- The Chicago Bulls (24-7) host the Boston Celtics (15-13) tonight (TNT, 8 p.m. ET), as the teams meet for the third time this season and the second time in the past five days. The teams split their first two games, both in Boston, with the Bulls scoring an 88-79 victory Jan. 13, and the Celtics winning 95-91 Feb. 12. According to NBA.com/Stats, the Celtics’ defense has been very effective against the Bulls. Inside, Boston has limited Chicago to 48 percent (33-for-69) from the restricted area; for the season, Chicago is at 60 percent (517-for-862). The Celtics’ perimeter defense has been equally stingy, holding the Bulls to 17 percent shooting (1-for-6) on corner threes, 18 percent below Chicago’s season average.
- In Boston’s win last Sunday, Rajon Rondo recorded a triple-double, notching 32 points, 10 rebounds and 15 assists. Rondo shot 11-for-22 from the floor and 10-for-13 from the free throw line. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Rondo became the fifth active player to record 10 field goals and 10 free throws in a triple-double joining LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Tracy McGradyand Richard Jefferson.
- The Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles Clippers (18-9) have won nine of their last 12. Portland, however, has not been friendly to the Clippers, as the Trail Blazers (16-14) have beaten them five straight times in the Rose Garden. L.A. will try to break that hex while maintaining their high level of play, as the teams meet in Portland tonight (10:30 p.m. ET). The teams have split two games in 2011-12, with the Clippers losing in Portland, 105-97, Jan. 10. Portland’s recent success at home against the Clippers has come despite having no answer for Blake Griffin. In three career games at Portland, the 2012 NBA All-Star has averaged 19.7 points and 15.0 rebounds.
- 2012 Sprite Slam Dunk Field SetThe 2012 Sprite Slam Dunk in Orlando will feature a series of firsts, including four first-time participants, a new single-round format in which the winner will be chosen solely by fan vote, and the introduction of fan voting via Twitter. The four players who will vie for the Sprite Slam Dunk championship on Feb. 25, at Amway Center in Orlando (TNT, 8 p.m. ET) include the Houston Rockets’ Chase Budinger, the Indiana Pacers’ Paul George, the New York Knicks’ Iman Shumpert, and the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Derrick Williams.
- NBA All-Stars Howard, Durant to Coach 2012 Sprint NBA All-Star Celebrity Game2012 NBA All-Stars Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic and Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder will serve as the East and West team coaches, respectively, for the 2012 Sprint NBA All-Star Celebrity Game, which is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 24, during NBA All-Star Jam Session at the Orange County Convention Center. For the eighth straight year, ESPN will televise the game beginning at 7 p.m. ET.
- Smith’s agent, Leon Rose, met with Garden Chairman James Dolan following Wednesday’s Knicks’ win over Sacramento to finalize a contract. It is believed that Smith, who has also attracted the interest of the Clippers, will receive the Knicks’ $2.5 million exception. Rose also represents Anthony, who has lobbied the club to add Smith, an explosive scorer who can also be erratic at times. He has averaged 12.5 points per game over seven NBA seasons. New York Daily News
- With hopes of getting one last shot in the NBA, former All-Star and league MVP Allen Iverson is contemplating playing minor league basketball, according to a person close to the situation.ESPN.com
Stats & Stuff:
- With TNT’s Kenny Smith serving as the honorary Commissioner, Ernie Johnson will host the live BBVA Rising Stars Challenge Draft on tonight, on NBA TV at 7 p.m. ET. TNT analysts Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal will serve as the general managers of the two opposing teams – TEAM CHUCK and TEAM SHAQ – each with nine man rosters.
- With 5,996 career rebounds, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant is four rebounds shy of becoming the ninth guard in NBA history to accumulate 6,000 rebounds (includes players listed as G, G/F or F/G). The Dallas Mavericks’ Jason Kidd, the only guard in league history to amass 8,000 rebounds, tops the list, with Oscar Robertson (G), Scottie Pippen (F/G) and Chet Walker (F/G) the only other guards to post at least 7,000 rebounds. Magic Johnson (6,559) leads all Lakers guards in career rebounds.
- The San Antonio Spurs (21-9) have won a season-high nine straight games. The Spurs also are riding a six-game road winning streak.
DERRICK ROSE on Jeremy Lin’s play:
“Jeremy, he’s playing, man. He’s playing well and with a lot of confidence. Like I always say, that’s all you need in this league is confidence. He definitely has that. His teammates believe in him and I like him as a player.”
ESPN.com Feb. 16, 2012