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MMPG: The FourCast

Quit reaching while I'm crab dribbling. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images North America)

1. Cleveland at Washington (Thursday)
Of note: This is not simply a game between the team with the league's best record and the worst record in the Eastern Conference. The Washington Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers still hate each other and they have played two incredible, down-to-wire games this season, with each team winning at home. The Cavaliers needed an 11-0 closing run -- and a few favorable calls in the final minutes -- to defeat Washington on Christmas. And, LeBron James dubbed a late-game travel the "crab dribble" in an 80-77 Wizards' victory on Jan. 4. Game 3 of their regular season rivalry -- that's all they have now -- will now include Gilbert Arenas and a national television audience on TNT.

2. Houston at Los Angeles Lakers (Friday)
Of note: The Los Angeles Lakers already have the Western Conference wrapped up, but the Houston Rockets are still competing with San Antonio and Denver for the No. 2 seed. The Lakers have won the first three meetings, but this game has a little more intrigue after March 11, when Kobe Bryant scored 31 of his 37 points in the second-half of a 102-96 victory. Bryant also engaged in some "edgy" trash talk with Rockets forward Ron Artest, saying afterward that he kicked Artest's you-know-what.

3. Detroit at Philadelphia (Saturday)
Of note: Allen Iverson plays his only game in Philadelphia as a member of the Detroit Pistons. But 76ers fan probably won't give him another warm welcome, as they did when Iverson came back as a member of the Denver Nuggets. The Pistons trail Philadelphia by 1 ½ games for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference and after having his toughness questioned, Iverson returned from a 16-game absence because back troubles to help Detroit beat the 76ers, 101-97, on Sunday.

4. Utah at New Orleans (Sunday)
Of note: The Utah Jazz concludes a critical week, which includes games against Northwest Division combatants Portland and Denver, with the latest installment of Deron Williams vs. Chris Paul. The two point guards have been linked since they were drafted third and fourth, respectively, in 2005. Now they both are leading teams that have identical 45-27 records as the week begins. This is the third matchup between the teams, and Utah won the first two meetings by a combined 40 points.

Others in consideration: Orlando at Miami (Monday); Detroit at Cleveland (Tuesday); Atlanta at Philadelphia (Tuesday); Utah at Portland (Tuesday); Miami at Dallas (Wednesday); Houston at Phoenix (Wednesday); Utah at Denver (Thursday); Atlanta at Boston (Friday); Cleveland at Orlando (Friday); Orlando at Atlanta (Saturday); Miami at Washington (Saturday); San Antonio at Cleveland (Sunday); Phoenix at Dallas (Sunday).

By Michael Lee  |  March 30, 2009; 2:31 PM ET
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Next: Arenas Keeps the Mood Light



NOW you're coming over to my way of thinking. TEAM defense begats great offense. You're got to build from a strong team defensive strategy to win offensively. I see individuals playing defense on the WIZARDS, occasionally quite well. What I don't see is a cohesive group effort committed to defense. You need BOTH. This team as it is currently constituted is offense oriented, not balanced. A fallacious strategy.

Posted by: glawrence007 | March 30, 2009 10:00 PM | Report abuse

They play good team defense on occasion, for a possession or a series of possessions. But they don't do it consistently. A lot of the breakdowns seem to be tactical errors rather than lack of effort.

Posted by: pjkiger1 | March 30, 2009 10:15 PM | Report abuse

glawrence: "TEAM defense begats great offense. You're got to build from a strong team defensive strategy to win offensively."

In some schemes, definitely. In others, not so much. College is probably a better example, since 'team' is more honored at that level. An offense like Maryland or the old John Thompson Georgetown teams relied on the defense to create turnovers they could exploit for points. But in the pros, everything seems to come back to matchups. How Player A stacked up against Opponent B. There's some helping, but nothing like in college.

If the Wiz played defense the way Boston did last season, they'd be waaay better for it. But even Boston is having trouble doing that two years in a row. One guy like Garnett goes down, and there's suddenly a big hole in their defense.

You could argue that Haywood's injury is in some ways as important as Arenas' in terms of sapping the life out of the Wiz defensive scheme. Particularly because Etan Thomas wasn't able to step in and replace him.

Posted by: Samson151 | March 31, 2009 7:34 AM | Report abuse

Well I certainly did. As soon as HAYWOOD's injury was out I said the WIZARDS were done. And I was right.

Posted by: glawrence007 | March 31, 2009 8:00 AM | Report abuse

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