MMPG: The FourCast
1. San Antonio at Dallas (Tuesday)
Of note: The Mavericks smashed the Spurs, 99-81, in their first meeting on Nov. 4, sending San Antonio its third loss to open the season. Since then, the Spurs have gone 11-5 to silence the annual whispers that they are old and finished.
Dallas went through a rough patch of its own, losing five consecutive games after that win. But the Mavericks have since won nine of their past 10 games -- including four in a row -- even with Josh Howard missing the past eight games with ankle injury.
2. Indiana at Toronto (Wednesday)
Of note: Jermaine O'Neal will face his former team for the first time since the Pacers shipped him to Toronto in exchange for T.J. Ford, Rasho Nesterovic, Maceo Baston, and the draft rights to Roy Hibbert. The move was made to help Indiana and O'Neal make a clean break from each other, and establish the Toronto Raptors as a championship contender -- at least in the eyes of Raptors General Manager Bryan Colangelo, who fired coach Sam Mitchell last week because he thought the team was underachieving. It doesn't help that O'Neal has been battling injuries, Toronto has lost four in a row and it is just 1 ½ games better than Indiana in the standings.
3. New Orleans at Boston (Friday)
Of note: The Celtics are the hottest team in the NBA, having won 12 in a row, and they are on pace to win 75 games this season. Boston hasn't lost since Nov. 14, when the Denver Nuggets -- spurred by their acquisition of all-star point guard Chauncey Billups -- came into TD Banknorth Garden and snuck out of town with a 94-85 win. The Celtics also haven't faced an all-star point guard since then (and no, Allen Iverson is not a point guard), but now they get arguably the game's best floor general in Chris Paul. Paul leads the league in assists at 11.8 per game and has failed to dish out at least 10 assists only three times this season. Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo hasn't been too bad, either. In his past seven games, Rondo is averaging 12.4 points, 10.1 assists and 7 rebounds.
4. Cleveland at Atlanta (Saturday)
Of note: When these teams met on Nov. 22, the Cavaliers had just seen its eight-game win streak halted in Detroit. On that night, the Cavaliers trounced Atlanta 110-96 and LeBron James demoralized the Hawks with a flurry of embarrassing dunks -- including a left-handed jam over Al Horford that looked like he was climbing a ladder. Cleveland hasn't lost since, reeling off another eight-game winning streak. The Hawks have since added Josh Smith back to the lineup, which should result in at least one or two highlights. If not, you can check out one of James's dunks from that last meeting:
Others in consideration: Toronto at Cleveland (Tuesday), Atlanta at Houston (Tuesday), Orlando at Portland (Tuesday), Atlanta at San Antonio (Wednesday), Phoenix at LA Lakers (Wednesday), Portland at Utah (Thursday), Orlando at Phoenix (Friday).
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