Rest of West wakes up
|THE WEEK IN PREVIEW|
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.
|KG's Wolves went 3-0 to rise to No. 7 in the rankings.|
Thank you, Rest of the West.
Victories at San Antonio and Dallas on consecutive nights only solidified the Lakers' grip on the top spot in ESPN.com'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.
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!
- Has anyone told the Magic that LeBron has already been drafted?
STEIN: I like the witty ones as much as the legit questions. Wish that line was mine, Kris.
"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.
|Monday, Dec. 1, Indiana at Phoenix|
19 '03-04 Magic 17 '64-65 Warriors 15 '01-02 Rockets 13 '01-02 Raptors 13 '93-94 Celtics 13 '77-78 Rockets