MMPG: The FourCast
1. Boston at Denver (Monday)
Of note: All four of the Boston Celtics' home losses this season have been against Western Conference, and the Denver Nuggets gave them their first loss at TD Banknorth Garden on Nov. 14. Boston will look to avoid its second series sweep against Denver since 1988-89 (Denver swept the Celtics in 2004-05), but the Celtics have lost their past four games at Pepsi Center. They will again be without Kevin Garnett (right knee strain) but Paul Pierce is averaging 28.3 points in the Celtics' four wins without him this season. The Nuggets just concluded an eight-game road trip with losses to Chicago and Milwaukee. Carmelo Anthony had 33 points against the Bucks, just the seventh time this season that he has scored at least 30. He has had three of those 30-point games in the past 10 games since he returned from his broken hand. Anthony is averaging 24.3 points since his return.
2. Charlotte at Phoenix (Tuesday)
Of note: Thanks to former Phoenix Suns Boris Diaw and Raja Bell, the Charlotte Bobcats beat Phoenix for the first time in franchise history, smashing the Suns 98-76 and prompting a visit from owner Robert Sarver and General Manager Steve Kerr. The Suns are 18-13 since Jason Richardson made his debut, but that trade continues to haunt the team now that Amare Stoudemire (eye surgery) for the remainder of the season, Kerr scrapped the Terry Porter Experiment and Diaw -- Stoudemire's stellar fill-in three years ago -- is making huge contributions to the Bobcats. In 33 games with Charlotte, Diaw is averaging 14.4 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.8 rebounds, up from his averages of 8.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 21 games with Phoenix this season. Diaw has scored in double-figures in 14 consecutive games. Charlotte is 15-19 since dealing away Richardson.
3. Portland at San Antonio (Wednesday)
Of note: Could this finally be the day? Could the 2007 No. 1 pick (Greg Oden) finally get to play the 1997 No. 1 pick (Tim Duncan) for the first time? Oden has missed the past three games after suffering a bone chip in his left knee during a game against Golden State before the All-Star break. Oden also missed the Blazers' first meeting against San Antonio on Oct. 31 with a foot injury. Brandon Roy scored 26 points in that game as the Blazers won, 100-99, and snapped a 12-game losing streak to the Spurs. The Spurs, back after a 5-3 Rodeo Trip, have a tough week at AT&T Center, with three games against Dallas, Portland and Cleveland. Welcome home.
4. Cleveland at San Antonio (Friday)
Of note: The Cleveland Cavaliers and the San Antonio Spurs meet for the first time this season, in a rematch of the 2007 NBA Finals. The Cavaliers have improved considerably since the Spurs swept them two Junes ago. Guard Delonte West returned from a broken right hand on Sunday to score a game-high 25 points against Detroit. It was the first time the Cavaliers have had their intended starting five on the floor in the calendar year. Cleveland was 12-4 without West, but his return helped take away the sting for the Cavaliers' inability to deal Wally Szczerbiak's expiring contract and bolster the roster at the trade deadline. Cleveland is 8-2 on the road against the Western Conference teams this season. San Antonio has lost four times to Eastern Conference teams -- Miami, Detroit, Milwaukee and Orlando -- at home this season.
Others in consideration: Atlanta at Utah (Monday); Dallas at San Antonio (Tuesday); Atlanta at Denver (Wednesday); Phoenix at Los Angeles Lakers (Thursday); Detroit at Orlando (Friday); Miami at Atlanta (Friday); Los Angeles Lakers at Denver (Friday); Orlando at Philadelphia (Saturday); Detroit at Boston (Sunday); Los Angeles Lakers at Phoenix (Sunday); Cleveland at Atlanta (Sunday); San Antonio at Portland (Sunday)
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