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Turns out the New Jersey Nets were just what the doctor ordered for our Phoenix Suns (25-18, 2nd in the Pacific Division). The Suns flattened the Nets 118-94 on the strength of 27 points from A’mare Stoudemire and 15 assists from Steve Nash. The Suns look to get back to their winning ways this week, with three of four games in the comfy confines of US Airways Center.
Friday vs. Chicago
The Baby Bulls (18-22, 2nd in the Central Division) are better than their record might indicate but they have struggled mightily on the road (4-16), including a loss Wednesday at the Clippers. Believe it or not, Chicago is the currently the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, showing just how watered down the East really is. Second-year point guard Derrick Rose leads the Bulls, averaging 19 points and 6 assists per game. Player to watch: Suns’ center Robin Lopez, who upon being inserted into the starting lineup promptly scored 20 points in the win over the Nets.
Saturday vs. Golden State
It’s always fun when the Warriors (12-27, 5th in the Pacific Division) and Suns hook up, unless of course you’re a fan of good defense. Player to watch: Warriors’ guard Monta Ellis, who scored 39 points in an overtime loss to the Nuggets on Wednesday.
Monday at Utah
Salt Lake City is a tough place to play for any team, much less one that struggles on the road as much as the Suns do. Worse news for the Suns is that the Jazz (24-18, 4th in the Northwest Division) have really begun to hit their stride as of late, including a huge road win at San Antonio on Wednesday. Players to watch: Just like John Stockton and Karl Malone in the 80s and 90s, the high-low game between Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer fuels the Jazz attack. Williams and Boozer average 19 points per contest each.
Tuesday vs. Charlotte
The Bobcats (21-19, 3rd in the Southeast Division) are breathing rarified air, playing above-.500 ball and challenging for its first playoff berth in franchise history. Player to watch: Gerald Wallace is as dynamic a swingman as you’ll find in the NBA, averaging 18.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, 1.69 steals and 1.23 blocks per game.