Akshay Manwani Freelance writer based in Mumbai

In an attempt to rid himself of the perils of performance appraisals, Akshay ventured into the world of freelance writing where he combined his twin interests of sports and cinema. He has since contributed to The Caravan, BCCI.tv, Business Standard and Man's World, among other publications. He has followed the fortunes of the NBA since the early ’90s, an experience that has given him extraordinary moments of joy in an otherwise mundane existence.

All season long, Akshay will cover the League from the point of view of a basketball expert living in India. Follow him every week on NBA.com/india!

Marquee Matchups: April 7-9

Winners of nine straight, the San Antonio Spurs have been the story of the league the last two weeks. While notching up that impressive streak, the Spurs have beaten the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks, the Philadelphia 76ers, the Indiana Pacers and the Boston Celtics. All talk of them being an old, veteran team, which will eventually run out of steam, seems to have evaporated in thin air as Gregg Popovich’s unit has come together to beat the league’s best in succession. The coming few weeks will also see them attempt to dislodge the Oklahoma City Thunder from the numero uno position in the Western Conference standings. With that backdrop, let’s see what the Spurs and some of the league’s other teams have before them over the upcoming weekend schedule:

April 7, 2012

Oklahoma City Thunder v Indiana Pacers:

When: April 7, 2012 – 4:30 AM (IST) -- Watch it LIVE on SIX

Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis

Regular season records: Oklahoma City Thunder (40-14), Indiana Pacers (33-21)

Preview: After beating the Los Angeles Clippers, the Miami Heat, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Chicago Bulls in the midst of a six-game winning streak, the OKC Thunder have lost two straight. Turnovers continue to be a major problem for the Thunder, having turned over the ball a combined 38 times in those two defeats. With San Antonio having the same number of losses as Oklahoma City (14), the Thunder can ill afford to lose another game. However, playing an in-form Indiana team, who have won three straight, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and co. have their task cut out for them in their only regular season meeting with the Pacers.

Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Lakers:

When: April 7, 2012 – 8:00 AM (IST) -- Watch it LIVE on SIX

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles

Regular season records: Houston Rockets (29-25), Los Angeles Lakers (35-20)

Preview: Houston is battling to stay in playoff contention. Currently placed in the seventh spot in the Western Conference standings, the Kevin McHale coached franchise is looking to lock up a place in the NBA playoffs for the first time since the 2009 postseason. However, much of their fortunes depend on how they play on the road given that they have been a woeful 9-17 away from home. Perhaps a win against the Lakers in Los Angeles would be a good way to improve their record and confidence away from Houston. The three-game regular season series between the two teams is tied 1-1.

April 8, 2012

Dallas Mavericks v Memphis Grizzlies:

When: April 8, 2012 – 5:30 AM (IST) -- Watch it LIVE on Ten Sports

Where: FedExForum, Memphis

Regular season records: Dallas Mavericks (31-24), Memphis Grizzlies (30-23)

Preview: Currently placed at fifth and sixth respectively in the Western Conference standings, Memphis and Dallas are looking to improve on their regular season records with the hope of at least getting home-court advantage in the first round of the 2012 Playoffs. The three-game season series is tied 1-1 with the home team having come away victorious each time the teams have met. That said, the Mavericks, who are 11-15 on the road, will have a tough challenge on their hands as they meet Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Rudy Gay in the raucous surroundings of the FedExForum in Memphis.

Chicago Bulls v New York Knicks:

When: April 8, 2012 – 10:30 PM (IST) -- Watch it LIVE on SIX

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York

Regular season records: Chicago Bulls (42-13), New York Knicks (27-27)

Preview: Were the playoffs to end today, these two teams would be battling it out for a place in the 2012 Eastern Conference semi-finals. New York has gone 7-3 since Mike Woodson took over the franchise following Mike D’Antoni’s resignation. Nevertheless, the Knicks will have to do better if they are to stop the league’s best team, the Chicago Bulls, who are already 2-0 up in the four-game regular season series. However, Chicago has problems of their own having lost their last two games to Oklahoma City and Houston, respectively. The continued absence of Derrick Rose means that the Bulls are without both their primary scoring option and their best ball handler on the floor – two big factors that could be exploited if you are playing the Bulls. This is the first of two back-to-back games between the two sides.

April 9, 2012

Utah Jazz v San Antonio Spurs:

When: April 9, 2012 – 4:30 AM (IST) -- -- Watch it LIVE on SIX

Where: AT&T Center, San Antonio

Regular season records: Utah Jazz (28-27), San Antonio Spurs (38-14)

Preview: Having caused much cheer with a 12-7 start to the season, the Utah Jazz have gone 16-20 since the beginning of February to disappoint their Salt Lake City fans. Still, there is hope. The Jazz are just a game-and-a-half adrift of both seventh-placed Houston and eighth-placed Denver in the Western Conference standings. A strong finish would certainly help them make it to the playoffs for the first time in two years. However, the Jazz are playing a red-hot San Antonio team who have beaten Utah in the two previous regular season encounters. Also, playing at the AT&T Center, where the Spurs are an enviable 21-4, gives little hope for the beleaguered Jazz to force a revival in their fortunes.

All stats and regular season standings are after games played on April 5, 2012 (IST)