MMPG: The FourCast
1. Portland at Denver (Monday)
Of note: The first end of back-to-back games between the teams tied for the best record in the Northwest Division. Portland has won two in a row, with Brandon Roy emerging as a legitimate star, while Denver has lost its past three, as the Chauncey Billups honeymoon hits a bump.
2. San Antonio at Phoenix (Thursday)
Of note: Terry Porter won his first game as coach of the Phoenix Suns with a season-opening victory in San Antonio, snapping a string of 11 straight season-opening victories for Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan. In the past two months, the Suns have made a major trade for Jason Richardson, while the Spurs have overcome some early struggles. But neither team would have home-court advantage in the Western Conference if the season ended today.
3. Boston Celtics at Los Angeles Lakers (Thursday)
Of note: The Los Angeles Lakers have been looking forward to this game ever since the schedule was released. They have spent the first two months hearing about how they are not tough enough to contend with the Celtics, while believing that a healthy Andrew Bynum could've led to a different result last June. The Lakers look like a distracted team of late, with thoughts of their NBA Finals beatdown clouding any of their early season success. They need this win more than the Celtics, who appear to be focused only on greatness.
4. Miami at Cleveland (Sunday)
Of note: Dwyane Wade and LeBron James have staged some classic duels over their young careers, and this year the friendly rivals from the NBA draft class of 2003 rank as the two highest scorers in the league. If Wade's Heat had a better record, he'd be engaged in a much more intense race with James for the league's most valuable player award. Wade's resurgence is in full bloom, but through the first third of the season, James is running away with those honors.
Others in consideration: Los Angeles Lakers at Memphis (Monday); Houston at Cleveland (Tuesday); Lakers at New Orleans (Tuesday); Denver at Portland (Tuesday); New Orleans at Orlando (Thursday); Washington at Cleveland (Thursday); Utah at Houston (Saturday).
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