The NBA is back in session after the All-Star break, and there’s no shortage of exciting action on tap for this weekend. From the surging Bulls to the new-look 76ers, the playoff picture is starting to shape up.
Get everything you need to know for Clippers vs. Lakers, Grizzlies vs. Bulls, and 76ers vs. Knicks, as we break down a trio of exciting hardcourt battles!
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Friday, February 25 | TV: ESPN
With reports swirling that LeBron might be unhappy with the front office, the Lakers face a tough road ahead after they didn’t make any deals at the trade deadline. Per ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, the Lakers have a 27% chance to make the playoffs, so every game still counts, including this winnable matchup against their Los Angeles rivals. The Clippers are holding onto 8th place in the Western Conference standings with the Lakers hot on their trails. Paul George has been sidelined since late December with an elbow injury, and now it looks like he could opt for surgery, which would shelve him for the remainder of the season. Even without George, the Clippers have stayed afloat, thanks to the scoring contributions of Marcus Morris, Reggie Jackson, and Nicolas Batum.
The Lakers hold a 3-7 record over their last 10 games, while the Clippers are 5-5. This is the third head-to-head battle between these clubs; the Lakers have lost twice by scores of 119-115 and 111-110. Morris has been hot for the Clips, averaging 19.3 points per game and shooting 48.9% from long distance in February. He topped 20 points in each of his last two outings against the Lakers. Reggie Jackson continues to shoot erratically, but he’s doing a great job of ball distribution, averaging 7.6 assists per game this month. Lakers star Anthony Davis will miss at least three weeks with a right ankle sprain, which will mean more touches for LeBron, Russell Westbrook, and Malik Monk, who’s dropped 20 points or more in three of his last six games.
Memphis Grizzlies vs. Chicago Bulls
Saturday, February 26 | TV: NBC Sports Chicago / NBA League Pass
Two dark horse MVP candidates, Ja Morant and DeMar DeRozan, lead this showdown of emerging playoff contenders. The Bulls were especially hot before the All-Star break, with DeRozan topping 30 points in eight straight games. Morant has averaged 29.8 points per game in February despite shooting 17.9 percent from 3-point range, further showcasing that mid-range jumpers and drives to the basket are alive and well. Desmond Bane has been the unheralded hero for the Grizzlies. The sophomore star is shooting 41.9 percent from beyond the arc and proving to be Morant’s most reliable kick-out option.
Memphis easily handled Chicago by a score of 119-106 in January, as Morant and Bane combined for 50 points in a fast-paced contest. However, the Bulls played without Zach LaVine, who should be back on the court after missing a few games to rest and getting treatment on his sore left knee. With point guard Lonzo Ball rehabbing his surgically repaired knee, rookie Ayo Dosunmu will continue to play heavy minutes in the starting lineup. The second-round draft pick has averaged 11 points and 7.4 assists this month. The Bulls boast a very strong 23-8 record at home this season.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. New York Knicks
Sunday, February 27 | TV: ABC
The short-lived Kemba Walker experiment has come to an end. Walker and the Knicks reached an agreement to shut him down for the remainder of the season, allowing him to rehab his knee and prepare for next season. Time will tell if he remains a Knick, but in the meantime, at least it appears Derrick Rose is nearing a return to the court. If Rose remains out, expect some combination of Alec Burks and Immanuel Quickley running the point until the Knicks decide to give rookie Deuce McBride another look. In a rare bit of good news for the Knicks, RJ Barrett will likely be back in action after missing time with a sprained ankle.
The Knicks have been dreadful at home, going 13-17 at Madison Square Garden prior to the All-Star break. They also went 2-8 in their last 10 games before the break. That said, the Knicks did have some success against the 76ers early this season, notching 112-99 and 103-96 victories, led by a pair of big games from Julius Randle. Keep an eye on James Harden’s status, as Philly chose to rest the point guard’s ailing hamstring after the trade. The 76ers’ newly acquired star should play his first game Friday night and be ready to rock for this nationally televised matchup. It’ll be very interesting to see the new dynamic meshes between Harden and MVP candidate Joel Embiid.