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A lackluster NBA All-Star break is now in the past, and real basketball has begun again. While this portion of the schedule is colloquially known as the second half, we're well past the halfway point of the 2023-24 season. There's less than two months remaining in the regular season, and it will be a mad dash to the finish line, with plenty of playoff spots and seeding battles still to be determined.

As we look ahead to the end of another exciting season, here is our staff's boldest predictions for the regular season's home stretch:

Jayson Tatum will win MVP

Does saying the best player on the team with by far the best record in the league will win MVP qualify as a bold prediction? I'm not entirely sure, but given his long-shot odds (+1400 at Caesars Sportsbook) and the fact that he got zero first-place votes in ESPN's straw poll earlier this month, I'm going to allow it. 

Jayson Tatum has been a key part of the Celtics' incredible season.  Getty Images

The Celtics are already on 64-win pace and have the second-easiest schedule remaining in the league, including two matchups against each of the Pistons, Wizards, Hornets and Trail Blazers. There's a good chance they become the first team since the 2018 Rockets to win 65 games. Tatum, meanwhile, has historically put up big numbers down the stretch. March (24.1 points per game,  60.7 true shooting %) and April (24.2 points, 59.2 TS%) are the highest-scoring and most efficient months of his career. 

Tatum's candidacy was a national story during the All-Star break, and the narrative will keep building in his favor if both he and the Celtics really catch fire down the stretch. At a certain point, it may become undeniable. -- Jack Maloney

Déjà vu for the Warriors

The Golden State Warriors will go on a post-All-Star run reminiscent of last season's, in which they won 15 of their final 23 games and jumped from 10th place to sixth. This time, the turnaround has already started — if they hadn't blown a fourth-quarter lead against the Los Angeles Clippers last Wednesday, they would've entered the break on a seven-game winning streak — and, with 28 games left on the schedule, they have a chance to make up even more ground.

The Warriors are primed to go on a post All-Star week run, writes James Herbert.  Getty Images

I'm optimistic about the Warriors because, since Draymond Green returned from suspension, their pieces have finally seemed to fall into place. I like the idea of Klay Thompson and Chris Paul working against second units, and I love the way Jonathan Kuminga and Brandin Podziemski have been playing. Also, based on cumulative opponent winning percentage, Golden State has an easier post-ASG schedule than any other team in the mix for a playoff (or Play-In Tournament) spot in the West. -- James Herbert

The 76ers will fall to the Play-In Tournament

Philadelphia is 6-15 without Joel Embiid this season, and nobody seems quite certain on when he'll come back (if he does at all). Currently, the 76ers are only 1.5 games ahead of the Magic and two in front of the Heat in the standings. And while Philadelphia has the ninth-hardest remaining schedule, Miami's ranks 27th and Orlando's ranks 30th. Miami is 2-0 against Philadelphia this season, so the Heat are just one win away from the tiebreaker. Philadelphia would still be extremely dangerous from a Play-In Tournament slot if Embiid is healthy, but the rest of its regular season does not look all that promising. -- Sam Quinn

Tyrese Maxey has been an integral part of keeping the 76ers alive in Joel Embiid's absence. Getty Images

The Clippers will finish with the best record in the West 

Where were you the day James Harden was traded to L.A.? Hopefully not making memes and calling it a bust, because after a 3-7 start in the Harden era, the Clippers are rolling. Currently, they are just 2.5 games out of the Western Conference's top seed, and it isn't inconceivable to think that they could reach the top of the mountain by season's end. Kawhi Leonard has played like an MVP, Paul George is at his All-Star self and Russell Westbrook has settled into his bench role. Never mind that Harden has been excellent. Yes, his 3-point attempts are down this year (6.7), but his three-point percentage has never been better (42%). 

While Los Angeles owns the 11th-hardest remaining schedule, one just has to look toward the team's nine-game winning streak as proof that anything is possible. Over that nine-game streak, which is tied for the longest in the NBA this season, the Clippers dismantled the Nuggets, Kings, Knicks, Pacers and Mavs. West, beware. -- Johnny Flores