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Around the Globe: Post All-Star break lookahead

Take a look at which stars have their teams trending upward as we approach the homestretch of the regular season.

The Bucks carried a 12-game winning streak into the All-Star break, but the status of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s wrist injury looms over the team.

The All-Star break always serves as a much-needed reset for teams. Whether it be mentally gearing up for a strong finish heading into the postseason or healing nagging injuries that pile up over the course of a strenuous season, all clubs can put the one-week pause to good use. 

Milwaukee was, without a doubt, the hottest team going into the break. Spearheaded by Giannis Antetokounmpo’s strong play, the Bucks have won 12 straight and sit just a half-game behind Boston for first place in the East. 

Antetokounmpo’s winning ways continued into the All-Star Game, too. Team Giannis defeated Team LeBron 184-175, but Bucks fans were probably more concerned with Antetokounmpo’s health than the outcome of the yearly exhibition. 

Antetokounmpo slammed home the first two points of the game and was then immediately pulled to avoid any further damage to his sprained wrist, suffered last Thursday against Chicago. 

Injuries coming out of the All-Star break are never ideal, but Milwaukee has given itself enough cushion in the standings to be able to withstand the blow of losing its superstar, especially if Antetokounmpo isn’t out for an extended period of time. 

Even if the Bucks slide a bit in the immediate future, it’s always best to be peaking right before the playoffs, and as long as Antetokounmpo doesn’t suffer any setbacks, Milwaukee can still position itself to do just that. 

*All stats from Feb. 3 through Feb. 23

Edition’s Standout

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (Greece)

Stats since Feb. 3: 28.3 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 7.2 apg

Giannis and LeBron select their teams for the 2023 All-Star game

Prior to his injury, Antetokounmpo had been as hot as anyone in the league. The two-time Kia MVP had scored 30 or more points in eight of his last ten games, including a pair of 50+ point outings. Milwaukee will miss Antetokounmpo’s explosive offense, particularly in the short term, as four of its next five games are against Playoff contenders (Heat, Suns, Nets, Sixers). On the flip side, four of their next five will be played at Fiserv Forum.

Other notables 

Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets (Serbia)

Stats since Feb. 3: 22.6 ppg, 14.4 rpg, 10.4 apg

Nightly Notable: Nikola Jokic | Feb. 11

The reigning back-to-back MVP was the second to last player off the board during the All-Star Game draft, but Jokic didn’t take it to heart. After the game, he even joked that he wouldn’t draft himself either. All-Star games might not do the Joker’s talents justice but his numbers speak for themselves. Jokic has tallied a triple-double in seven of his last ten outings and Denver’s record moved to 22-0 this season when he records a triple-double, following his 24-18-13 clinic in Cleveland on Thursday.  

Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors (Cameroon) 

Stats since Feb. 3: 27.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 5.3 apg

Pascal Siakam is excited to add his All-Star ring to the collection

After struggling to find consistency throughout much of the season, the Raptors have won six of their last seven outings and currently find themselves comfortably in the Play-In picture. A large portion of the credit for the turnaround should go to Siakam, who’s been a steady presence for an up-and-down Toronto team. The two-time All-Star is one of eight players who are averaging 25+ points, 5+ rebounds and 5+ assists this season. 

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder (Canada)

Stats since Feb. 3: 32.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 6.1 apg

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: 'We are continuing to get better and have turned the corner.'

Gilgeous-Alexander’s play throughout the first three-quarters of the season was strong enough to earn him his first All-Star selection. The 24-year-old also has his squad in the Play-In hunt, as OKC hopes to make it back to the postseason for the first time since 2020. The Thunder dropped a hard-fought OT contest in Utah on Thursday, but they headed into the break winners of four of their previous six games, including a victory in Portland in which Gilgeous-Alexander erupted for 44 points, and a road win over the Lakers — spoiling LeBron James’ celebration for becoming the NBA’s all-time scoring leader. 

A few more: Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks; Lauri Markkanen, Utah Jazz; Domantas Sabonis, Sacramento Kings.

Rookie spotlight  

Bennedict Mathurin, Indiana Pacers (Canada)

Stats since Feb. 3: 14.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.8 apg

Mathurin pours in 19 points vs. Boston Celtics

Indiana’s once promising season has taken a turn for the worst. After a 23-18 start, the Pacers have just three wins since Jan. 8 … but all hope isn’t lost. Indiana sits just three and a half games behind the 10th seed, so its Play-In hopes are still alive with 21 games remaining. Regardless of how it all ends up playing out, the Pacers can walk away from this season knowing their future is in good hands with the likes of Rookie of the Year candidate Mathurin and All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton leading the way.

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