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 clubs who could lose focus as we head toward the All-Star Weekend on Feb. 15.
Los Angeles Clippers (35-16 SU, 28-23 ATS)
Los Angeles was able to snap a three-game skid with a win over lowly Orlando Wednesday despite having Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Jamal Crawford and Chauncey Billups out with injuries.
The short-handed Clippers wrap up an eight-game road trip next week then host the Rockets and play the Lakers for Staples Center bragging rights just before the break. With a young core of players, and Griffin and Paul headed to the All-Star Game, it will be up to the veterans to keep this club focused in the coming week.
Brooklyn Nets (29-20 SU, 22-24-3 ATS)
Consistency has been the Nets’ biggest battle in their inaugural season in Brooklyn. They’ve gone 3-4 SU and 2-5 ATS in their last seven games and haven’t been able to find the momentum that sparked an 11-4 start to the year. The coaching change from Avery Johnson to P.J. Carlesimo has played its part in that as well as not having star PG Deron Williams at full strength.
Williams is averaging just under 12 points over the last four games (16.7 ppg on the season) and isn’t taking part in the All-Star festivities, giving him a chance to heal up. The break will be a reset for Brooklyn before the playoff push begins. The Nets' pre-ASG sked has them at Washington, home to San Antonio, at Indiana, and hosting Denver.
Chicago Bulls (29-19 SU, 20-28 ATS)
The Bulls have been waiting for this All-Star break since being eliminated from the playoffs last season. Chicago is not only looking forward to resting its thinning roster - Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, Marco Belinelli, Kirk Hinrich are all nursing ailments – but the break gets the Bulls closer to the return of PG Derrick Rose. Rose is expected to return this month and would give Chicago a huge lift in the second half of the schedule.
The Bulls have battled to stay above water, leaning on defense to keep pace in the East. Chicago takes on three Western foes - at Denver, at Utah, vs. San Antonio - before visiting Boston before the break. The Bulls are 6-10 SU and 4-12 ATS versus Western Conference teams this season.