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After hitting the rookie wall, Click and Roll has found its second wind ... With the excitement building as the regular season draws to a close, Click and Roll has returned to duty every weekday until the playoffs. This way, we can break down the numerous postseason races. So, without further ado, here's what's going on.

Playoff Picture: Race for the postseason

Friday, March 28


Wild Weekend Ahead as the "Temperature" Continues to Rise

With no team in playoff contention having more than 12 games remaining in the regular season, and only four playoff berths claimed, this weekend in the NBA should be very interesting. On Friday alone, the schedule has five games between teams that are jostling for playoff position or are within one-half game of getting into a playoff spot.

Although nothing can be settled this weekend, we'll take the temperature of the playoff contenders as some teams are in much better shape to set the course for their future, while others are hanging on for their playoff lives.

STEAMIN' HOT

Iverson has been granted his license to drive by Sixers coach Larry Brown.
(Ron Hoskins
NBAE/Getty Images)
Dallas, which has a 3 1/2 game cushion on Sacramento for the West's top seed, has won three in a row and seven of their last 10. The Kings have are 8-2 in their last 10, as are the Spurs. All three of these teams have qualified for the playoffs, and are peaking at the right time. And we shouldn't forget about Utah, which has won five in a row and is poised to make it's 20th consecutive playoff appearance.

In the East, the Pistons are the only team to have clinched a playoff spot and have a 2 1/2 game lead over New Jersey for the East's top seed. Some (OK, one Detroit columnist) would say the Pistons are the favorites in a tight Eastern Conference. (Detroit News)

The Sixers might have something to say about that, however. Just one-half game behind New Jersey for the Atlantic Division lead, the Sixers are 17-4 since the All-Star break, thanks to Allen Iverson's epiphany. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Key games:
Friday: Golden State at Philadelphia, 7 p.m. ET; Dallas at Portland, 10:30 p.m., ET
Saturday: Philadelphia at Atlanta, 7 p.m., ET; Utah at San Antonio, 8:30 p.m., ET
Sunday: Dallas at Minnesota, 1:30 p.m., ET; Sacramento at Detroit, 6 p.m., ET; San Antonio at New Orleans, 7 p.m., ET


CHILLIN'
With two straight impressive wins on the road, the Wizards have scratched and clawed their way into the East's final playoff spot by one-half game. It's no time to break open the bubbly, however, as the Wizards have two games remaining on their West Coast trip and find the Kings waiting for them when they get home. Still, their wins over Portland and Seattle were a good start.

Speaking of Portland, can we get Scottie Pippen in the MVP race? While he might not be putting up McGrady/Kobe/KG-type numbers this season, Pippen is the single most valuable player on the Blazers. They haven't been the same since Pippen had knee surgery. (The Oregonian)

The Nets maintain a unique position. They're contenders and spoilers. A mere 2 1/2 games behind Detroit for the East's top seed, the Nets can help ruin the Knicks' season by winning Friday in New York. It's essential the Nets win, because the Sixers are breathing down their collective necks for the Atlantic Division lead.

Key games:
Friday: New Jersey at New York, 8 p.m., ET; Dallas at Portland, 10:30 p.m., ET; Washington at L.A. Lakers, 10:30 p.m. ET
Saturday: Golden State at New Jersey, 7:30 p.m., ET
Sunday: Washington at Denver 9 p.m., ET


FREEZIN'
No two teams have seen their playoff fortunes change as much as Boston and Milwaukee. Thanks to a six-game losing streak and a 2-8 record in their last 10 games, the Celtics have slid from the No. 4 seed to the No. 7 seed. (Boston Herald)

Meanwhile, the Bucks continue to fashion themselves as the NBA's version of Blanche DuBois from "A Streetcar Named Desire." Once a beautiful team full of talent and charm, it has become a tragic shell of it's former self. The talent is still there, but it looks like one player has lost his desire -- a starter, no less -- who refuses to re-enter a game, a game which the team desperately needs to win. (Milwaukee Journal)

Key games:
Any game these teams play this weekend is a key game.

By Rob Peterson, NBA.com


Thursday, March 27


What About Last Night? West Knotted at Bottom; Bucks, Knicks Slip Up in East

Starbury sinks last night's crucial game-winner over a "hands-off" Jason Williams.
(Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images)
While the fight for the East's final playoff spot is tight, in the West they're fit to be (mathematically) tied.

With Houston's 96-93 loss to the Lakers, and Stephon Marbury's heroics in Phoenix's 101-99 win in Memphis, the Rockets and the Suns now have identical 37-34 records. (Arizona Republic)

The Rockets, however, won the season series 3-1 and hold the tiebreaker over the Suns. But Houston's push for the postseason doesn't get any easier as they face the Spurs in San Antonio tonight (9:30 ET, TNT)

It will also be done with a heavy heart and without Rudy Tomjanovich on the bench, who is taking a leave of absence to fight bladder cancer. (Houston Chronicle)

And don't look now, but the Warriors are 2 1/2 games behind both teams after clobbering the Celtics 107-95 in Boston. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Speaking of the Celtics, they're another wild card in that shuffled deck we call the Eastern Conference. They've lost six in a row and are tumbling toward the bottom of the playoff race. And who knows what could happen down there, because right now, it seems as if anything goes for the eighth and final playoff spot.

After stealing one in Seattle, 80-74, Michael Jordan and the Wizards have won two straight out West. Washington's win, coupled with Milwaukee's mind-boggling, 108-103 loss to Denver, means the Wizards now have a half-game hold on the final playoff spot in the East. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

With the Bucks' loss, the Knicks had a chance to gain some ground, but their cross-river rival Nets would not cede any valuable playoff real estate. New Jersey stopped New York in the first game of a home-and-home series with a 101-95 win in the Meadowlands. For the Knicks, it took only three minutes to see the win evaporate. (New York Daily News)

As for the Nets, they're wondering where everyone has gone. ( New York Daily News)

By Rob Peterson, NBA.com

Wednesday, March 26


Wizards Refuse to Go Away; Big Home-and-Home for Hudson Foes

If at first you don't succeed, Tyronn, Tyronn again.
(Sam Forencich
NBAE/Getty Images)
In case you hadn't noticed, the race for the East's eighth and final playoff spot is tighter than John Stockton's shorts on Shaq. And after Tuesday's games, the race tightened even more.

Thanks to MJ's 25 and Tyronn Lue's 21, the Wizards moved to within one-half game of Milwaukee for the East's final playoff spot with a shocking 95-91 win in Portland. And they showed poise doing it. (Washington Post)

And I guess, if you can't beat up your team in the locker room or practice, flog them in the press. (Washington Post)

Speaking of which, the Bucks received their 10th flogging in 17 games in which Gary Payton has played. The 107-94 loss to the Spurs on Tuesday loosened the Bucks' already tenuous grip on the East's final playoff spot. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

As for tonight's games, the Knicks, thanks to Milwaukee's loss on Tuesday, are a mere two games -- yes, two -- out of the East's final playoff spot. Who would have thunk the Knicks would be playing meaningful games into the last week of March? (New York Times)

That's why tonight's game against the Nets in New Jersey (7:30 ET) and Friday's game against New Jersey at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET) are vitally important to the Knicks' playoff health. (New York Post)

Earlier in the season, the Knicks were torn apart in the New York newspapers. Now, the Knicks are gritty and gutty. (Newsday)

As for the Nets, they now have doubters as to whether they can win an NBA title -- themselves. Most people would tell you this is not the way to enter the stretch run. (New York Post)

By Rob Peterson, NBA.com

Monday, March 24


By Rob Peterson, NBA.com

HOUSTON, HELLO!

M E D I A W A T C H
Until he wins big like Duncan, will Garnett's legacy be out of focus?
(D. Clarke Evans, NBAE/Getty Images)

TAKE IT TO THE (MAGAZINE) RACK
What does Kevin Garnett need to do to get some love?

That's the question asked in the most recent Sports Illustrated. His critics say Garnett will need to get the Timberwolves out of the first round of the playoffs. And according to the article, he still has doubters. If so, they don't reside in the Twin Cities, as writers are imploring the Timberwolves to sign KG to a contract extension. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

After watching Garnett's play this season, you almost want to scream out what Garnett said in his And 1 commerical this summer: "20, 10 and 5!" This season it's 23.1, 13.4 and 5.9, but it really doesn't have the same ring to it. Our advice to KG for the next commercial: round up.

Meanwhile, you can see the Wolves and KG take on another MVP candidate in Tracy McGrady when the Timberwolves visit the Magic on Thursday (7 p.m., TNT).

For fans of the Houston Rockets, there is much anxiety this week.

(And to let you know, the Rockets have plenty of fans everywhere they go. Sacramento Bee)

The Rockets have two, count 'em, two, games on national television this week. While getting your mugs on the tube is a great way to get noticed around the league, grabbing the eighth playoff spot in the West is better. Thanks to their winning three of the four meetings this year, the Rockets (36-33 as of Monday) hold the tiebreaker over the Suns (36-33). (NBA.com)

Following their game with the Clippers in L.A. on Monday night, the Rockets host the Lakers in the teams' final meeting of the season (9 p.m. ET, ESPN). Beating the Lakers could help the Rockets twofold.

One, the Rockets could take the season series from the Lakers, three games to one. Two, the Rockets could keep the heat on the Suns and move a game closer to the Lakers for the seventh seed in the West.

After the Lakers, they make the 197-mile trip the following evening to face division rival San Antonio (9:30 p.m. ET, TNT).

And the Rockets must do this all with Rudy Tomjanovich recovering from surgery to remove a superficial cancerous tumor on his bladder lining. (Rockets.com)

But Tomjanovich is a tough egg to crack. He's urging his team to not let his illness be a distraction. (Houston Chronicle)

NO MORE BULL

Former members of the great Bulls dynasty have found the going rough as of late.

Sometimes you wonder why Michael Jordan returned. Heck, there are moments when even he wonders why he returned. (Washington Post)

Then again, could he if he wanted to? (Seattle Times)

Are the Lakers not concerned about their fate? (ESPN.com)

Phil Jackson is fed up with his charges' nonchalance. He's hoping they'll show some chalance soon. (Orange Country Register)

How tough is it being a Lakers fan these days? It's so tough even people in Kansas City, where the Kings used to play, are getting their shots in on the three-time defending champs. Harsh. (Kansas City Star)

Meanwhile, this Los Angeles Times columnist knows a champion when she sees it. And this year, she likes the Spurs. (Los Angeles Times)

This columnist concurs on the Spurs. (Dallas Morning News)

TIP-INS

Many props to the boys and girls (our brethren) who work at NBA TV. They deserve them. (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

You can't help but be impressed by what John Stockton and Karl Malone are still doing. (Boston Herald)

Excuse me, but what's up with the Nets? (N.Y. Post)

And one year after taking the once-woeful Nets to the NBA Finals, is Byron Scott feeling the heat? (Indianapolis Star)

As of Monday, Utah has won three in a row. Then why isn't this man smiling? (Salt Lake Tribune)

Pat Riley is reading to achieve an inner peace. If not inner peace, then a calm on the sideline. (Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel)

Jeff Trepagnier has 10 days to change his life. (Denver Post)