in the East, though it hasn’t been quite as consistent as one would expect defending champ to be. Giannis Antetokounmpo is playing at his MVP level but his teammates have been hit-and-miss, including fellow Big 3 members Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday.
With all that said, the Bucks are 7-3 over their last 10 games with several blowouts in that stretch. It would be a welcome respite for Embiid to finally have another superstar by his side again.
February 19-21 on NBA TV Philippines (available on Smart GigaPlay app and Cignal TV)
All-Star Weekend in Cleveland carries a ton of excitement since the league is trying several new things. The first event on Saturday has shifted the most since the usual rookie-sophomore showcase has been tweaked from a single game between USA and World representatives to a mini-tournament of four teams with G-League Ignite players in the mix.
The Skills Showcase on Sunday gets another revision - instead of the bigs vs. guards format the league has trotted out over the last few years, it will have teams competing against each other now.
Aside from the new things, the old attractions are still the reason to tune into the All-Star festivities. The 3-Point Shootout has a stacked field while we’re getting Jalen Green in the Dunk Contest! Pinoy Pride!
Just prepare your excuse from work on Monday since this All-Star Game is going to have some extra spice as it’s one of the rare times the game’s held after the trade deadline.