MMPG: The FourCast
1. Houston at New Orleans (Monday)
Of note: The Houston Rockets are third in the Western Conference, but they have just a ½ game lead over the fifth-place New Orleans Hornets. The teams split their first two meetings -- with each team winning at home -- and will meet again on April 13. The Rockets are 10-3 since the all-star break, but have lost two of their past three games, while New Orleans is 9-2 since Tyson Chandler returned from his ankle injury and it recently split a four-game Eastern Conference road trip. The Hornets have a chance to make some hay in the West after the Rockets, with home games against Minnesota, Memphis and Golden State to follow.
2. Orlando at Cleveland (Tuesday)
Of note: After the Orlando Magic lost Jameer Nelson to a dislocated right shoulder, the team went 3-3 and slid further behind Cleveland and Boston for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. But with Boston sputtering because of injuries, the Magic is nipping at the Celtics for second in the East. Since Rafer Alston slid in to replace the injured Nelson, the Magic is 10-3 and 6-1 in March. Orlando won the first meeting between the teams, 99-88, on Jan. 29. The Magic is still four games behind the Cavaliers and will face them again on April 3. The Cavaliers are 9-1 since losing Ben Wallace to a broken leg, and they still are an unbelievable 29-1 at Quicken Loans Arena. Cleveland, though, is just 1-2 against the Celtics and Magic while Orlando is 2-2 against the Cetlics and Cavaliers.
3. New Jersey at New York (Wednesday)
Of note: For years, the New Jersey Nets and New York Knicks were a make-believe rivalry, since neither team was good at the same time. This season, the Nets and Knicks aren't particularly good, but both are currently tied with Charlotte for 10th in the Eastern Conference and in contention for the eighth spot. They have split the season series at 1-1 with each team winning at IZOD Center. The Nets won the last meeting, 106-101, on March 8 as Devin Harris had 35 points and 10 assists. Harris might not be around for the Knicks after spraining his shoulder in a terrible, 107-105 loss to Steve Novak and the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday. The teams will meet again in the season finale on April 15.
4. Boston at San Antonio (Friday)
Of note: Where would the Boston Celtics be without Stephon Marbury and Mikki Moore? No, seriously. Marbury and Moore have had minimal impact since joining the Celtics last month -- Marbury is averaging 3.4 points; Moore, 4.3 points -- but if they weren't in Boston, the team would be down to just nine healthy players. Kevin Garnett has missed the past 11 games with a muscle strain in his right knee, Tony Allen is done with a left thumb injury, Brian Scalabrine is dealing with post concussion syndrome and Glen "Big Baby" Davis recently sprained his ankle. It should come as no surprise that the Celtics have lost three of their past four games. The Celtics are 6-5 overall without Garnett, but he is expected to make his long-awaited return against Tim Duncan and the Spurs, who have won four of their past five games.
Others in consideration: Detroit at Dallas (Tuesday); Miami at Boston (Wednesday); Detroit at Houston (Wednesday); Dallas at Atlanta (Thursday); Portland at Cleveland (Thursday); Miami at New Jersey (Friday); Atlanta at Cleveland (Saturday); New York Knick at Orlando (Saturday); Miami at Detroit (Sunday); Houston at San Antonio (Sunday).
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