Pelicans' own Davis hopes to lead West

Pelicans' own Davis hopes to lead West

On the heels of a rather tepid Saturday in New Orleans, can the NBA’s marquee talents bring the Smoothie King Center to life this evening?

The 66th annual All-Star Game will tip off at 8 p.m. ET, and handicappers are anticipating another barnburner. Online sports book Bovada.lv gives the Western Conference odds of -235 to emerge victorious, whereas Brad Stevens’ East squad represents a +195 underdog. It’s a tilt with, yes, a 353 over/under.

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Neither Eric Gordon’s victory in the 3-point contest nor Glenn Robinson III’s dunking exploits seemed to truly rev up the Big Easy last night. The best players in the world, however, have designs on changing that shortly. Stevens’ starting lineup features LeBron James, DeMar DeRozan, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving and Giannis Antetokounmpo. James, the leading vote-getter among fans, makes his 13th All-Star appearance.

Nobody on the West side boasts experience like that. Yet coach Steve Kerr’s array of elite scorers includes Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard and hometown favorite Anthony Davis. Somewhat unfathomably, triple-double machine Russell Westbrook comes off the bench. Of the 12 individuals on the host club’s roster, eight set up shop in the frontcourt.

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The 2016 showdown in Toronto produced a combined 369 points. While we’re not predicting a marked increase in defensive engagement, it seems almost absurd to bank on a second straight record offensive showing. One sure thing: Look for Davis’ teammates to force-feed him the ball down the stretch as the West pursues a third consecutive triumph in the series.

SUNDAY NBA FREE PICK: EAST ALL-STARS/WEST ALL-STARS UNDER 353 POINTS

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