Rest of West wakes up

Updated: December 8, 2003, 3:17 PM ET
By Marc Stein |

With a light schedule, Orlando grabs more attention than it wants in an attempt to finally halt its 19-game losing skid in Suns at Magic. Amare Stoudemire has Orlando ties, which undoubtedly would have helped at the box office, but the Magic won't miss seeing the injured Sun, needing all the help it can get.
Toronto at Cleveland sends the increasingly impressive Chris Bosh against LeBron James in their first rookie showdown, with Bosh coming off a 16-rebound game in Sunday's win over Seattle. Philadelphia at Detroit, meanwhile, is another Allen Iverson vs. Larry Brown showdown, this time with Iverson at risk for the boos in Larry's new building.
Portland at San Antonio holds more than the expected interested if the Spurs are serious about pursuing free agent-to-be Rasheed Wallace. To make it happen, Portland would have to be willing to take on the long-term contract of newly signed Rasho Nesterovic (not likely) in addition to the last-year contracts belonging to Ron Mercer and Robert Horry. The mere possibility of a such a swap, mind you, livens up a non-descript night, with New York at Utah serving as the other matchup of interest only because Knicks general manager Scott Layden has stockpiled so many players with Utah ties: Keith Van Horn, Michael Doleac, Shandon Anderson and Howard Eisley.
Detroit at Cleveland is still just a would-be rookie showdown with Darko Milicic not expected to play much against the Cavs -- yes, Darko Milicic is still waiting for his first NBA point. San Antonio at Houston gives the Spurs a chance to improve their woeful 1-8 mark against teams with winning records, and New Orleans and Phoenix follows Pistons-Cavs in the TNT nightcap.
Orlando is spared the prospect of another nationally televised defeat with Nets at Magic replaced by Sonics at Pistons in the first game of ESPN's Friday doubleheader. The Lakers seek to continue their mastery over the Mavericks in ESPN's nightcap, with a victory clinching the season series already for L.A. The Lakers are 5-0 against the Spurs and Mavericks combined.
Carmelo Anthony makes his only Madison Square Garden appearance of the season in Saturday's Nuggets at Knicks, while Yao Ming and Houston travel to face Tim Duncan and San Antonio in an early rematch of their meeting Thursday. Milwaukee visits Seattle in Sunday's game of primary interest, by which time Ray Allen could be back for the Sonics.
Vlade Divac and Kevin Garnett
KG's Wolves went 3-0 to rise to No. 7 in the rankings.
Editor's note: Every Monday, senior NBA writer Marc Stein reviews the week that was -- and takes a quick look ahead -- in "Reverse Slams."

Thank you, Rest of the West.

Thanks, at the very least, to those teams that heeded Friday's call for some improvement from various outposts on the Wild Side to supplement what the Los Angeles Lakers are doing.

Victories at San Antonio and Dallas on consecutive nights only solidified the Lakers' grip on the top spot in's NBA Power Rankings for the sixth week running.

Yet we also note Minnesota going to Sacramento and winning in (what else?) overtime Friday night, with Kevin Garnett's 33 points and 25 rebounds deciding the fourth successive game between those teams to go past 48 minutes.

We speak of the Wolves completing a 3-0 week, all as the traveling team, and of Houston's back-to-back victories over New Orleans and Detroit. The Rockets beat the Hornets on the road, then rode Yao Ming's 22 points and 20 boards in holding off the Pistons.

Even the Spurs winning at Orlando and Miami, on Friday and Saturday, represented an improvement from the group that is supposed to make the West so mighty and merciless.

Questions and answers about this edition of the rankings will be included as part of my weekly Monday chat at 5 p.m. ET.

Team of the Week

Toronto Raptors. Beaucoup competition for this honor, but the Raps proved irresistible by going 4-0. Not because of the teams they beat -- Sixers (away), Celtics, Hawks and Sonics -- but how they did it. Toronto averaged exactly 100 points in the victories, sweeping its first four games since acquiring Jalen Rose and Donyell Marshall from Chicago. Before the trade, remember, Toronto was averaging 78 points per game. Seventy-eight. As a bonus, the Raptors installed themselves as the fifth East team with a record over .500. That's one-third of the conference!

Male of the Week

Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony. 'Melo didn't stop after Tuesday's victory over Cleveland gave him a 2-0 season sweep against rival and dinner companion LeBron James. Anthony averaged 26.7 points on 52.2-percent shooting in wins over the Cavs and two over Golden State, as Denver's winning streak reached six games. The streak was halted Sunday with a home loss to Boston, but Anthony posted a respectable double-double (17 points, 10 boards) against the Celtics and has lifted his field-goal percentage for the season to 40 percent, after spending the first month of his pro career in the 30s.

E-Mail of the Week

    Has anyone told the Magic that LeBron has already been drafted?
    Kris Voda
    Sydney, Australia

STEIN: I like the witty ones as much as the legit questions. Wish that line was mine, Kris.

Juwan Howard
Speak of the Week

"That monkey is big. It's a gorilla. It's an elephant. It's a refrigerator."
Orlando's Juwan Howard, after the Magic's losing streak was stretched to 19 games Saturday night in Dallas.

Line of the Week

Monday, Dec. 1, Indiana at Phoenix
Player Min FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A Off Reb Ast Stl Blk TO PF Pts
Jermaine O'Neal 42 13-26 0-1 6-8 8 14 2 1 8 4 2 32
Another category with loads of competition, because there were some eye-popping lines this week -- like Voshon Lenard scoring 38 for Denver in a victory over Golden State, with 26 points alone in the opening quarter. Look, though, at what O'Neal did on the back end of a back-to-back, after the Pacers were pounded by the Lakers. The Suns certainly aren't the biggest team in the world, but these numbers are vicious nonetheless.

Stat of the Week

Allen Iverson leads the league in four major categories. That would be scoring (29.4 ppg), minutes (43.7 mpg), steals (2.95 spg) ... and free-throw attempts (10.25 per game). Iverson, of course, complained the other night that he isn't going to the line enough, because referees subconsciously think he's tough enough to take a pounding. Only four other players -- Shaquille O'Neal (9.3) and Kobe Bryant (8.6) of the Lakers, the L.A. Clippers' Corey Maggette (8.5) and San Antonio's Tim Duncan (8.2) -- shoot as many as eight free throws per game.

Stat of the Weak

In addition to threatening the NBA record for most consecutive losses (23), Orlando has already clinched the longest losing streak for a team that had a winning record the previous season. The Magic went 42-40 in 2002-03.

    19	'03-04 Magic
    17	'64-65 Warriors
    15	'01-02 Rockets
    13	'01-02 Raptors
    13	'93-94 Celtics
    13	'77-78 Rockets

Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for To e-mail him, click here. Also, click here to send a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.

Marc Stein | email

Senior Writer,
• Senior NBA writer for
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics