Perfect Picks: Rivals play mind games in NBA

Rivalries have dominated sports for hundreds of years, and that theme has not changed in our modern-day game.

The huge egos and personalities of current players in the National Basketball Association are through the roof, and this theme seems to be centered around the huge stars and their respective teams.

On Wednesday evening, Feb. 8, on ESPN, most outer-conference games have several of those great players squaring off. The hostility around the Chicago Bulls lately includes shooting guards Dwayne Wade and Jimmy Butler calling out the overall compete level of their team and point guard Rajon Rondo claiming the leadership is flawed, so turmoil is understating the state of this team.

The Bulls will meet point guard Stephen Curry and the league-leading Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night. Another late game will feature forward Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks against the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Warriors are playing some unbelievable basketball, which has included a 46-point victory just two weeks ago.

Thursday night has two NBA powerhouses facing off, with leading MVP candidate Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder battling three-time champion Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

James has recently been involved in a verbal joust with Hall of Fame power forward Charles Barkley – who is now an analyst on Turner Network Television’s (TNT) Inside the NBA – over Barkley calling James a “whiner.”

James did not accept the name-calling without some retribution. He called out Barkley for partying while he played in the NBA and not acting like a professional.

The game between Oklahoma City and Cleveland has an 11:30 p.m. start time.

On Saturday, Feb. 11, on NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC, the same Oklahoma City Thunder host Golden State, their arch rivals. Forward Kevin Durant will return to Oklahoma City, where he played every season of his career until this past summer, when he signed in Golden State.

The two former best friends, Durant and Westbrook, have not spoken since Durant decided to leave the team, and there is lots of animosity between the two teams.

The rivalry theme also has grasped on to the National Hockey League this week, with many matchups having some division rivals doing battle. On NBCSN Wednesday night, the Chicago Blackhawks head to Minnesota to face the Wild. The Wild currently sit first in the Central Division, and the Blackhawks are in second place only two points behind.

Devan Dubnyk, the starting netminder for the Wild, has the second most wins in the NHL right now with 27. He also has the best goals-against average with an alarming 1.88.

Saturday afternoon has a matinée game, with the Vancouver Canucks heading to Boston to face the Bruins. This contest is a rematch of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, and the animosity has stuck with these two teams since the Bruins won in Game 7 six years ago.

Pesky Bruins forward Brad Marchand and the Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik, have never been friends, especially after Marchand punched Daniel Sedin in the face multiple times with no retaliation, and he was always viewed as weak or afraid of contact.

Sunday night features one of the biggest rivalries in league history, with the Montreal Canadians heading to Beantown to face the same Bruins. The history between these two teams is well-known, but it has been all Montreal lately, with star goalie Carey Price dominating the Bruins throughout his career.

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