NBA: Jazz and 76ers take top billing ahead of All Star break
The NBA will pause next week as the All Star game takes centre stage. But there is plenty to get stuck into ahead of that eagerly anticipated occasion. The Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz face off in a top-of-the-table clash between the Eastern and Western Conference franchises, while the Milwaukee Bucks take to the floor. He’s our preview.
Joel Embiid continues to be the main threat for the 76ers
Boasting a 23-12 record and sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings, the 76ers are in good shape ahead of their showdown with the Jazz on Wednesday evening. And one player that has been resplendent throughout this season has been Joel Embiid. He showcased his aggressive qualities in a dominant display during the 76ers’ last match – a 130-114 victory over the Indiana Pacers.
Embiid put up figures of 24 points, 13 rebounds and five assists. The win was in stark contrast to the 112-109 defeat to the Cleveland Cavaliers last weekend, where the 76ers’ supporting cast were unable to make a difference.
Tobias Harris monitored ahead of Jazz clash
While Embiid has had a few niggles, the 76ers will be keeping their fingers crossed that Tobias Harris will be available to face the Jazz. A knee injury has seen Harris miss the last few games, but a recent MRI scan showed there isn’t any structural damage. Still, 76ers coach Doc Rivers refused to pin the blame on Harris’ injury for the Cavs’ loss.
Jazz ready to bounce back after minor bump in the road
The Jazz are ready for redemption after Monday’s 129-124 defeat to the Pelicans. Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram were scintillating for the Pelicans as they both drained 26 points en route to victory. Lonzo Ball also weighed in with 23 points as the Pelicans beat the Jazz for the third time in their past six meetings.
Jazz still showing everyone they are the real deal
With 20 wins notched up from their 21 outings, the Jazz are still comfortably the leading lights in the NBA. They also beat reigning champions LA Lakers by 25 points last month and before their defeat to the Pelicans, they have racked up some impressive stats this term including being 1st for three pointers scored and 1st for win percentage.
Boston Celtics need to step on the gas after a couple of close shaves
While the Boston Celtics are primed to reach the play-offs, they have had a couple of scares in recent weeks; none more so than when Jayson Tatum was on hand to produce a game-winning bucket against the Washington Wizards with 4.7 seconds left on the clock. Prior to that, they edged out the Pacers 118-112 last weekend.
Tatum and his team-mate Jaylen Brown will therefore have to bring their A-game to the table against the Toronto Raptors, otherwise it could be a difficult evening for the Celtics. Tatum and Brown’s influence is clear. They are averaging 25 points per game this term, which is something any top Celtics pairing hasn’t managed since 1986/87.
Only one spot in the Eastern Conference standings separates the Celtics and Raptors, with the Celtics sitting in sixth and the Raptors in seventh, with the latter holding a 17-17 record. But there have been ongoing rumours at the Raptors that Kyle Lowry – whose contract expires at the end of the season – could be moved on, so hopefully this won’t derail them.
Giannis Antetokounmpo fast becoming the king of ‘clutch’ for Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks have been near unstoppable at times this term, and they have won their past five games on the trot. This included a 105-100 win over the Los Angeles Clippers, who are second in the Western Conference. Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo – who is a serious MVP contender – has shown he is the king of the clutch moments.
Giannis contributed 36 points, 14 rebounds and five assists in the victory over the Clippers. However, the Bucks will have to be mindful of the Memphis Grizzlies, who stormed past the Houston Rockets with a 133-84 win last weekend. Brandon Clarke claimed a double-double of 16 points and 12 rebounds, while Justise Winslow also shone as he scored 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting.