The Denver Nuggets (40-18), one of only two teams in the Western Conference to secure 40 wins, face two difficult opponents this weekend. The Nuggets play the Clippers (39-19) in Los Angeles on Friday and host the Toronto Raptors (42-16) on Sunday. The Los Angeles Lakers (45-12) visit the New Orleans Pelicans (25-33) in a rematch between LeBron James and Zion Williamson.

NBA Weekend Zion LeBron Lakers Pelicans Nuggets Clippers Raptors
New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson scores a bucket against the LA Lakers at Staples Center. (Image: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

The Pelicans are in the thick of the Western Conference playoff hunt, but have to leapfrog the Portland Trail Blazers (26-34) to catch the slumping Memphis Grizzlies (28-30) in the #8 seed. The Griz dropped four straight, while Zion and the Pelicans smell blood in the water.

The NBA and their broadcast partners would love nothing better than for the Pelicans to seize the #8 seed in order to secure a Lakers/Pelicans playoff matchup. LeBron battling Zion will be a ratings bonanza for a first-round series. The two met earlier this week, with the Lakers securing a victory.

Friday, Feb. 28
Dallas Mavericks at Miami Heat
OKC Thunder at Milwaukee Bucks
Denver Nuggets at the LA Clippers

Saturday, Feb 29
LA Lakers at Memphis Grizzlies
Houston Rockets at Boston Celtics

Sunday, March 1
Toronto Raptors at Denver Nuggets
Philadelphia 76ers at LA Clippers
LA Lakers at New Orleans Pelicans

Meanwhile, the Denver Nuggets are the second-best team in the Western Conference behind the first-place Lakers. The Nugs are hitting their stride while several other teams in the west are in flux. The Utah Jazz dropped four in a row, but both the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder are riding four-game winning streaks into this weekend.

With 24-25 games remaining, it’s time for teams to tighten up for the last quarter of the season before the playoffs begin.

NBA Friday: Bucks Chasing 70

Oklahoma City Thunder (37-22) at Milwaukee Bucks (50-8)… The Bucks became the first team to secure 50 wins, and the Greek Freak is still on pace to win 70 games. The Bucks have the second-best home record in the NBA with a 26-3 clip in Milwaukee. The Thunder won five straight, including an impressive 113-101 win over the Nuggets. The Bucks are -10.5 favorites over the Thunder.

Dallas Mavericks (36-23) at Miami Heat (36-22)… Luka Doncic bounced back from a nagging sprained ankle injury and posted a triple-double the other night with 26 points, 14 assists, and 10 rebounds. Doncic now has 21 triple-doubles and has tied Jason Kidd’s franchise record. The Heat hit a road bump while playing their worst stretch of ball all season with a 3-7 record over their previous 10 games. The good news is that the Heat are playing in Miami where they’ve been difficult to defeat this season with a 23-4 home record. Miami is a -3 favorite at AA arena.

Denver Nuggets (40-18) at the LA Clippers (39-19)… The second and third-best teams in the west square off on Friday. Both teams are fully healthy after having multiple players down with injuries in the weeks leading up to the All-Star Break. Paul George is back in the lineup for the Clippers, while the Nuggets finally have Will Barton, Jamal Murray, and Paul Millsap back in action. Should be a fun battle between Kawhi Leonard (27.1 ppg, 7.7 rebounds, 5.2 assists) and Nikola Jokic (20.8 ppg, 10 rebounds, 6.8 assists). The Nuggets are +6 road dogs in LA tonight.

NBA Saturday: Small Ball vs. Hot Tatum

LA Lakers (45-12) at Memphis Grizzlies (28-30)… Rookie Ja Morant has a chance to end the mini-skid for the Grizzlies, who currently hold down the #8 seed, but it will be tough without Jaren Jackson, Jr. The Lakers might have their eyes on a game the next night in New Orleans against AD’s old team, so the Griz have to come out firing.

Houston Rockets (38-20) at Boston Celtics (41-17)… The smaller and leaner Rockets will face a team that actually plays defense. The Celtics allow 106.5 ppg, which is the third-best defense in the NBA. Jayson Tatum averages 23.3 ppg this season, but he’s coming off a torrid February in which he increased his scoring output to 30.3 ppg. He’s been unstoppable his last three games, scoring no less than 33 points with a 41-point effort against the LA Lakers last weekend.

NBA Sunday: LeBron and Zion Round 2

Toronto Raptors (42-16) at Denver Nuggets (40-18)… This is the second of two tough games for Denver this weekend. The Nuggets face the defending champion Toronto Raptors less than 48 hours after throwing down with the LA Clippers. Nick Nurse’s squad comes to Colorado with the second-best defense in the league. The ferocious Raptors allow 106.1 ppg.

Philadelphia 76ers (37-23) at LA Clippers (39-19)… The 76ers will play this game without their top two players. Joel Embiid has a mild shoulder injury and should be back in the lineup next week. Ben Simmons injured his lower back and he could miss two weeks or more. Tobias Harris stepped up to fill the void for Philly, but write this one off for the Sixers. For some odd reason, road games are kryptonite for the Sixers (9-21). They have an unknown and ridiculous home/away discrepancy. The Sixers lost only two games all season on their home court in Philadelphia, but they struggle on the road.

LA Lakers (45-12) at New Orleans Pelicans (25-33)… The Lakers will be on the back end of back-to-back road games. LeBron James had to let Zion Williamson know he’s still the big dog on the block. LeBron dropped a season-high 40 points, while Zion looked good with 29 points in the loss. This matchup makes the NBA head office and TNT/ESPN suits drool at the possibility of a potential playoff series. The Pels need a lot of work if they want to catch the Grizzlies.

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