The Western Conference edged out the East in last year’s NBA All-Star Game, 152-149, with Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant coming away with Most Valuable Player honors.
Bryant, Howard join forces with Durant
Durant comes into Sunday’s battle leading the league in scoring with 29.2 PPG, while looking to follow up last year’s stellar 36-point night in the All-Star Game. The 24-year-old joins up with the Los Angeles Lakers’ duo of Kobe Bryant (26.8 PPG) and Dwight Howard (11.8 RPG). Howard makes his first appearance on the West roster after six straight years with the East, while Bryant enters the matchup as a 15-time All-Star.
The West’s starting five is rounded out by Los Angeles Clippers’ mates Chris Paul (9.6 APG) and Blake Griffin (8.7 PPG), while the bench contains Houston’s James Harden (26.1 PPG). Harden missed Wednesday’s contest for the Rockets with an ankle injury and is “questionable” to return here, despite the event taking stage on his home floor.
San Antonio’s Tim Duncan (9.6 RPG) and Tony Parker (7.6 APG) are sure to get their share of minutes in the battle, with Popovich at the helm. Duncan is a 14-time All-Star and won the affair’s MVP accolade back in 2000 alongside Shaquille O’Neal as part of the West’s squad.
The rest of Popovich’s bench to leverage has Durant’s Thunder mate Russell Westbrook (22.6 PPG), Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge (20.9 PPG), Golden State’s David Lee (10.8 RPG), and Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph (11.5 RPG).
James, Anthony lead East starters
New York’s Carmelo Anthony (28.6 PPG) and Miami’s LeBron James (27.3 PPG) come into Houston’s festivities leading the Eastern Conference in scoring, while James’ Heat mate Dwyane Wade is not far behind with 21 PPG. Wade was the All-Star Game’s MVP, three years ago, when the East downed the West, 141-139, in Dallas’ Cowboys Stadium.
James and Wade will be joined by Miami’s Chris Bosh (7.4 RPG), with the trio likely to showcase their efforts in tandem with Spoelstra overseeing the East’s squad. Boston’s Kevin Garnett (15.1 PPG) was voted a starter, but “The Big Ticket” will not be with mate Rajon Rondo, who is out for the season with a knee injury.
Chicago’s Luol Deng (16.7 PPG) returns as an All-Star for the second straight year, while the rest of the East’s bench consist of first-time selections. New York’s Tyson Chandler (11.1 PPG) is joined by big men Brook Lopez (19 PPG) and Joakim Noah (11.4 PPG). Deng also reunites with Duke alum Kyrie Irving (23.5 PPG), while Indiana’s Paul George (17.6 PPG) and Philadelphia’s Jrue Holiday (8.9 APG) round out the bench.
Back the East as underdogs
5Dimes.eu opened the West as a 2 ½-point NBA odds favorite, while first setting the ‘total’ at 292 ½. Early NBA betting action on the ‘chalk’ and OVER lifted the numbers to three and 295 ½, respectively.
I am taking the points in this spot, looking for Spoelstra to have his “Heat-les” scorch the West’s roster. James has come in with some fiery momentum, piling in 32 PPG over his last seven contests – while in search for his third All-Star Game MVP award.
James could be in for some déjà vu, having won his first All-Star MVP award at Toyota Center, back in 2006, despite Houston’s then popular duo of Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady on the floor for the West. The East logged a 122-120 victory on that occasion, with James notching 29 points and Wade laying in his side’s game-winning bucket.
Anthony is also confirmed to play for the East after suffering an arm injury in Wednesday’s matchup with the Toronto Raptors. The 28-year-old will look to erase thoughts of his 5-for-24 night against the Raptors here, while having a chance for his first MVP award.
The West’s roster has more depth than the East, but the many first-time selections for Spoelstra’s bench should have their share of spots to run and gun here. Look for the East to get the money, connecting buckets at a high clip to end the West’s two-year winning streak.
NBA Picks All-Star Game: Eastern Conference +3 (5Dimes.eu) for your All-Star NBA Picks.
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