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!

Weekend Watchers - Jan 27-29

- Akshay Manwani / @akshaymanwani

As yet another action packed week of NBA regular season games draws to a close, we head into the last weekend of January with some of the biggest names in the league battling it out against each other. The Boston Celtics take on the Orlando Magic for the second time in four days while the New York Knicks will look to shake off some poor form as they visit the Heat in Miami. Here is a closer look at some of these marquee clashes over the next few days:

January 27, 2012

Boston Celtics v Orlando Magic:
When: January 27, 2012 – 6:30 AM (IST) -- Watch it LIVE on Ten Sports
Where: Amway Center, Orlando
Regular season records: Boston Celtics (7-9), Orlando Magic (12-5)
Preview: The last time these two sides met, just a few days ago on January 23, the Celtics restricted the Magic to a franchise-low 56 points while registering 87 themselves. This, despite injuries to several Celtics’ players, which kept the likes of Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen out of the recent clash. While Allen is not expected to return for the second meeting of the regular season between these two sides, Rondo, though, should be back. Orlando, on the other hand, will look to improve from the abominable 24.6 percent shooting from the field in that deplorable loss and retain their standing as among the top three teams in the Eastern Conference. However, with Boston keeping opponents down to just 88.25 PPG (third best in the league), the Magic will find it difficult to beat the Celtics for the first time in four games.

January 28, 2012

New York Knicks v Miami Heat:
When: January 28, 2012 – 6:30 AM (IST)
Where: American Airlines Arena, Miami
Regular season records: New York Knicks (7-11), Miami Heat (13-5)
Preview: The Knicks couldn’t have found a worse time to play their traditional rivals, the Miami Heat. With Carmelo Anthony in the midst of a slump in form, the Knicks have lost seven of their last eight games. In the Knicks’ only win, against the Charlotte Bobcats, in that eight-game stretch, Melo scored a solitary point. He is averaging a mere 18.3 PPG on the road as against a career average of 24.1 PPG; an important stat considering Miami are going to be hosting the Knicks in this game. Also, with Dwyane Wade expected to return after missing six straight games due to a sprained left ankle, the Knicks will have their hands full against the Heat and their superstar trio.

San Antonio Spurs v Minnesota Timberwolves:
When: January 28, 2012 – 6:30 AM (IST)
Where: Target Center, Minnesota
Regular season records: San Antonio Spurs (12-7), Minnesota Timberwolves (8-10)
Preview: When these two teams last met in early January, it was a disappointing outing for San Antonio on more than one count. Not only was it the game where Manu Ginobili fractured the fifth metacarpal in his left hand, the Spurs also lost 96-106 to the Timberwolves. Kevin Love and Michael Beasley outscored Tim Duncan and Richard Jefferson 43-32 in that game, which saw Minnesota shoot an impressive 57.1 percent from behind the 3-point arc while restricting San Antonio to just 35.0 percent. Now, with Ricky Rubio having turned heads in the first month of the new season and Kevin Love currently placed fourth in the league in terms of scoring (25.3 PPG), the T’wolves will ensure that the Spurs struggle to make good on their loss at the start of the season.

Phoenix Suns v Portland Trail Blazers:
When: January 28, 2012 – 8:30 AM (IST) -- Watch it live on Sony Pix
Where: Rose Garden, Portland
Regular season records: Phoenix Suns (6-11), Portland Trail Blazers (11-8)
Preview: While the Suns are having an ordinary season so far, they handed the Trail Blazers their biggest loss of the 2011-12 campaign with a 102-77 win on January 6 at the US Airways Center in Phoenix. However, to be fair to Portland, they were coming off a huge win against the Lakers 24 hours before that game and their poor form showed up in the 10.5 percent and 32.5 percent shooting from the 3-point line and the field in that game. Now, with the action having shifted to the Rose Garden in Portland, where the Trail Blazers are 8-1 this season, the Suns could be at the receiving end of a serious drubbing.

January 29, 2012

Los Angeles Lakers v Milwaukee Bucks:
When: January 29, 2012 – 7:00 AM (IST) -- Watch it live on Ten Sports
Where: Bradley Center, Milwaukee
Regular season records: Los Angeles Lakers (11-8), Milwaukee Bucks (7-10)
Preview: While the Lakers showed some terrific fight to edge out the Clippers in their most recent clash in the battle for Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant and co. are having a hard run this regular season. While Bryant and Andrew Bynum are having terrific seasons against their career averages, Pau Gasol (16.2 PPG this season versus a career average of 18.7 PPG) and Metta World Peace’s (5.3 PPG versus 14.5 PPG) lackluster form is seriously hurting the Lakers. Also, with the Lakers only shooting 27 percent from 3-point land (second worst in the league), the Lakers’ big men aren’t able to take advantage of drawing double teams. Milwaukee, who has a winning record at home (4-2), then, will enjoy the prospect of hosting their insipid opponents, who have also stumbled to a 1-6 record on the road.

All stats and regular season standings are after games played on January 26, 2012 (IST)