By Akshay Manwani
With the 2012 NBA All-Star festivities two weeks away, the upcoming weekend sees superstar players from the Los Angeles Clippers, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Portland Trail Blazers and the Dallas Mavericks in action. Also, a historic rivalry will renew itself as the Boston Celtics host the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday morning.
Oklahoma City Thunder v Utah Jazz:
Here then, is a closer look at these exciting contests to be played over the next few days:
When: February 11, 2012 – 9:00 AM (IST) -- Watch it LIVE on Sony Pix
Where: EnergySolutions Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah
Regular season records: Oklahoma City Thunder (20-5), Utah Jazz (13-11)
Preview: This one simply boils down to which team will win the battle of the big men. While Al Jefferson (18.5 PPG & 8.90 RPG) and Paul Millsap (16.50 PPG & 9.70 RPG) are playing outstandingly for Utah this season, OKC have two big men in Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka to stop the Jazz’s twin towers. Moreover, it is unlikely that Utah have an answer for OKC’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who form the second most potent offensive pairing in the league after LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Denver Nuggets v Indiana Pacers:
When: February 12, 2012 – 5:30 AM (IST)
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
Regular season records: Denver Nuggets (15-11), Indiana Pacers (17-8)
Preview: Denver are in the midst of a slump, having lost six of their last seven games. To make matters worse, their scoring leader this season, Danilo Gallinari, will be out of action for some time following an injury in his left foot after the 90-99 loss to Houston at the start of the week. Indiana are a formidable side with Roy Hibbert, Danny Granger, Darren Collison and David West all putting up solid numbers this season. The Pacers also have a good record at home (7-2) and a win against the Nuggets would extend their performance on that front.
Portland Trail Blazers v Dallas Mavericks:
When: February 12, 2012 – 7:00 AM (IST) -- Watch it LIVE on Ten Sports
Where: American Airlines Center, Dallas
Regular season records: Portland Trail Blazers (14-12), Dallas Mavericks (15-11)
Preview: The first of three regular season meetings between the two sides, which makes it their first encounter after the 2011 Playoffs where Dallas beat Portland 4-2. Both teams have had contrasting starts to the season with Portland going 11-7 before slipping to 14-12. Dallas, on the other hand, went 3-5 before rebounding to 15-11 and posting the fifth best record in the Western conference. It should be a good game, but with Portland struggling on the road (just 3-9), Dallas should edge this one.
All stats and regular season standings are after games played on February 9, 2012 (IST)