MMPG: The FourCast
1. San Antonio at Denver (Tuesday)
Of note: Carmelo Anthony was disappointed about not being selected as an all-star reserve, but the coaches rightfully named Chauncey Billups and the Denver Nuggets were happy to welcome back Anthony last Friday after he missed the previous 10 games with a broken right hand. Anthony scored 19 points in a 110-99 win against Charlotte, but he was a sidebar to the real story of the night -- Nene. Nene scored 22 points on 10-of-11 shooting and has made 23 of his past 24 field goal attempts at Pepsi Center (he was 12-for-12 against Utah last Sunday). Nene and the Northwest Division-leading Nuggets will get the Southwest Division-leading San Antonio Spurs for the first time since Nov. 19, when they beat the Spurs, 91-81, at AT&T Center. Once again, the Spurs enter the game on a three-game winning streak.
2. Miami at Detroit (Wednesday)
Of note: Want to know the answer to the question, why did the Detroit Pistons acquire The Answer? It started when Dwyane Wade dismantled them in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2006, continued when LeBron James destroyed them in 2007, and ended last May, when Boston's three all-stars proved that superstars are needed to reach the NBA Finals. Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars traded for Allen Iverson because his team needed a star, but Dumars also knew that if it didn't work out, he'd have an expiring contract to expedite the rebuilding process. That expiring contract is looking good now, because the Pistons are just 21-21 with Iverson. And Iverson -- despite recently passing Charles Barkley for 16th on the NBA all-time scoring list -- is averaging a career-low 17.7 points. The Pistons have lost seven of their past 10 games and are in a fight with Wade's Heat and the Atlanta Hawks for home-court advantage in the first round.
3. Cleveland at New York Knicks (Wednesday)
Of note: Dwyane Wade set up his good friend LeBron James for another interesting visit to Madison Square Garden when he told the New York Post last weekend that "it's not crazy" to speculate that he and James would join forces in 2010, possibly in New York. In a recent ESPN the Magazine article, James said he has never given any indication that he wasn't happy in Cleveland, but Knicks fans have been planning for his arrival ever since President Donnie Walsh made two cap-space-clearing moves in November. Despite the off-court troubles of center Eddy Curry, the Knicks have rallied to win their past three games and are ½ game behind Milwaukee for the eighth spot in the East. They will surely have a difficult challenge this week with consecutive games against the Los Angeles Lakers, Cleveland and Boston -- three teams that have yet to reach 10 losses and have a combined winning percentage of .809 (114-27). The Cavaliers snapped a five-game road losing streak against Eastern Conference teams with a convincing 90-80 win over the Pistons on Sunday.
4. Los Angeles Lakers at Boston (Thursday)
Of note: When the Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals last summer, their fans defended the defeat with one common refrain: "If we had Andrew Bynum. . ." Bynum missed the final 46 games last season with a left knee injury after bruising a bone in his knee and had to watch as Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Garnett pushed around the Lakers' front line. The Lakers had Bynum when they faced the Celtics on Christmas, and they recorded a gutsy 92-83 win, with Bynum contributing nine points, seven rebounds and two blocks. But when the Lakers return to Boston for the first time since Game 6, they won't have Bynum after Kobe Bryant crashed into the third-year center's right knee and sidelined him for the next eight to 12 weeks with a torn MCL. Bynum was averaging 26.2 points, 13.8 rebounds and 3.2 blocks in the five games before he got hurt. The Celtics are the hottest team in the NBA, having won 11 games in a row after the Lakers pushed them into a 2-7 slide.
Others in consideration: Dallas at Orlando (Monday); Portland at New Orleans (Monday); Boston at Philadelphia (Tuesday); Chicago at New Orleans (Wednesday); Portland at Dallas (Wednesday); Los Angeles Clippers at Memphis (Friday); Miami at Philadelphia (Saturday); Los Angeles Lakers at Cleveland (Sunday); San Antonio at Boston (Sunday)
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