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: March 10-13

As the March 15 trade deadline looms, it will be interesting to see whether Dwight Howard actually leaves or stays in Orlando. A similar nerve-wracking storyline emerges in Boston with all the trade talk surrounding Rajon Rondo. Portland too has their fair share of trade-related buzz with the rumor mills working in overdrive to suggest that either one of Jamal Crawford or Raymond Felton could exit the franchise.

Even with all those distractions regarding player movement reaching a crescendo over the next few days, there are games to be played and regular season standings to be improved. After all, this is a curtailed NBA season where a bad week can cost a franchise a spot in the playoffs. Here then is a quick look at some of the marquee games to be played over the next few days beginning March 10:

March 10, 2012

Los Angeles Clippers v San Antonio Spurs:

When: March 10, 2012 – 7:00 AM (IST)

Where: AT&T Center, San Antonio

Regular season records: Los Angeles Clippers (22-15), San Antonio Spurs (26-12)

Preview: The Clippers are struggling in the aftermath of the season-ending injury to Chauncey Billups. Since Billups got injured in the win against Orlando in early February, the Clippers have gone 7-8 in their last fifteen games, including having lost six of their last nine games. However, following this game against San Antonio, the Clippers have six straight games at home, which should allow the franchise to rebound from the absence of Billups. San Antonio, meanwhile, has dropped three of their last six games after having gone on an 11-game winning streak between January 30 and February 20. But having beaten the Clippers in two previous encounters this season, San Antonio definitely holds the edge heading into this game.

Dallas Mavericks v Sacramento Kings:

When: March 10, 2012 – 8:30 AM (IST) -- Watch it LIVE on Sony Pix

Where: Power Balance Pavilion, Sacramento

Regular season records: Dallas Mavericks (23-17), Sacramento Kings (13-26)

Preview: The Kings celebrated the good news of getting a new arena while staying in Sacramento with a crunch-time 99-98 win over the New Orleans Hornets. The Kings also play their next eight games at home and with guard Isaiah Thomas having improved dramatically since being put in the starting lineup there is much to be happy about if you are a Sacramento fan. However, hosting Dallas will not be easy for the Kings as the Mavs whipped them by 39 points in their Jan. 14 encounter this season. The Kings were just 9.5 percent from the field in that game as Dallas held Sacramento to just 60 points that night. But with the good times rolling in Sacramento, Dallas better beware.

March 11, 2012

Utah Jazz v Chicago Bulls:

When: March 11, 2012 – 6:30 AM (IST) -- Watch it LIVE on Ten Sports

Where: United Center, Chicago

Regular season records: Utah Jazz (19-19), Chicago Bulls (33-8)

Preview: Has there been another team as impressive as the Bulls this season? While one may point to Oklahoma City Thunder’s almost identical record (31-8), I would stick my head out for the Bulls. For one, the Bulls have played more games on the road (24 - tied with Sacramento) than any other team in the league and still have the best winning percentage away from home. Further, they have also managed the league’s best record while Derrick Rose sat out 10 games due to injury. They have an excellent supporting cast around Rose, a deep bench and a defense-first coach in Tom Thibodeau. All of which means that the struggling Utah Jazz (5-5 in their last 10 and 5-13 on the road) will have their hands full when they visit Chicago in the only regular season game between the two teams.

Philadelphia 76ers v New York Knicks:

When: March 11, 2012 – 10:30 PM (IST)

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York

Regular season records: Philadelphia 76ers (23-17), New York Knicks (18-21)

Preview: After Lin mania gripped New York City all through February, March has been far more sobering for the Harvard grad and the Knicks as the franchise has lost all three of their games this month. The problem with the Knicks is that, with the exception of Tyson Chandler, they are not a defensive-minded team. However, with Chandler suffering from a strained hamstring and currently listed as day-to-day, the Knicks become that much weaker defensively. The only good news then for the Knicks is that they host a slumping Philadelphia team, who after a 20-10 start to the season have gone 3-7 in the last 10 games to slip to 23-17. This is the second of three regular season meetings between the two teams with Ney York having nicked the first one 85-79 in January.

March 13, 2012

Boston Celtics v Los Angeles Clippers:

When: March 13, 2012 – 8:00 AM (IST) -- Watch LIVE on NBA.com/india!

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles

Regular season records: Boston Celtics (20-18), Los Angeles Clippers (22-15)

Preview: With the trade deadline around the corner, and everyone speculating that Boston GM Danny Ainge will pull the moves on at least one of the big 3, this might be the last time we see the veteran core of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen play together. It’s been an exhilarating run for the Boston trio, which resulted in one NBA championship (2008) and one Eastern Conference title (2010) for the Celtics. However, given their relatively disappointing start to this season compared to the previous four years, it would do no harm if Ainge starts the rebuilding process now than later. That said, this game will mark the second of Boston’s eight straight matchups on the road.

All stats and regular season standings are after games played on March 8, 2012 (IST)