With the 2013 All Star Game rapidly approaching, teams around the league are looking to cushion their records and build some momentum heading into the break, but it won’t be easy for anyone, as the week ahead has some of the NBA’s best clashing with their bitter rivals. Two of the Eastern Conference's most decorated teams are set to renew their classic rivalry, while one of the finest new rivalries tips off its third installment in the Big Apple. Then, two of the league’s ageless wonders will match up for an old-fashioned Texas shootout before a magnificent crescendo that pits the NBA’s two hottest teams against one another in what could be a preview of the Western Conference Finals. It’s a week made in Heaven for NBA fans, and we’ve got the breakdown of what to expect as you take it all in live.
Chicago Bulls vs. Boston Celtics – 1/18 - TD Garden
This matchup has long been one of the league’s most intense and enjoyable rivalries, and with Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, and Luol Deng all playing All-Star caliber basketball, the Bulls (22-15) are set to give the Celtics (20-18) all they can handle. Chicago is riding a four-game road winning streak, including Wednesday’s incredible, 107-105, overtime victory in Toronto that saw Boozer score a season-high 36 points, while Deng mailed a jumper with 3 seconds remaining. Chicago has now claimed nine of eleven road games, and they lead the Eastern Conference with an 11-5 road record. They claimed a 100-89 victory when the teams last met on November 12th at the United Center, with Deng scoring 26 points with 11 rebounds, and Noah claiming his second career triple-double with 11 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists.
Boston, on the other hand, fell 90-78 to New Orleans on Wednesday night, which ended a season-best six game winning streak. However, it was only their third home loss in twelve games, and recent history sides with the Celtics, as they have won 11 of the last 14 games when the Bulls have traveled to the Garden, including the postseason. And without Derrick Rose, stopping the white-hot Rajon Rondo will be very difficult, as the NBA’s assist leader (11.2) scored a season-high 26 points the last time they met, and he’s averaging 21 points in his previous five games in the series. The game is set to tip-off at 7 p.m. ET, so get your hands on Bulls vs. Celtics tickets now and enjoy the spectacle live inside The Garden.
Brooklyn Nets vs. New York Knicks – 1/21 – Madison Square Garden
Round 4 in the Battle of New York City is ready to kick off, and this one is fast becoming one of the NBA’s best rivalries. The Nets (23-16) took the first game at Barclays, 89-96, in overtime, but the Knicks (25-13) own the series this season at two games to one, and the last time they met the Knicks came through with a 100-86 victory in front of a sold-out Madison Square Garden crowd as Carmelo Anthony dropped a game-high 31 points. The Knicks beat the Pistons in London’s O2 Arena last night, but this is the game on everyone’s radar. Coach Mike Woodson's team is just 5-6 in their past 11 games, with Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Rasheed Wallace, and Marcus Camby all battling injuries. But Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert are back, and Anthony is second in the NBA in scoring (29.2), while dropping at least 30 points in 14 games this year.
The Nets, on the other hand, are starting to come into form under veteran interim coach P.J Carlesimo, who filled in the position for the fired Avery Johnson on December 27th. So far in his stint, he has led the surging Nets to seven wins in their last eight games, resulting in an overall a 9-2 record mark, and the team now sits in fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings. Most importantly for the Knicks matchup on Monday, Carlesimo has point guard Deron Williams (16.8 ppg, 7.7 apg), Brook Lopez (18.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg), and Joe Johnson (17.2 ppg, 3.5 apg) playing in top-notch form. Tip-off for the latest installment of this Empire State classic is set for 3:30 p.m. ET on Monday, so claim your Knicks vs. Nets tickets while you can.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Clippers – 1/22 – Staples Center
In what could definitely be a Western Conference Finals preview, the NBA’s top two teams are set to battle in Hollywood on Tuesday night. Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder (31-8) took out the Nuggets 117-97 on Wednesday, and two remarkable stats came out of the game. Russell Westbrook scored 32 points in just 28 minutes, putting him alongside Xavier McDaniel and Sedale Threatt as the only players in OKC/Seattle history to finish with over 30 points in 28 minutes or less. And Durant is seeking very rare ground by becoming only the sixth player in history to join the 50-40-90 Club, which means shooting 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range, and 90 percent from the free-throw line; now he’s at 52.5, 40.2, and 90.1. If he can keep it up, he’ll join only Larry Bird, Reggie Miller, Mark Price, Steve Nash, and Dirk Nowitzki.
Then there is the high flying Lob City crew. The Los Angeles Clippers (31-9) have the NBA’s second best record, and are legitimate contenders to win it all. They’ve got the finest bench in land and a well rounded starting lineup led by the unparalleled Chris Paul, who is putting up 16.8 points per game while leading the league in steals (2.6), and is second overall in assists (9.7). Right now he’s out with a deep knee bruise, but he should be back for the game, and Eric Bledoe has been stellar filling in. Matt Barnes and Jamal Crawford wreak havoc off the bench, and, of course, the Clippers can also matchup up with Oklahoma’s offensive assault with players like Blake Griffin, Lamar Odom, and De’Andre Jordan, to name a few. This battle of the Western Conference’s hottest teams is sure to be electric, and tip off time is 10:30 p.m. ET, so grab your Thunder vs. Clippers tickets now to see the show.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Dallas Mavericks - 1/25 - American Airlines Center
There’s nothing like a good-old Wild West shootout featuring one of the league’s best rivalries. The San Antonio Spurs are set to take on the cross-state rival Dallas Mavericks just when both teams are playing in top form. With stellar home wins over Memphis, Minnesota, and Houston, the Mavericks (17-23) extended their season-best winning streak to four games. O.J. Mayo has continued his breakout season, putting up 18.3 points and 4 assists, and the return of superstar Dirk Nowitzki has Dallas reinvigorated. Thankfully for them, it’s a home game, where their extraordinary home crowd has helped them earn and 11-7 record. Nowitzki is slowly getting back to form after missing the first 27 games with knee surgery, averaging 13.7 points and 5.2 rebounds, and he’ll be inspired to play hard as his 11 consecutive All-Star appearance streak is set to come to an end.
On the other hand, one Western Conference power forward who will certainly make the all-star team is San Antonio’s sure-fire Hall of Famer, Tim Duncan. Once again he’s exemplifying the fact that age is nothing but a number with one of his best seasons ever. The 36-year-old’s stat sheet boasts a stellar 17.2 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks per game. Tony Parker is in all-star form as well, dropping in 19.4 points and 7.2 assists a game, which has helped the Spurs start a two -game winning streak of their own in routs over the Grizzlies and the Timberwolves earlier this week. They also own the league’s third-best record, at 30-11 on the year. Tip off for the game is set for 8:00 p.m. ET, and this is sure to be a wild rodeo, so make sure to get your Spurs vs. Mavs tickets today to experience this legendary rivalry live.