Sports Corner

By: Robert Bishop

Back again, and though the Lakers were able to mount an impressive come-from-behind win over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night, the victory came at a cost. Anthony Davis suffered an ankle injury that looked bad in real-time and even worse on replay. Though x-rays were negative—a positive development—the Lakers quickly ruled David out for the next few weeks. Davis has struggled this season, battling injuries and a fluctuating role within L.A.’s gameplan. With Davis facing another stint on the sidelines due to injury, the Lakers will likely continue to operate with a small-ball lineup, heavily relying on LeBron James and a rickety collection of supporting talent.s L.A. enters All-Star weekend in ninth place in the West. 

Joining the Lakers as one of the NBA’s biggest first-half disappointments are the New York Knicks. The Knicks completed an unfathomable collapse on Wednesday night, squandering 20-point leads in three consecutive games. A season ago, the Knicks hosted a playoff series as a top-four seed in the East. Now, the Knicks are 25-34, sitting on the outside of the playoff picture with little cause for optimism of a second-half turnaround. The team’s off-season moves have all imploded, with the signings of Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier proving to be disasters of varying scales and Julius Randle’s max-salary extension already showing signs of being a regrettable decision.  

While the Knicks enter the All-Star break on a three-game skid, the Portland Trail Blazers have won four straight despite selling off four critical players at the deadline and Damian Lillard remaining on the shelf. Young guard Anfernee Simons continues to blossom as a scorer. Big man Jusuf Nurkic is proving to be more than just a capable rebounder, shining as a scorer and, most surprisingly, as a passer. Given the state of the team’s roster and New Orleans’ looming presence behind Portland in the standings, the Blazers face an uphill battle to remain in possession of a playoff spot in the West come season’s end. However, for a team that seemingly hit the reset button last week, Portland does not seem content to wave the white flag on the season just yet. 

In a potential playoff preview, the Philadelphia 76ers outpaced the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night, benefitting from an MVP showing from big man Joel Embiid. Going head-to-head against Giannis Antetokounmpo, Embiid erupted for 42 points, 14 boards, and five dimes. The 76ers desperately needed the win following Tuesday’s epic showing of ineptitude against the Celtics, and now Philadelphia enters the All-Star break with renewed confidence. The 76ers sit at 35-23, good for third place in the East. It remains unclear when James Harden will make his Philadelphia debut, but there is optimism it will be shortly after games resume next week. 

Despite a rash of injuries within the backcourt, the Chicago Bulls have managed to remain atop the East, sitting tied with the Miami Heat at 38-21 heading into the weekend hiatus. While All-Star DeMar DeRozan’s resurgent play has been pivotal to Chicago’s success, big man Nikola Vucevic’s return to stardom following an early-season funk and rookie Ayo Dosunmu’s incredible rookie season have been equally vital to the team’s success. DeRozan and Vucevic are proving to be perfect complements for one another on the offensive end, and Dosunmu plays with a veteran’s savvy on both ends of the court. It’ll be interesting to see how the team’s approach and rotations shake out once Zach LaVine, Lonzo Ball, and Alex Caruso return to the court, but for now, the short-handed Bulls are rolling, winners of five straight.  

Only one team enters All-Star weekend with a longer winning streak than Chicago: the West-leading Phoenix Suns. There was every reason to expect a drop-off falling last year’s unexpected NBA Finals run, but the Suns have been even better this season. Devin Booker continues to progress into a full-fledged superstar, Chris Paul’s playmaking prowess continues to defy aging, and the team’s supporting cast around the two All-Stars is arguably the best in the NBA. Not only are the Suns in first place in the West and owners of the NBA’s best record (48-10), Phoenix has a whopping six more wins than any other team in the NBA. It’s been an incredible start to the season for the Suns.