Nuggets, Rockets among 5 hottest teams after All-Star break

Will there be a conflict? Both Nikola Jokic's Nuggets and Jayson Tatum's Celtics have lost just 3 games since the All-Star break.

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With the NBA regular season in full swing, one question should be asked of all 30 teams this time of year:

Will you blossom or break after the All-Star break?

It's all about gaining or losing momentum in March and early April, and it has key changes to stay in the standings and avoid the SoFi Play-In Tournament or the other side trying to get into it.

This season is no different with the madness swirling around the top and belly of the Western Conference.

Here are the top five teams by record after the All-Star break, and how they got here and where they might go:


1. Denver Nuggets (15-3 since halftime)

Aside from Boston going 20-2 from Feb. 4 through last Sunday, this stretch is arguably the longest of any Nuggets' streak this season. Denver's sizzle combines dominance, endurance, an unwillingness to rest and a quest for the best record in the West.

The Nuggets' three losses since the break were two to Kevin Durant (the last one without Jamal Murray) and two points against Luka Doncic. Check out the wins now: Minnesota, Sacramento, Miami (twice) and the biggest scalp of the bunch, a sneak-peek of an NBA Finals game against the Celtics on March 7.

Even wolves and thunder help keep them sharp. And Nikola Jokic is immune to slumps. The Kia MVP favorite had four straight triple-doubles after the break, sparking his team to what we're seeing now.

Denver gets Minnesota on Friday (9 ET, NBA League Pass) is the second meeting in 10 days between the teams, and that makes sense. The scary thing is that in the dog days of 2023-24, the defending champions are treating March like May.

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2. Boston Celtics (14-3)

The Celtics aren't slowing down as they aggressively push to rewrite the city's name. boss-Ton. Their grip on the East was more secure than that of the Mountaineers, and the „chase” for the best record in the conference ended long after the break.

The reason for the Celtics' high spot on this list is that one, they're good (duh) and two, they're deep. About that last part: Depth means the Celtics can suffocate their core players, as they've done lately in anticipation of the playoffs and still post beat-downs. Case – Jrue Holiday, Kristaps Porzingis and Jayson Tatum missed games with little things and no big deal.

Have you seen the step-ups of Sam Houser, Peyton Prichard and the reliable Derrick White lately? What about Jaylen Brown taking games like instinct and Tatum?

They have lost just three games since the break, two by three points, the other to the defending champion Nuggets. Otherwise, the Celtics should win 65-plus and finish the season as strong as they started.


D-3. Houston Rockets (13-5)

A team that was 25-34 at the end of February now owns the league's longest active hitting streak. What a way for the Rockets to make this list by beating OKC in an overtime thriller on Wednesday and extending their streak to 10 straight.

Oh, and we should mention: Houston is playing so hard for a play-in matchup that the 10th-seeded Golden State Warriors dare to stumble even a little bit (Rockets vs. Warriors 4 in Houston in April could get crazy).

Oh, and we should also mention: Jalen Green is on fire right now, averaging 29.8 points per game during the streak and doing so very efficiently for a change. He has a pair of 40-plus games and a pair of 37-point games. Oh, we forgot: Houston is winning without Alberan Sengun, the club's leading rusher out with a sprained ankle.

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It would be a drastic and refreshing change of fortunes if the team, which lost skids of 13 and 12 last season, continues to move in the right direction in the post-break break under new coach Ime Udoka.


D-3. Oklahoma City Thunder (13-5)

The ambitious Thunder are still riding the ingredients for success — a Kia MVP candidate in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a Kia Rookie of the Year candidate in Chet Holmgren and no major injury candidates. As a result, OKC makes a big move to grab the best record in the West and home-court advantage.

That's what keeps the Bats hungry in the home stretch. OKC trailed the Wolves for first after halftime, and chasing that carrot became a key motivation. The Thunder realized the advantages of finishing first, meaning across home court. This young team has no championship flavor, so that could be huge.

Their post-break record also makes a statement (of a sort): OKC is determined to demand your respect. The team hasn't traveled to May since 2016, so there's a sense of proving yourself. If OKC takes first place in the West and faces the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round, some might consider it a toss-up.


5. Orlando Magic (12-5)

The franchise's second straight winning season since 2018-19 has been secured. Now that the hump is cleared, the Magic can focus on clearly leading the play-in tournament and making a run for home-court advantage in the first round. Can they finish third in the East?

It's possible for a team that finds its footing from the break and puts it down other people's throats. The Jamal Mosley-coached team may be young but you wouldn't be able to tell most nights.

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The Magic play defense, ranked No. 1 in defensive rating after the All-Star break. 1 place. After the All-Star break, the Magic ranked second in opponent turnovers (14.6 per game), second in opponent second-chance points (9.4) and fifth in opponent points in the paint (44.7).

That's what separates Orlando from other youth teams.

Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner have struggled shooting deep (a combined 3-of-19) and both have missed the last two games, so the Magic's leading scorers should clean it up.

And Orlando's fifth place in the East is weak. Any combination of continuing their two-game skid and a Miami or Indiana surge could spell trouble.


Honorable mention

Bucks (11-5). An honorable mention to a team that has been harpooned and lampooned all year. It goes with the territory when you fire a coach, adding a title-starved Damian Lillard to an MVP winner in Giannis Antetokounmpo. In the interim Because predictions are not fulfilled. Coach Doc Rivers got off to a slippery start after replacing Adrian Griffin, and since then, aside from a loss against the Lakers, Milwaukee and its two stars have started to figure it out.

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Shawn Powell has covered the NBA for over 25 years. You can email him here, find his archive here and Follow him on X.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Warner Bros. Discovery.

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