Monday Morning Point Guard


Yes, yes, Yao. The next few weeks are going to get really crazy. (Photo by D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images)

Almost every team has played at least 70 games, but not much has been settled in the NBA, which means that the final four weeks of the season will be filled with some exciting races. You won't find any of the one-and-done Madness of the NCAA Tournament, but for several teams every game counts down the stretch.

The Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers have already clinched their divisions and appear to have the top seeds wrapped up in their respective conferences. But just about everything else is up for grabs.

The Boston Celtics have already claimed the Atlantic Division but will be in a dogfight with the soon-to-be Southeast Division champion Orlando Magic for the second seed in the Eastern Conference. Nothing -- not even injuries to Ben Wallace and Wally Szczerbiak -- appears to be standing in the way of the LeBron James and the Cavaliers for the No. 1 seed in the East. And four teams -- Chicago, Charlotte, Milwaukee and New Jersey -- are jostling for the right to get slaughtered in the first round.

The Western Conference has the most intriguing races, with eight teams in contention for seven spots, and two battles for division titles that may not finish until the final game of the season.

The San Antonio Spurs won the 2007 NBA championship and have been to the conference finals the past two seasons, but they haven't won a division title since 2006. They had led the Southwest Division most of the season until the Houston Rockets knocked them off the top of the hill on Sunday, with an 87-85 victory. The Denver Nuggets appeared to have an easy path to the Northwest Division title a month ago, but a miserable March, combined with the rise of the Utah Jazz and continued improvement of the Portland Trail Blazers has made that a hotly contested competition.

And, the Washington Wizards are in contention for the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, with Sacramento, the Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis, Oklahoma City and the hard-charging Minnesota Timberwolves also scrambling to get the most ping-pong balls for Oklahoma sophomore Blake Griffin.

Here is a breakdown of the races with a prediction for each one:

The Race To The Bottom


People almost forgot how bad we were. We'll show them. (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)

Sacramento Kings (15-55)
Games Remaining (12)
Home (7); Road (5)
+.500 Teams (7)
Back-to-Backs (3)
The Reason They Will: Kings arguably have worst roster ever.
The Reason They Won't: Schedule padded with home games.

Washington Wizards (16-55)
Games Remaining (11)
Home (6); Road (5)
+.500 Teams (4)
Back-to-Backs (2)
The Reason They Will: They already moved into Chicago Packers' neighborhood.
The Reason They Won't: Wizards have no shot if Gilbert Arenas returns.

Los Angeles Clippers (17-53)
Games Remaining (12); Home (5); Road (7)
+.500 Teams (8); Back-to-Backs (3)
The Reason They Will: Clippers are all about keeping tradition.
The Reason They Won't: They are healthy for the first time all year.

Memphis Grizzlies (17-52)
Games Remaining (13); Home (5); Road (8)
+.500 Teams (9); Back-To-Backs (4)
The Reason They Will: Rough schedule. They've lost 16 of 18.
The Reason They Won't: Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo are capable of playing better.

Oklahoma City Thunder (20-50)
Games Remaining (12); Home (5); Road (7)
+.500 Teams (7); Back-To-Backs (2)
The Reason They Will: Wouldn't it be great to keep Blake Griffin in his home town.
The Reason They Won't: They would basically have to lose every game.

Minnesota Timberwolves (20-50)
Games Remaining (12); Home (5); Road (7)
+.500 Teams (8); Back-To-Backs (1)
The Reason They Will: T-Wolves are 3-17 without Al Jefferson.
The Reason They Won't: They have a nice cushion with 20 wins.


Predicted Winner: Sacramento Kings


The Race for Eighth in the East


The rookie of the year is mine if I lead my team to the playoffs, right? (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)

Chicago Bulls (32-38)
Games Remaining (12)
Home (8); Road (4);
+.500 Teams (2)
Back-To-Backs (2)
The Reason They Will: Bulls have a light schedule and Derrick Rose.
The Reason They Won't: Vinny Del Negro's inexperience, Luol Deng leg injury.

Charlotte Bobcats (31-39)
Games Remaining (12)
Home (4); Road (8)
+.500 Teams (6)
Back-To-Backs (3)
The Reason They Will: Larry Brown is the quicker fixer-upper.
The Reason They Won't: They finish the season with four road games.

Milwaukee Bucks (31-40)
Games Remaining (11); Home (5); Road (6)
+.500 Teams (7); Back-To-Backs (2)
The Reason They Will: Scott Skiles teams usually have strong finishes.
The Reason They Won't: Losing Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut hurts.

New Jersey Nets (30-40)
Games Remaining (12); Home (6); Road (6)
+.500 Teams (5); Back-To-Backs (3)
The Reason They Will: Vince Carter and Robin Lopez are playing great.
The Reason They Won't: Devin Harris' shoulder injury, limited depth.


Predicted Winner: Chicago Bulls


The Race for the Southwest Division


I'm not losing the Southwest Division three years in a row. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Houston Rockets (47-25)
Games Remaining (11)
Home (4); Road (7)
+.500 Teams (7);
Back-To-Backs (1)
The Reason They Will: Rockets are playing better without Tracy McGrady.
The Reason They Won't: They have few home games, haven't won a division title in 15 years.

San Antonio Spurs (45-24)
Games Remaining (12)
Home (5); Road (7)
+.500 Teams (6)
Back-To-Backs (3)
The Reason They Will: Greg Popovich, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker will lead them.
The Reason They Won't: Manu Ginobili's ankle injury, shoddier defense.

New Orleans Hornets (44-25)
Games Remaining (13); Home (5); Road (8)
+.500 Teams (9); Back-To-Backs (2)
The Reason They Will: The brilliance of Chris Paul and David West.
The Reason They Won't: The mediocrity of the Hornets' bench.


Predicted Winner: San Antonio Spurs


The Race for the Northwest Division


I can't believe people think we won't win the Northwest. That's funny to me. (Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

Denver Nuggets (45-25)
Games Remaining (12)
Home (6); Road (6)
+.500 Teams (6)
Back-To-Backs (3)
The Reason They Will: To complete Chauncey Billups's storybook return.
The Reason They Won't: Nuggets have struggled since all-star break.

Portland Trail Blazers (44-26)
Games Remaining (12)
Home (7); Road (5)
+.500 Teams (7)
Back-To-Backs (2)
The Reason They Will: Brandon Roy is one of the league's best leaders.
The Reason They Won't: Blazers' youth and losing road record.

Utah Jazz (43-26)
Games Remaining (13); Home (6); Road (7)
+.500 Teams (9); Back-To-Backs (4)
The Reason They Will: They have tremendous depth and Deron Williams.
The Reason They Won't: Jazz can't win on the road.


Predicted Winner: Denver Nuggets


The Race for the Second Seed in the East


As long as I don't break your neck, we're No. 2. (AP Photo)

Boston Celtics (53-18)
Games Remaining (11)
Home (7); Road (4)
+.500 Teams (6)
Back-To-Backs (0)
The Reason They Will: Kevin Garnett's back. They're the champs.
The Reason They Won't: Celtics' injuries keep piling up.

Orlando Magic (51-18)
Games Remaining (13)
Home (7); Road (6)
+.500 Teams (5)
Back-To-Backs (3)
The Reason They Will: Dwight Howard's dominance; Rafer Alston's great fill-in for Jameer Nelson.
The Reason They Won't: If Stan Van Gundy does like Shaquille O'Neal says, and panics.


Predicted winner: Boston Celtics


The Race for Homecourt Advantage Throughout the Playoffs


Stop it guys, that tickles. (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)

Cleveland Cavaliers (57-13)
Games Remaining (12)
Home (8); Road (4)
+.500 Teams (6)
Back-To-Backs (2)
The Reason They Will: LeBron James is MVP, Cavs virtually unbeatable at home.
The Reason They Won't: Complacency might set in with so much wrapped up.

Los Angeles Lakers (55-14)
Games Remaining (13)
Home (5); Road (8)
+.500 Teams (4)
Back-To-Backs (3)
The Reason They Will: Since losing in Finals, Lakers have targeted homecourt.
The Reason They Won't: Few home games, few teams pushing them in the West.


Predicted winner: Cleveland Cavaliers


By Michael Lee |  March 23, 2009; 8:54 AM ET MMPG: Week 21
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The Bog has cited Washington Post Live as saying Arenas will return this Saturday against the Pistons...
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/dcsportsbog/2009/03/gilbert_to_return_saturday.html?wprss=dcsportsbog

Posted by: -CN- | March 23, 2009 11:01 AM

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