Watchability Rankings: 10 best games of NBA's second half
SI.com's Watchability Rankings will give you the lowdown on the must-see games for the week ahead. With the NBA off for All-Star break, we decided to look at the 10 best games remaining for 2015–16. (All stats and records before All-Star Weekend).
Saturday, February 20: New York Knicks vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
Karl-Anthony Towns concluded the first half of his rookie season with a bang, to the tune of a career-high 35 points on 12-of-19 shooting, 11 rebounds and three blocks in a win against the second-place Raptors. Despite recently firing head coach Derek Fisher and their 12th–place standing in the Eastern Conference, the New York Knicks have high hopes for Latvian rookie Kristaps Porzingis. Towns and Kristaps Porzingis met earlier this season at Madison Square Garden and they’ll get the chance to square off again shortly after All-Star weekend.
Sunday, February 21: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Cleveland doesn’t face Golden State or San Antonio in the second half of the regular season but the Cavaliers do travel to Oklahoma City a week after the All-Star break. The players will have rested legs and the game will have a playoff atmosphere with two teams with intentions of making deep playoff runs.
Thursday, March 3: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Golden State Warriors
Golden State hasn’t lost at home during the regular season since Jan. 27, 2015. The Warriors play six road games in nine days after the All-Star break before returning to Oracle Arena to face the Hawks and Thunder. Plus, Kevin Durant playing in the Bay Area will assuredly get Warriors fans excited about Golden State’s potential to make KD an offer in the offseason.
March 10: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Two of the greatest prep-to-pros players ever, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, will meet for the final time. The two have combined for 13 NBA Finals appearances in their careers yet somehow have never met in the playoffs. LeBron has a 15-6 head-to-head advantage over Kobe in his career and the Staples Center will host one final bout between the two all-time greats.
March 11: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Brooklyn Nets
This one’s for all the marbles. Well, actually they’re ping–pong balls, and only 25% of the ping–pong ball combinations are at stake, instead of all of them, but you get the point. Philadelphia has the worst record in the NBA at 8-45 and Brooklyn is tied for third-worst at 14-40. The best way to make up ground in the other race in the NBA standings is with a head-to-head loss against another bad team. Suck for Simmons? Bombing for Ben? Abstaining for the Aussie? As the season winds down, NBA draft talk will only intensify.
Saturday, March 19: Golden State Warriors vs. San Antonio Spurs
With a combined home record of 52–0 this season, Golden State and San Antonio redefine the term “homecourt advantage” and both teams are winning at near-historic paces. The Spurs’ last regular season home loss was on March 12, 2015, when Cleveland defeated San Antonio in overtime. With a potential Spurs home winning streak and even the No. 1 seed in the West (!) on the line, something has to give.
Sunday, March 27: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors will play host to the 76ers late in the season in a matchup that could feature the greatest win differential between two opposing teams in NBA history. At the All-Star break, Golden State sits atop the Western Conference standings with a 48-4 record, while Philadelphia is the caboose of the Eastern Conference at 8-45—5.5 games out of 14th place. This could be a mismatch of epic proportions.
April 1: Brooklyn Nets vs. New York Knicks
Two of the worst teams in the East, both of whom fired their head coaches in the first half of the season, battle for New York City bragging rights.
Wednesday, April 13: Utah Jazz vs. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers entered the All-Star break on a three-game losing streak, putting their record at 11-44 overall—16.5 games behind the currently No. 8 Utah Jazz. L.A. can’t climb to .500 even if the Lakers won out, so April 13 will be the last game of Kobe Bryant’s career. It’s been a good run, Mamba.
Wednesday, April 13: Golden State Warriors vs. Memphis Grizzlies
In their last 82 regular season games, the Golden State Warriors are 72-10, which of course doubles as the greatest single-season record in NBA history, set by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. With a 48-4 record, the Warriors have a better winning percentage than the ’95 Bulls, but can they keep winning at that pace for an entire season? Golden State ends the regular season with four consecutive games against the second-place Spurs and fifth-place Grizzlies.