It’s all eyes on New Orleans this weekend – and the 66th edition of the NBA All Star Game. Or, as it’s otherwise known, the in-house love fest of the league.
It’s offensive indeed. Especially after last year when the Beasts of the East and the Best of the West combined for a staggering 367 points – an all-time record – in a 196-173 win for the latter.
And with the majority of the rosters back in the Big Easy, it figures to be another Western wipe-out with the Conference a slim 1.48 for what would be a sixth victory in seven editions.
There’s one great reason why: the force of nature that is Russell Westbrook, reunited on the same team as Kevin Durant for one night only following their divergence last summer when KD divorced Oklahoma City and eloped Golden State.
It’s been personal ever since for Russ – especially with his snub from the starting line-up for Sunday, and he could well be the first man ever to win three All Star MVPs in succession. But it’s clear most of the competition for the award comes from within his own roster.
James Harden, Steph Curry, Kawhi Leonard and hometown hero Anthony Davis join Durant as starters, eclipsing the East’s quintet of Kyrie Irving, DeMar DeRozan, Jimmy Butler, LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Volume scorers abound and while the 2016 tally might be hard to top, it’s still worth looking over 330 points as a total.
If there’s an alternative MVP pick, it might be Harden who’ll enjoy the challenge or Isaiah Thomas if the East hit the mark.
But with defence out the window, it’s clear to see the Western Conference looking stellar once more.
Best bet: Take the West at -9.5 over the East.
As part of the festivities, there’s also Friday’s Rising Stars Challenge featuring Team USA versus Team World with the nominal hosts rigging the contest by ‘naturalising’ the Dominican international Karl-Anthony Towns. Did anyone say ‘fix!’?
With Sixers big Joel Embiid sitting out as well, it looks like being an American dream and a global nightmare so look at the World at -8.5.