BASKETBALL – Back to regular NBA season after pulsating All Stars game


Friday, February 23, 2018

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The NBA All Stars visited Los Angeles last weekend and treated basketball fans to a spectacle worthy of the Hollywood hosts. The format change for the 67th All-Star Game, with captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry choosing their teammates from whichever Conference they desired, proved to be a stirring success. The final frantic minutes of the All-Star game on Sunday evening was worth the price of admission. Team LeBron's all-out 28-12 comeback in the final six minutes made the game feel like actual competition. Both sides appeared to be making every effort to win but after the final whistle, Team LeBron emerged 148-145 winners and LeBron James, the oldest player on the court (33), collected his third Kia All-Star Game MVP trophy on the strength of his near triple-double performance (29-points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists).

This marked the sixth time the league's All-Star showcase event was held in Los Angeles, and the stars came out to shine in an uncommonly entertaining display. There were baited expectations of friction when Stephen Curry chose his Golden State teammates Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, but had to play against Kevin Durant, who also had to team up with Russell Westbrook with whom his departure from Oklahoma City was far from amicable. Additionally, LeBron James teamed with Kyrie Irving, who aggressively forced a trade away from Cleveland (and LeBron) last summer.

With the All-Star weekend behind them, the serious business of the NBA again takes centre stage. The regular season restarted on Thursday, February 22nd with six games, but here is a look at some must-see matchups for this weekend.


To say there is no love lost between these two teams is an understatement. They met in the 2016 Western Conference Final where the Warriors emerged victorious. Then, suddenly, to the ire of Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant switched sides. Since then, Westbrook has approached this matchup with a chip on his shoulder and has done so to great effect. The Thunder are 2-0 against the Warriors this season as they blew out the Warriors 108-91 on November 22, 2017, and then picked up another blow-out win in Oakland on February 6, 2018. The win in Oakland marked the Thunder's first regular-season win over the Warriors on the road in their last seven tries. Russell Westbrook scored a season-high 34 points and added 10 rebounds and nine assists to help the Oklahoma City Thunder roll past the Warriors last November, and with a win on Saturday night in Oakland, the Thunder can become the first team to have defeated the Warriors three times during the regular season with Steve Kerr as coach.

Under Kerr, the Warriors have a 25-3 record in the next meeting against a team that handed them a loss in the same season. Only the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs, both in the 2016-17 season, and the Thunder this season have defeated the Warriors in two straight meetings in the same regular season. After Saturday, these teams will meet again in April but the Warriors must win this weekend to bolster their confidence against the Thunder in what is looking to be the matchup for the Western Conference Finals. While Westbrook is playing inspired basketball (especially against Golden State), it is hard to predict Oklahoma City repeating their November win on Saturday in the house that Curry built. Look for a big win by the home team in Oracle Arena to solidify their position as overwhelming $1.45 JustBet favourites for the Larry O'Brien Trophy.


The Spurs have endured a bumpy ride all season long mainly due to injuries to key players, which has forced Coach Greg Popovich into strange rotations that have yielded inconsistent results. On the other hand, the Cleveland Cavaliers have been in pretty much the same boat. They, however, have a healthy LeBron James who can still produce magic-at-will from his 33-year old body. Admittedly, for the first time in his 15-year career, a team with LeBron astride is producing more with him on the bench than with him on the floor. The fact of the matter is that Cleveland are near the bottom of every defensive category, highlighted by their defensive rating of 28th in the league. All this with LeBron averaging almost a triple-double for the season.

These two teams have met only once this season, on January 23rd when LeBron became the youngest player to achieve 30,000 points, but the Cavaliers lost 114-102. Truth be told, both teams sit in third place in their respective Conferences and appeared to be heading in the wrong direction before the All-Star break. They both appeared to need some time off to refocus and re-energise as they must still be regarded as powerhouses in the league. There is very little doubt that these teams will both make the play-offs and this Sunday must be regarded as the turning point. This is where the drive to the post-season begins and, while they are both limping through the regular season, it must be recognised that there still remains a wealth of experience and leadership in both locker rooms. The expectation for Sunday evening is for a play-off type game that will probably be decided on the last possession. It will be close, but bet on LeBron and the Cavaliers to emerge victorious.

JustBet still offers the best odds and bet options for the NBA, NCAA and European basketball, so place your bets early for the best odds at one of the over 100 locations on the prediction of your choice for maximum winnings. The NBA Playoffs are a few months away but, if it started today, the standings would be as follows:




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