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5 Can't-Miss Matchups: LeBron James vs. Zion Williamson

Showdown of star forwards among this week's matchups to watch

We’re near the end of the month of February, and we still haven’t seen a matchup pitting LeBron James against Zion Williamson and Russell Westbrook versus Ja Morant.

Hopefully that finally changes with this week’s slate of games, starting with Tuesday’s nightcap to a TNT doubleheader in Los Angeles as the Pelicans visit the Lakers (10 ET).

Williamson is currently on a tear, having scored 20 points or more in eight consecutive games, which registers as the longest such stretch by a rookie in the NBA this season. James, meanwhile, is coming off back-to-back 30-point nights in which he’s averaged 32 points, 7.5 rebounds and 10.5 assists per game.

The Lakers are 17-0 this season when James puts up 30 points, but the Pelicans have won seven of their last eight road games.

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1. Zion Williamson vs. LeBron James

Tuesday, Feb. 25 (10 ET, TNT)

Last regular season meeting: Haven’t met yet.

Although their teams have met twice this season, this game marks the first time Williamson and James square off. Williamson missed the first two contests — both Los Angeles wins — as he recovered from October knee surgery.

Since Williamson’s return on Jan. 22, the Pelicans are 8-5, including wins in five of their last six games. Going into what should be a physical contest between these teams, keep in mind that James, 35, ranks in the top 10 in usage rate. Williamson, 19, became the youngest player in NBA history last week to score 20 points or more in seven consecutive outings.

2. Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. Pascal Siakam

Tuesday, Feb. 25 (7:30 ET, TNT)

Last regular season meeting: Nov. 2, 2019.

Antetokounmpo outdueled the self-declared “best player in the world” on Saturday in Joel Embiid, and faces another formidable foe in Siakam, who owns a postseason record of 4-2 against the Bucks star. Antetokounmpo racked up 36 points, 15 rebounds (13 on defense) and eight assists in his last game against Siakam. Antetokounmpo has come out on top in two of the last three games in this matchup. But Siakam is showing renewed energy after looking sluggish going into the All-Star break.

Head-to-head stats below are via Basketball Reference.

Giannis Antetokounmpo 4 6 27.1 10.8 6.5
Pascal Siakam 6 4 13.0 4.3 1.2

3. Ja Morant vs. Russell Westbrook

Wednesday, Feb. 26 (8 ET, ESPN)

Last regular season meeting: Haven’t met yet.

Perhaps this matchup can finally take place since the two haven’t yet been on the court as opponents despite the teams facing each other twice already this season. A nine-time All-Star, Westbrook has tweaked his game somewhat to attack the rim more, and that has yielded positive results for Houston’s small-ball attack.

Morant modeled his game after Westbrook as a youngster and calls the veteran his favorite player. Morant will need to go after his idol in this one with Memphis clinging to the final playoff spot in the West. Westbrook lit up two-time Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert last week for 34 points.

4. Luka Doncic vs. Jimmy Butler

Friday, Feb. 28 (8 ET, League Pass)

Last regular season meeting: Dec. 14, 2019.

The last time these players met, Donic suffered an ankle injury after playing in just two minutes of an eventual Heat victory in Dallas. Butler produced 38 points in a win over the 76ers earlier this month, and afterward jokingly compared himself to Doncic. It’s clear both share admiration for one another.

The Mavericks are exercising caution with Doncic as he’s been sidelined twice this season with a sprained right ankle. But Doncic should be ready to go in this one after sitting one game last weekend to rest.

Head-to-head stats below are via Basketball Reference.

Luka Doncic 0 1 2.0 1.0 0.0
Jimmy Butler 1 0 27.0 4.0 7.0

5. Joel Embiid vs. Andre Drummond

Wednesday, Feb. 26 (7 ET, League Pass)

Last regular season meeting: Dec. 23, 2019.

Update: Drummound will no longer play due to injury

There’s plenty of history in this contentious rivalry. Embiid called himself “the best player in the world” on Thursday, only to struggle three nights later (5-of-18 shooting) in a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. Embiid has been the dominant player in the series, but this game marks Drummond’s first against the 76ers with his new team.

Embiid has won the last three matchups, but the 76ers have been inconsistent on the road, where they are 9-20 entering this week.

Head-to-head stats below are via Basketball Reference.

Joel Embiid 6 1 27.7 10.3 2.0
Andre Drummond 1 6 15.4 12.0 2.9

Underrated matchup: James Harden vs. Jayson Tatum

Saturday, Feb. 29 (8:30 ET, ABC)

Last regular season meeting: Feb. 11, 2020.

Tatum tied a career-high, scoring 41 points while dropping 18 points in two different quarters on Sunday against the Lakers. The performance prompted LeBron James to call Tatum “an absolute problem” in an Instagram post. That certainly appears to be the case, as he’s scored 20 points or more in 12 of his last 13 games, averaging 28.7 ppg and 7.3 rpg during that stretch.

Harden, meanwhile, is feasting on teams trying to adjust to Houston’s small-ball style. He’s averaged 34.5 ppg and 8.5 apg in his last four games entering this week. Harden has won the last four matchups in this series, scoring 42 points in the last meeting while Tatum shot 5 of 15.

Head-to-head stats below are via Basketball Reference.

James Harden 4 1 37.8 6.0 7.4
Jayson Tatum 1 4 12.4 5.2 2.4

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Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for You can e-mail him here , find his archive here and follow him on Twitter .

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