Everything you need to know for the NBA’s second half – ESPN

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January 12, 2019 12:30 pm Published by

Fans and media alike traditionally treat the All-Star break as the midpoint of the NBA season, but thanks to the league’s adjustments to the calendar in recent years, the actual midpoint comes much sooner. In fact, after tonight, every team will have played at least 41 games, more than a month before the All-Star festivities in Charlotte, North Carolina.

So with that in mind, we look ahead to the biggest storylines to watch for in the second half of the season, whether your team has championship aspirations or has already circled the draft lottery on the calendar.

More West standings mayhem

Things aren’t quite as compressed top to bottom as they were just a few weeks ago, but the West is still very much a 14-team race for eight playoff spots. The Denver Nuggets and Golden State Warriors have created a bit of a cushion for themselves above the rest of the conference, but the third-place Oklahoma City Thunder and eighth-place Los Angeles Lakers are separated by just three games heading into Saturday. Three games also separate the eighth-place Lakers from the 14th-place Grizzlies. One extended winning or losing streak by any of those teams could see a complete upheaval of the conference standings.

The tightness of the race means that any game between two West teams in the season’s second half is practically a must-win, not only to help your own playoff hopes, but to hurt those of your opponent. And picking up wins against the few non-playoff contenders in the league — the Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns — is imperative.

Here is how BPI sees things playing out: