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Cnotes Sunday's Best Bets NBA - NHL !

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On 03/18/2012 09:12 AM in NBA
Howard And Magic Face Heat In Miami

Two nationally televised doubleheaders will headline Sunday and Monday in the National Basketball Association. The trade deadline has come and gone, which means rosters around the league are mostly shaped to what they will look like for the remainder of the year.

Dwight Howard was the center of attention in trade talks and after all of the build-up, he decided to stay in Orlando. Rumors stated he could be shipped to New Jersey which would have taken him off the third best team in the Eastern Conference to the third worst.

This Sunday, Howard and the Magic (29-16 straight up, 25-20 against the spread) take their talents to South Beach to face the Miami Heat (32-11 SU, 21-22 ATS) in the first game on ESPN. Orlando leads the season series 2-1 (SU and ATS) with the last meeting decided in overtime as Howard racked up 24 points and 25 boards. All three games have been taken by the home team.

The Heat failed to cover in their last two wins at home against the Pacers and Hawks and the Magic have not fared well on the road, either. Orlando is 1-5 ATS in its last six road contests. Both teams are healthy which should make for a great matchup.

A Western Conference pairing is in the later slot as the Oklahoma City Thunder will host the Portland Trail Blazers. The Blazers were once a sneaky pick to come out of the West but the wheels completely fell off. Portland has now traded Gerald Wallace, fired head coach Nate McMillan, and is 3-7 SU and ATS in its last 10. In the midst of that was a 42-point loss to the then-struggling New York Knicks.

Meanwhile, the Thunder control the conference at 33-11 (24-20 ATS) but have surprisingly lost three out of their last four at Chesapeake Energy Arena where they had been lights out. One positive for the Blazers heading into this game is that they are 5-1 ATS in their last six meetings in OKC.

Looking ahead to Monday night on TNT, the aforementioned Magic will host the Chicago Bulls (36-10, 27-19 ATS). Superstar PG Derrick Rose is expected to miss Saturday’s game versus Philly with a groin injury. Bettors should follow the Don Best odds screen for his status in Orlando. To further the issue, Rose’s backup C.J. Watson is questionable with an ankle injury for Saturday as well.

Simply put, the Bulls as a team do not have many issues. Chicago is stellar on defense giving up just 89.5 points per game and even without Rose, the Bulls were able to defeat the Heat last Wednesday. On the road, they post a remarkable 16-8 ATS record.

The victor on Monday night will take the season series with them as they are tied at 1-1. The road team won and covered in both meetings.

Finally, the defending champion Dallas Mavericks (25-20 SU, 21-23-1 ATS) will be in Denver to face Nuggets (24-20 SU and ATS). Denver swapped centers before the deadline with the Washington Wizards sending Nene Hilario to one of the worst teams in the NBA and receiving the talented but sometimes frustrating JaVale McGee in a three-team deal. McGee is doubtful for the Nuggets’ Saturday game versus the Celtics.

The Pepsi Center has not been kind to the Nuggets against the number. Denver is just 9-15 ATS on their home floor but, however, the Mavs are just 8-13 SU on the road. Dallas leads the season series at 2-1 (SU and ATS).

Each of these teams seems to be on a race to lose money for their backers. The Nuggets are 1-5 ATS in their last six overall while Dallas is 0-5 ATS in their last five overall.
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03/18/2012 09:13 AM
Howard And Magic Face Heat In Miami

Two nationally televised doubleheaders will headline Sunday and Monday in the National Basketball Association. The trade deadline has come and gone, which means rosters around the league are mostly shaped to what they will look like for the remainder of the year.

Dwight Howard was the center of attention in trade talks and after all of the build-up, he decided to stay in Orlando. Rumors stated he could be shipped to New Jersey which would have taken him off the third best team in the Eastern Conference to the third worst.

This Sunday, Howard and the Magic (29-16 straight up, 25-20 against the spread) take their talents to South Beach to face the Miami Heat (32-11 SU, 21-22 ATS) in the first game on ESPN. Orlando leads the season series 2-1 (SU and ATS) with the last meeting decided in overtime as Howard racked up 24 points and 25 boards. All three games have been taken by the home team.

The Heat failed to cover in their last two wins at home against the Pacers and Hawks and the Magic have not fared well on the road, either. Orlando is 1-5 ATS in its last six road contests. Both teams are healthy which should make for a great matchup.

A Western Conference pairing is in the later slot as the Oklahoma City Thunder will host the Portland Trail Blazers. The Blazers were once a sneaky pick to come out of the West but the wheels completely fell off. Portland has now traded Gerald Wallace, fired head coach Nate McMillan, and is 3-7 SU and ATS in its last 10. In the midst of that was a 42-point loss to the then-struggling New York Knicks.

Meanwhile, the Thunder control the conference at 33-11 (24-20 ATS) but have surprisingly lost three out of their last four at Chesapeake Energy Arena where they had been lights out. One positive for the Blazers heading into this game is that they are 5-1 ATS in their last six meetings in OKC.

Looking ahead to Monday night on TNT, the aforementioned Magic will host the Chicago Bulls (36-10, 27-19 ATS). Superstar PG Derrick Rose is expected to miss Saturday’s game versus Philly with a groin injury. Bettors should follow the Don Best odds screen for his status in Orlando. To further the issue, Rose’s backup C.J. Watson is questionable with an ankle injury for Saturday as well.

Simply put, the Bulls as a team do not have many issues. Chicago is stellar on defense giving up just 89.5 points per game and even without Rose, the Bulls were able to defeat the Heat last Wednesday. On the road, they post a remarkable 16-8 ATS record.

The victor on Monday night will take the season series with them as they are tied at 1-1. The road team won and covered in both meetings.

Finally, the defending champion Dallas Mavericks (25-20 SU, 21-23-1 ATS) will be in Denver to face Nuggets (24-20 SU and ATS). Denver swapped centers before the deadline with the Washington Wizards sending Nene Hilario to one of the worst teams in the NBA and receiving the talented but sometimes frustrating JaVale McGee in a three-team deal. McGee is doubtful for the Nuggets’ Saturday game versus the Celtics.

The Pepsi Center has not been kind to the Nuggets against the number. Denver is just 9-15 ATS on their home floor but, however, the Mavs are just 8-13 SU on the road. Dallas leads the season series at 2-1 (SU and ATS).

Each of these teams seems to be on a race to lose money for their backers. The Nuggets are 1-5 ATS in their last six overall while Dallas is 0-5 ATS in their last five overall.
Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
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03/18/2012 09:18 AM
Preview: Hawks (25-19) at Cavaliers (16-25)

Date: March 18, 2012 3:00 PM EDT

Joe Johnson and the Atlanta Hawks proved difficult to contain their last time out, using a smaller lineup to create matchup problems for their opponent.

The Cleveland Cavaliers know all too well how formidable Atlanta can be.

The Hawks hope their new-look starting five can remain effective as they try for a sixth consecutive win over the Cavaliers on Sunday.

Johnson was the starting shooting guard but has been switched to small forward for the past four games in place of Marvin Williams, who will miss a third straight game Sunday due to a hip flexor injury. Atlanta (25-19) has moved Kirk Hinrich into the starting backcourt alongside Jeff Teague.

The Hawks improved to 6-3 with Hinrich in the starting five Friday, beating Washington 102-88 behind a season best-tying 34 points from Johnson. Hinrich scored just five points but dished out five assists.

"I like playing a 3 when we've got two smaller guys out there who can really penetrate the defense and make plays and guard those little quick guys," Johnson said. "It's definitely an advantage for us because now you've got three guys out there who can create and make plays for everybody."

Johnson is averaging 25.2 points - 6.6 more than his season mark - in five games since returning from a lengthy absence due to left knee tendinitis.

That surely doesn't bode well for the Cavaliers (16-25), who have been outscored by an average of 17.0 points during a five-game losing streak to the Hawks. Johnson missed two of those games due to injury.

Atlanta's run in this series includes two double-digit road victories last season and a 121-94 home win Jan. 21 in the only meeting this season as Johnson scored 25.

The Cavaliers will have a bit of a different look when they take the court Sunday. Cleveland traded backup point guard Ramon Sessions and relatively unknown Christian Eyenga to the Los Angeles Lakers for Luke Walton, Jason Kapono and a lottery-protected first-round pick in the 2012 draft as well as other considerations.

While Kapono was waived Saturday, Walton, who has appeared in just nine games this season, is looking forward to getting a fresh start.

"First thing I did was get on the laptop and see if we had a chance to make the playoffs - and we're only (a few) games out," Walton said. "It's exciting to be out here, it's gonna be fun to work with some of these young guys and try to make a run here towards the end of the season."

The Cavs, though, have followed a season-best three-game win streak by losing their last two games.

Rookie of the Year candidate Kyrie Irving continued his impressive play with 28 points Wednesday, but Cleveland lost 115-105 at Milwaukee.

In an attempt to shake things up, coach Byron Scott plans to start 6-foot-9 rookie Tristan Thompson in place of center Ryan Hollins. Thompson was averaging 6.7 points and 5.7 boards off the bench.

"I'll just come out and play hard. Set the tone early by rebounding and running the floor and doing what I've been doing all year," said Thompson, selected No. 4 overall in June's draft. "Atlanta definitely gave us a (hard time) the last time we played them, so we have to come out and play hard, come out early and try to hit them in the mouth."

Williams, Willie Green (hamstring) and Vladimir Radmanovic (sore back) won't face Cleveland. Center Jason Collins (elbow), though, is expected to return following a 21-game absence.

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03/18/2012 09:25 AM
Preview: Pistons (16-28) at Clippers (25-18)

Date: March 18, 2012 3:30 PM EDT

A successful comeback in their latest contest might provide the spark the Los Angeles Clippers need to string some wins together.

The Clippers look to win consecutive games for the first time in a little more than a month when they host the Detroit Pistons on Sunday.

Los Angeles (25-18) had dropped three of the first four on its six-game home stretch before overcoming a six-point deficit with less than 3 minutes to play to beat Houston 95-91 on Saturday. Chris Paul scored 12 of his 23 points in the final 2:42 to help the Clippers win for the third time in eight games.

"It's a win, a grind out win. We'll take it," said coach Vinny Del Negro, whose team moved within 2 1/2 games of the Pacific Division-leading Lakers. "It's obviously a step in the right direction, but we have to be consistent. We've got to get our energy up, play hard and continue to grind it out."

Despite shooting 40.7 percent, Del Negro's club responded after holding a team meeting following Thursday's 91-87 loss to Phoenix. However, the key for the Clippers is to build on their latest victory while trying to win back-to-back games for the first time since Feb. 15-16.

"Our confidence is high, we can't panic," said forward DeAndre Jordan, who pulled down 11 rebounds Saturday. "Our standing is still pretty good (in the Western Conference) and we're trying to win games and move up."

The Clippers hope the acquisition of fifth-year swingman and Los Angeles area native Nick Young (16.6 points per game) from Washington at the trade deadline will help. Though there is a chance Young could make his Clippers debut in this contest, it's likely not to come until Tuesday at Indiana.

"We just felt it was the right thing to do right now," Del Negro told the Clippers' official website. "How it's all going to come together with the chemistry of the team and everything time will tell."

Young is excited to play with Paul, who broke out Saturday after totaling 37 points in the previous three games. Blake Griffin had 18 points before fouling out against the Rockets.

Griffin has totaled 42 points and 35 rebounds in two career games versus Detroit.

Though the Clippers have won three of four versus Detroit following a 13-game series skid, the Pistons won 113-107 in overtime in the last meeting at Staples Center on Nov. 12, 2010.

Detroit's Rodney Stuckey had 17 points with six assists in that contest, and has averaged 26.8 on 35-of-60 shooting (58.3 percent) and 7.3 assists in the last four games overall. He had 23 points and eight assists as the Pistons (16-28) fell to 1-2 on a five-game western trip with a 109-101 loss to Phoenix on Friday.

Detroit lost for the second time in six games despite shooting 51.3 percent. The Pistons, 12-8 since a season-high seven skid, have shot 53.3 percent over the last five contests.

However, the Pistons need to improve on the defensive end after the first three opponents on this trip have averaged 105.0 points and made 51.7 percent of their shots.

"The good thing is we're in (games now)," coach Lawrence Frank told the Pistons' official website. "It's the maturity of getting stops. That will determine, at the end of the day, who wins and loses."




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03/18/2012 09:29 AM
Preview: Timberwolves (22-23) at Kings (15-29)
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Date: March 18, 2012 6:00 PM EDT

The Minnesota Timberwolves need to pick up the pace if they want to stick around in the Western Conference playoff race.

While the Sacramento Kings have a ways to go to get back in the mix, they looked nothing like one of the weaker teams in the league their last time out.

Hoping to avoid a fifth loss in six games, the Timberwolves continue a seven-game road swing Sunday night seeking a third straight win over the Kings.

Lurking just outside of the playoff picture for much of the season, Minnesota (22-23) may be on the verge of falling out of contention. The Timberwolves have played the last four games without rookie standout guard Ricky Rubio, who suffered a season-ending torn ACL on March 9.

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After opening its trip with a 127-124 win over Phoenix on Monday, Minnesota suffered a 111-105 overtime defeat to Utah on Thursday and fell 97-92 to the Los Angeles Lakers the following night.

Kevin Love had 27 points and 15 rebounds Friday for his NBA-leading 37th double-double, but the Timberwolves went 4 of 22 from 3-point range and fell below .500 for the first time since March 1.

"If you want to be in the playoff race, you have to go out and play like you really want to stay in it," coach Rick Adelman said.

"We have to have more urgency as a group. You can't talk about it. You have to do it. We have to go out in the last four games on this road trip and make a statement."

Sunday's matchup may give the Timberwolves their best chance to get back on track with visits to Golden State, San Antonio and Oklahoma City in store. After defeating Sacramento 99-86 on Jan. 16 behind Love's 33 points and 11 boards, Minnesota escaped with an 86-84 win Feb. 7 with Love suspended.

A third straight victory in the series, however, could be hard to come by if the Kings' latest effort is any indication. Sacramento is in 14th place in the West, but snapped a three-game skid with a 120-95 rout of Boston on Friday.

Marcus Thornton scored a season-high 36, Jason Thompson had 21 points and 15 rebounds for the second consecutive game and Isaiah Thomas added 13 points and 10 assists.

The Kings shot a season-best 53.5 percent from the field and held a 45-28 rebounding edge over the Celtics, who surrendered their highest scoring output in almost three years. Sacramento also scored 32 fast-break points.

"I think we made shots," said Thomas, averaging 14.5 points since moving into the starting lineup Feb. 17. "We're a young team that feeds off little things like that. If we're making shots, you can say we're going to have a good game."

While the Kings' overall efforts have left much to be desired, the team has held its own against some of the better clubs in the league. Sacramento is a combined 3-0 at home versus Oklahoma City, Dallas and the Lakers, and also defeated San Antonio on the road.

"I think that for some reason we play to the competition," Thompson told the league's official website. " ... When we get stops and finish with a rebound, we can run and when we run and get easy fast-break points, then it makes the half-court game easy."

Averaging 17.1 points, Tyreke Evans in uncertain to be available after sitting out Friday with a sprained left ankle. Minnesota's Michael Beasley is expected to return following a two-game absence due to a sore left toe.


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03/18/2012 09:33 AM
Preview: Wizards (10-33) at Grizzlies (24-18)

Date: March 18, 2012 6:00 PM EDT

The Memphis Grizzlies were unable to pull out a victory in their latest game even with their lineup finally intact.

Perhaps a visit by the lowly Washington Wizards can help Memphis produce a better result.

The Grizzlies are trying to avoid their first three-game losing streak at FedExForum since the beginning of last season Sunday night, facing a Wizards team which hasn't won there in more than seven years.

Zach Randolph had 25 points and nine rebounds Friday in his first game after missing 37 with a torn MCL, and Rudy Gay added 26 points and 11 boards after missing one with concussion symptoms. Memphis (24-18), though, fell to 0-2 on its three-game homestand with a 114-110 overtime loss to Toronto.

"I felt pretty good once I got into the groove," said Randolph, who hadn't played since Jan. 1. "My timing is a little off. I felt rusty on both ends. I just have to get getter and keep improving."

The Grizzlies, who shot a season-low five free throws in Tuesday's 116-111 double-overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, missed 20 of their franchise record-tying 51 free-throw attempts against the Raptors.

"They gave us opportunities to win the game. We kept shooting ourselves in the foot," said coach Lionel Hollins, whose team committed 18 turnovers.

Memphis, three games ahead of the ninth spot in the Western Conference standings, will try to limit those mistakes and build momentum for a stretch of nine of 11 on the road beginning Tuesday. First, the Grizzlies try to avoid dropping three in a row at home for the first time since Nov. 10-16, 2010.

They won for the ninth time in 12 games against Washington with a 107-93 victory Jan. 29, 2011, in the teams' last meeting. Randolph scored 24 points with 20 rebounds as Memphis ran its home winning streak in the series to six, dating to Nov. 3, 2004.

Washington (10-33) arrives in Memphis after falling to 1-3 on a season-high six-game trip with Friday's 102-88 loss to Atlanta. Playing their fourth game in five nights, and second since JaVale McGee, Nick Young and Ronny Turiaf were traded in a three-team swap that brought Nene and Brian Cook on board, the Wizards were held to 34 second-half points.

"We threw the ball all over the place," coach Randy Wittman said after his club committed 20 turnovers. "Dribble, dribble, dribble. We all took turns just dribbling the ball."

With Grizzlies guards Mike Conley and Tony Allen ranking among the league's best in steals with 2.6 and 1.7 per game, respectively, John Wall will have to take better care of the ball after matching a career high with nine turnovers Friday.

Wall, averaging 19.3 points and 10.3 assists over the last three games, had 14 points with eight assists and five turnovers in last season's loss at Memphis.

While Cook might be available, Nene's Wizards debut likely won't happen until at least Wednesday.

"We've got guys in there that are NBA players," Wittman said. "We don't need to wait on anybody."

Memphis is 12-3 against sub-.500 teams.

Washington is 0-12 on the road against teams which currently have winning records.
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03/18/2012 09:36 AM
Preview: Magic (29-16) at Heat (32-11)

Date: March 18, 2012 7:00 PM EDT

It might not give the Miami Heat much comfort to know Dwight Howard will remain with the Orlando Magic through next season, especially after his performance in last week's matchup.

The All-Star center will try to lead Orlando to another win over the Heat and help end their lengthy home win streak Sunday while snapping his string of subpar scoring performances in Miami.

Howard matched a season high with 25 rebounds and scored 24 points during a 104-98 overtime victory at home against the Heat on Tuesday night. After that win, he announced that he would take back his preseason trade request and remain with the team through this season.

Howard made an even bigger commitment when he chose to waive the early termination clause in his contract just before Thursday's trade deadline, meaning he would stay in Orlando at least until his deal ends in 2013.

The next day, he scored a team-best 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting during an easy 86-70 victory over New Jersey in front of a grateful home crowd.

"Everybody feels at peace for now," forward Glen Davis said. "Dwight did a really good job of following his heart and doing what's best for him and this team. He believes in this team."

The win was Orlando's fourth in five games following a 5-4 stretch that began with a 90-78 defeat in Miami on Feb. 19. The Magic shot 36.5 percent during its only loss in the past four meetings with the Heat.

While it's had success in recent matchups with Miami, Orlando (29-16) hasn't won the season series since 2008-09.

One reason why may be that Howard has failed to reach 20 points in any of his last five visits to Miami, averaging 14.4 in that span. The only Eastern Conference city where he has a lower average over the past three seasons is Detroit (14.3).

The Heat are allowing just 89.3 points per game during their 12-game home win streak. It's their longest since a 14-game run Jan. 22-March 16, 2007.

Miami (32-11), which has a four-game lead over Orlando in the division, is coming off a 1-2 road trip against the other three top teams in the Eastern Conference. The Heat avoided going winless on that trek by holding on for an 84-78 victory over Atlantic Division-leading Philadelphia on Friday.

Miami led by 29 points early in the third quarter but scored 25 over the final 23 minutes. The 76ers, though, got no closer than four points.

"It's never good to give up a 20-point lead," said LeBron James, who had 29 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. "But when you have to close out a game, it's good to see you can keep the lead and win."

Dwyane Wade was held to 12 points - his fewest in two months - and shot 6 for 16 but had a season-high 11 boards and six assists. He's averaged 29.3 points on 58.0 percent shooting against Orlando this season.

James had 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting in Miami's lone win in the season series, compared to an average of 18.0 in the two losses while shooting 12 for 35 (34.3 percent).

Howard has averaged 20.3 points and shot 62.2 percent versus Miami this season while averaging 21.3 rebounds, his best mark against any opponent.




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03/18/2012 09:38 AM
Preview: Rockets (24-21) at Suns (22-22)

Date: March 18, 2012 9:00 PM EDT

After winning three games in three nights, the Phoenix Suns are in position to surpass the .500 mark for the first time this season.

The surging Suns can accomplish that feat Sunday night at home if they snap a three-game losing streak in the series against the Houston Rockets.

Phoenix (22-22) has won 10 of 13 overall and nine of 11 at home, surging from five games out of a playoff spot in mid-February to its current standing just outside of the Western Conference playoff picture. Jared Dudley scored 23 points, Channing Frye had 15 with 13 rebounds and Steve Nash added 17 assists Friday as the Suns beat Detroit 109-101 to join Chicago, Miami and Oklahoma City as the only NBA teams to sweep a back-to-back-to-back set this season.

The Suns also improved to .500 for the first time since they were 4-4 on Jan. 8.

"We want to create a rhythm each night, and need to be aggressive,' said Frye, averaging 17.8 points in the last four contests. "Right now, it's about guys making big-time plays. We keep looking at that (playoff) board and we've just got to keep grinding. You see everybody's having a good time."

While the Suns have enjoyed themselves over the past month, coach Alvin Gentry wants his players to understand that work remains if they want to return to the postseason after missing out in 2010-11.

"At this point, we need to focus at the task at hand,' Gentry said. "We know that we have very little margin for error. We know we are still going to have to put together some wins. Our goal right now is to focus on the immediate task.'

The immediate task is to find a way to beat Houston (24-21), which has won both meetings this season by a combined 25 points. The Rockets snapped a four-game road skid in the series with a 96-89 victory at Phoenix on Feb. 9.

Frye had 21 points and 10 boards for the Suns in that contest.

The short-handed Rockets are among the top eight teams in the West, but they're trying to bounce back from a 95-91 road loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.

Without starters Kevin Martin (shoulder) and Kyle Lowry (illness), Houston could not hold a six-point lead in the final minutes and lost for the seventh time in 10 games. Courtney Lee scored a season-high 25 points in the defeat.

"It was definitely a winnable game for us down the stretch,' said forward Chase Budinger, who added 19 points. "Our main thing was that we couldn't get stops in the last three minutes.

While Martin and Lowry will likely remain out, it's uncertain when Marcus Camby will make his Rockets debut after being acquired from Portland on Thursday. The club also acquired veteran guard Derek Fisher from the Lakers on Thursday, but is expected to buy out his $3.4 million player option for next season.

With a thin roster, the Rockets could rely more on Lee. The fourth-year swingman has topped the 20-point mark in two of his last three games.

Teammate Luis Scola has averaged 20.3 points in his last four games, and totaled 30 in the two victories over the Suns this season.




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03/18/2012 09:40 AM
Preview: Jazz (22-22) at Lakers (28-16)

Date: March 18, 2012 9:30 PM EDT

The Los Angeles Lakers were sad to see a well-liked teammate traded, but kept on winning nonetheless.

The Lakers will go for their season-high sixth straight victory Sunday when they host the Utah Jazz, who will be without leading scorer Al Jefferson for a second consecutive game.

Playing its first game since trading veteran guard Derek Fisher to Houston on Thursday, Los Angeles (28-16) defeated Minnesota 97-92 on Friday for its fifth consecutive win overall and 10th in a row at home.

Kobe Bryant scored 28 points, going 5 of 8 from 3-point range, while Andrew Bynum added 15 points and 14 rebounds and Pau Gasol, who remained with the team after months of trade rumors, finished with 17 points and 11 boards.

"It was a big load off my shoulders" to pass the trade deadline, Gasol said. "It was exhausting to have to deal with for two, three months pretty much on a daily basis."

Steve Blake took over Fisher's point guard role Friday with underwhelming results, going scoreless with six assists in 28 minutes. Newly-acquired Ramon Sessions performed better. The former Cleveland Cavalier had seven points, five assists and four rebounds in 20 minutes during his Lakers debut.

"You can see his quickness," coach Mike Brown said of Sessions. "He's got a second, third and probably even a fourth gear, where he got out and got to the rim and kind of beat everybody down the floor. ... So it was good to see."

Despite Sessions' promising play, Brown said Saturday that Blake will remain the starter for the time being.

Los Angeles will look to take advantage of a short-handed Utah team Sunday.

The Jazz (22-22) will again be without Jefferson, who has left the team for the weekend to attend his grandmother's funeral in Mississippi.

They didn't need him Saturday in a 99-92 overtime win at home over Golden State. Derrick Favors, starting in Jefferson's place, finished with career highs of 23 points and 17 rebounds. Paul Millsap added 13 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks.

Favors scored four of the first six points in overtime.

"Coach (Ty Corbin) trusted me enough at the end of the game to keep me in, so I couldn't let him down,' Favors said.

Utah has won three of four - including the last two games in overtime - and is trying to win three in a row for the first time since Jan. 14-17. The Jazz are currently ninth in the Western Conference, 1 1/2 games behind Houston for the eighth and final playoff spot.

However, Utah has lost three straight on the road to fall to 5-16 there on the season.

This is the fourth and final meeting of the regular season between the Jazz and Lakers. Los Angeles won the first two, including a 90-87 overtime victory at Utah on Jan. 11 in which Bryant scored 40 points. The Jazz won the last meeting, also at home, 96-87 on Feb. 4.

Utah has lost 10 of its last 11 games against the Lakers at Staples Center.


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03/18/2012 09:42 AM
Preview: Trail Blazers (21-23) at Thunder (33-11)

Date: March 18, 2012 9:30 PM EDT

The Portland Trail Blazers knocked off one of the best teams in the NBA in interim coach Kaleb Canales' first game at the helm.

Kicking off his career with back-to-back victories could prove even more difficult with a road game against Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City up next - even with the Thunder surprisingly struggling a bit on their own court.

The recently overhauled Trail Blazers conclude a seven-game road trip Sunday night against Oklahoma City, which after dominating opponents at home for much of the season has dropped three of four there.

A 121-79 rout at the hands of New York on Wednesday proved to be the final straw for coach Nate McMillan, who was fired the following day after six-plus seasons with the team. Portland continued to shake things up by sending former All-Star Gerald Wallace to New Jersey and center Marcus Camby to Houston for Mehmet Okur, Shawne Williams, Jonny Flynn, Hasheem Thabeet and a couple of draft picks.

At least for one game, the moves appeared to work, as the Blazers (21-23) won 100-89 at league-leading Chicago on Friday.

"Just a special time for us as a team, as an organization, as a family. All the credit goes to the guys in that locker room for helping to get it," Canales said. "Obviously a special win with everything that's been going on. I've very blessed and fortunate to get this great opportunity, very humbling."

Portland limited a Bulls team missing Derrick Rose to a season-low 10 points in the fourth quarter, handing them just their fourth home loss.

"Whenever you can see a young guy get an opportunity to be a head coach, you definitely want to go out there and get a win for him," said forward Kurt Thomas, who at 39 is five years older than Canales.

The Thunder (33-11) have also only lost four home games, one of them coming to Portland by a 103-93 score Jan. 3. The other three, however, have come in a one-week span.

Oklahoma City's second straight home defeat came by a 114-105 score to San Antonio on Friday. The Thunder, who trailed by as many as 27 in the second quarter, were outrebounded 49-37 and outscored 54-36 in the paint.

"We can't be relaxed because we're at home. Just because we're at home, we're not going to win games," said forward Kevin Durant, who scored 25 points.

"We've just got to come out with a sense of urgency, play harder and we'll be all right."

Russell Westbrook scored 36 while Serge Ibaka had 12 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks.

Oklahoma City also fell 104-103 to visiting Houston on Tuesday. The Thunder haven't dropped three straight at home since a six-game skid March 18-April 7, 2009, in their first season since relocating from Seattle.

"(Our home crowd) does a great job of encouraging us, they should have booed us in the first half (Friday) but they didn't," Durant said. "They kept us in it. We owe them a lot. It's tough to lose in front of them like that but we got another game coming up here soon."

The Thunder took the most recent meeting in this series, overcoming a season-high 39 points from LaMarcus Aldridge in a controversial 111-107 overtime road win Feb. 6. Durant scored 33 and made a tying layup with 6 seconds left in regulation that came on a questionable goaltending call on Aldridge.

It's uncertain when Flynn and Thabeet will debut for the Blazers. Okur - acquired largely for his expiring contract - and Williams are expected to miss the rest of the season due to injury.

The Thunder's Daequan Cook (right shoulder soreness) is uncertain to be available after sitting out Friday.


Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
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