The NBA All-Star break puts the regular season on hold for four days as the best and brightest in the league are showcased.
This brief hiatus is a blessing to some teams and a burden for others. Teams with injury concerns or clubs stuck in a losing rut can sometimes get caught looking ahead to the break while squads building momentum see the four-day layoff as a nasty speed bump.
Here are three teams that may not be the same after the All-Star Weekend on Feb. 18.
Los Angeles Lakers (24-27 SU, 21-29-1 ATS)
You may think L.A. is counting the days until the All-Star break, with injuries to Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol leaving the frontcourt short. However, the Lakers have finally gained traction after spinning their tires most of the year.
Heading into Sunday, Los Angeles has won seven of its last nine outings to pull to within three and a half games of the eighth spot in the West. With some tough games versus Miami and the Clippers on deck, wins are more important than rest. Just ask Kobe Bryant.
Denver Nuggets (32-18 SU, 30-20 ATS)
Heading into Saturday, the Nuggets have strung together eight straight victories (7-1 ATS) and have won 14 of their last 16 outings (10-6 ATS). Denver is closing in on a top-3 spot in the West as a result. That momentum takes it into a four-game road trip before the break, with stops in Cleveland, Boston, Toronto and Brooklyn.
With no players selected to the Western Conference All-Stars, the Nuggets could care less about the break. If anything, it allows their Western rivals a chance to catch their breath before the stretch run.
Cleveland Cavaliers (15-34 SU, 23-25-1 ATS)
The Cavs are playing some of the best basketball in the NBA right now, winning six of their last eight (6-2 ATS) including an upset over Oklahoma City last weekend. An extended homestand gives Cleveland a shot at building more momentum before the break, hosting Denver, Minnesota, and San Antonio.
New additions Wayne Ellington and Marreese Speights have been instant contributors and Kyrie Irving is back on his game after a hand injury. The four-day break comes at a bad time for a young team finding its chemistry.