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NBA Weekly Review

   by ASA - 12/07/2006

The best place to watch any basketball game is from the bench. While most players yearn for that chance to rip off the warm-ups, we here at the end of the bench prefer a comfy courtside seat. Besides, who needs to risk a sprained ankle or even break a sweat, for that matter. Here’s what we saw and who we liked in the NBA over the last week from our view from the bench.

PG – Gilbert Arenas and the Washington Wizards
If only Arenas and the Wizards could play all of their games on their home court. Washington has gone a miserable 0-8 on the road this season with Arenas averaging 16 points less and shooting 32 percent worse away from the Verizon Center. Fortunately for the Wizards, they played two of three games at home last week in going 2-1 SU and ATS for the week. Washington defeated Charlotte and Dallas last week, ending the Mavs’ 12-game winning streak in the process. Arenas stayed true to form and played great at home with averages of 35.5 points and nine assists while shooting 55 percent from the field. In the Wizards’ lone loss of the week, Arenas was held to just 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting at Chicago. The Wizards and Arenas will need to improve on the road if they are to return to the playoffs for the third consecutive season. Coming up: at New York, at Philadelphia and home versus Houston.

SG – Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers
Kobe and the Lakers have climbed to first place in the Pacific Division following a 3-0 SU and ATS week. Bryant seemed to be fully recovered from offseason knee surgery before a twisted ankle ended his week prematurely. The early exit sure didn’t affect his numbers, though, as he averaged 34 points a game in just 36 minutes per outing. The highlight of Bryant’s week – and the Lakers’ – was his 52-point outburst in leading Los Angeles to a nationally-televised 132-102 defeat of Western Conference-leading Utah. It was originally feared that Bryant would miss substantial time with his ankle injury but it looks as though he may return to action as early as tonight against New Orleans. Coming up: home versus New Orleans/Oklahoma City, home versus Atlanta, home versus San Antonio and at Houston.

SF – Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets
Anthony makes the list for the second consecutive week as he led his Nuggets to a perfect 2-0 SU and ATS week with double-digit wins over Minnesota and Indiana. Anthony’s play has kept Denver within shouting distance of first-place Utah and the Nuggets will need him to continue this kind of production throughout the season. Anthony averaged 36.5 points in the two games to take over the league’s scoring lead. He added six rebounds, four assists and 1.5 steals for the week while shooting 57 percent from the floor. Anthony has all but locked up his first All-Star appearance with his play so far this season and if he continues to perform at his current pace, the race for the Northwest Division crown could be an exciting one. Coming up: home versus Atlanta, home versus Miami, at Dallas and at Atlanta.

PF – Udonis Haslem and the Miami Heat
Haslem has gone largely unnoticed this season but his workmanlike efforts are keeping Miami in the Eastern Conference playoff picture with Shaq out. The Heat played very competitively last week in going 3-0 ATS but dropped two nail-biters to the Pistons and Clippers. Haslem had a lot to do with the competitive play. The undersized power forward averaged 14 points and 11.3 rebounds in three games and shot a very efficient 61 percent from the field. Despite his lack of size, Haslem has given Miami the strong inside presence it needs with Shaq hobbled by an injury. Coming up: at Sacramento, at Denver and home versus Toronto.

C – Amare Stoudemire and the Phoenix Suns
The Suns have put together a 7-game winning streak over the past two weeks, including a 3-0 SU record and a 2-1 ATS mark last week. Stoudemire, who has said he is playing at only 80 percent following microfracture surgery, had another solid week with 20.3 points and 13 rebounds per game. He looks more comfortable out on the court and has regained some of the explosiveness he had previously lost. Stoudemire’s presence at center provides a huge mismatch for opposing defenses as he can outrun any other center in the league, adding yet another horse to Phoenix’s impressive stable of athletes. If he is able to get to 100 percent by the time the playoffs role around, the Suns will be a team nobody will want to face. Coming up: at New Jersey, at Boston, at Charlotte and at Orlando.

6th Man – Jerry Stackhouse and the Dallas Mavericks
Stackhouse, who would start on 80 percent of the teams in the NBA, played an integral role in Dallas’ recent 12-game winning streak. The Mavs went 3-1 SU and ATS last week with Stackhouse supplying 14.8 points and 3.3 assists, including a season-high 23 points against Toronto. As deep as Dallas’ roster has been in recent years, Stackhouse is the only Mav that can provide consistent offensive off the bench this season. He can play two positions and provides instant offense off the pine. Dallas will need him to continue his strong play if it is to build on its recent 13-1 SU and 11-3 ATS run. Coming up: home versus Detroit, home versus Denver and at Utah.

Team to Consider
A team to take a long look at over the next couple of weeks is the Chicago Bulls. Chicago is currently riding a 5-game winning streak and plays its next six games at home, with not one of those games coming against a team with a winning record. Its next six opponents have a combined 42-62 record and Indiana is the only squad that has a legitimate shot at making the playoffs. The Bulls started the season slow but seem to have put their problems behind them and could stand near the top of the Eastern Conference after this six-game stretch.

Team to Avoid
On the other end of the spectrum is the Golden State Warriors. Golden State got off to a strong start this season but has fallen on hard times since, losing four straight in delaying Don Nelson’s 1,200th career win. Things won’t get any easier for the Warriors, who are just 1-5 SU and 2-4 ATS on the road this year, as they play seven of their next 10 on the road, including a six-game road trip that starts in Phoenix and ends in Orlando. Five of those six road games will be played against Eastern Conference teams. That doesn’t bode well for Golden State as it struggled on the road against East foes last year, going just 5-10 SU and 6-9 ATS. Additionally, the Warriors have struggled to put the ball in the hoop recently. Golden State lives and dies with the jumper but has made just 40 percent of its shots the last two games in losing by an average margin of 34 points. It could get ugly for the Warriors if they continue to miss from the outside.

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