These are my picks for the best upcoming NBA games:
1. All Star Weekend, Feb. 18-20 on TNT
Why You Should Watch: I’m not that big on All Star Weekend. The Dunk Contest (Saturday, Feb. 19) is probably going to be more interesting (and competitive) than the actual game. YouTube junkies are dying to see what rookie phenom Blake Griffin can do, as the contest essentially pits Griffin against assorted players whose only real basketball ability is jumping really freaking high. The actual game itself never fails to be disappointing, as every player coasts through without playing defense or really competing at all, but watching Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo tossing alley-oops to Dwight Howard and LeBron James should relieve some of the monotony. Well worth your Saturday and Sunday nights, you know, assuming you have nothing better to do.
My Pick: Eastern Conference defeats Western Conference 155-142.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder (34-19) vs. San Antonio Spurs (46-9), Wednesday Feb. 23 at 6 p.m. on ESPN
Why You Should Watch: The Spurs play a fascinating style of basketball, all about ball movement, team play and offensive execution. Russell Westbrook, the Thunder’s star point guard, plays like a bull in a china shop, powering his way into the lane, acting more than thinking. Oklahoma City’s other superstar, Kevin Durant, has one of the prettiest (and most unguardable) jumpshots in the league. And yet, the Spurs have dominated the Thunder so far this season. Count me in.
My pick: San Antonio defeats Oklahoma City 100-94.
3. Miami Heat (39-15) vs. Chicago Bulls (36-16), Thursday Feb. 24 @ 7 p.m. on TNT
Why You Should Watch: Whoa baby. This one is juicy. Not only does this game matter for both teams in the overall standings. Not only is Chicago one of the best teams at home this season (23-4 at the time of printing). Not only does this game feature three of the most exciting stars in the league in Derrick Rose, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Not only will Bulls center Joakim Noah be back from his toe injury, meaning the Bulls will be at full strength for one of the first times this season. Not only are these teams a budding rivalry in the East. Not only do Chicago fans resent Dwyane Wade for passing on them in free agency this summer. Not only…well, maybe only that stuff. But if that isn’t enough to make you want to watch this game, I don’t think you care enough about sports.
My Pick: Chicago defeats Miami 101-97.
4. New Orleans Hornets (33-23) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (13-42), Friday Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports North
Why You Should Watch: Minnesota is the closest thing Iowa has to a hometown team, so they should be supported. But don’t watch them for that reason. Watch them because Kevin Love has the longest streak of consecutive double doubles since the 82-83 NBA season.
And watch this game because of the Timberwolves’ 13 wins this season, two of them have been against the playoff bound Hornets.
But I don’t think it’ll continue…
My pick: New Orleans defeats Minnesota 95-79.
5. Los Angeles Clippers (20-35) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (38-15) Feb. 25 at 9:30 p.m. on NBA League Pass
Why You Should Watch: For starters, there’s Blake Griffin. And then there’s also Blake Griffin, who is Blake Griffin. So there’s that. There’s also the two hard-fought games these cross town rivals have played already this season. And there’s the awkward “big brother” relationship the Lakers seem to have over the Clippers. But did I mention Blake Griffin? Just trust me on this one.
My pick: Los Angeles defeats Los Angeles. One way or the other.