- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 18, 2008

THE BUZZ

UP - NUGGETS

Melo drops 26, A.I. scores 24, K-Mart notches 23 and Camby adds a triple-double as Denver scores a franchise-record 168 regulation points in Sunday’s rout of Seattle.

DOWN - DONYELL MARSHALL

His Sonics scored 116 points in the loss to Denver — a game in which a total of 284 points were scored — but Marshall missed all four of his shots and was the lone player not to score a point.

UP - JARVIS HAYES

The former Wizard, who is averaging 6.8 points for the Pistons, comes off the bench to score a career-high 29 points while making seven of eight 3-point attempts.

DOWN - BRUCE BOWEN

Right after playing his 500th consecutive game — the longest active streak in the NBA — San Antonio’s Bowen is suspended a game for kicking New Orleans’ Chris Paul.

POWER RANKINGS

Mike Jones ranks the top 10 NBA teams (last week in parentheses):

1. Rockets (5)

Red-hot Houston defeats the Lakers for its 22nd straight victory and takes over first place in the Western Conference.

2. Celtics (1)

Boston, which still has the best record in the league, prepares for a tough road stretch: San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and New Orleans.

3. Lakers (1)

A healthy Gasol could’ve made the difference in the 104-92 loss to Houston for L.A., which is 15-4 since acquiring the Spaniard.

4. Pistons (3)

Detroit, winner of nine of its last 12, continues to fly under the radar, which the Pistons love.

5. Jazz (6)

With wins against the Raptors and Lakers this week, Utah can set a franchise record with 20 consecutive home victories.

6. Hornets (7)

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich tabs New Orleans, which beat his team and the Lakers this past week, as the team to watch this postseason.

7. Spurs (4)

The defending champs went 1-4 last week with the four defeats coming at Phoenix, New Orleans, Detroit and Philadelphia.

8. Suns (8)

Is Phoenix starting to get a hang of things with Shaq on board? The Suns have won four straight, averaging 119 ppg.

9. Magic (9)

SuperDwight and Orlando have won seven of their last eight and are on pace to surpass 50 wins this season a year after going 40-42.

10. Mavericks (10)

Taking advantage of a soft stretch, Dallas has done what it should do, beating the Nets, Knicks, Bobcats, Pacers and Heat.

MVP RACE

1. LeBron James (Cleveland) — King James (30.9 ppg, 8.1 rebounds, 7.5 assists) continues his duel with Kobe for the top spot.

2. Kobe Bryant (L.A. Lakers) — Kobe (28.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 5.2 apg) has a good chance of winning because voters will consider his entire body of work.

3. Amare Stoudemire (Phoenix) — He is having as fine a second half of the season as anybody, averaging 28.5 points and 8.9 rebounds. For the season Stoudemire is averaging 24.3 and 9.3.

ROY RACE

1. Kevin Durant (Seattle) — The swingman remains at the front of the class, averaging 19.6 points and improving his shooting percentage to 41.4, but he is getting some competition as of late.

2. Luis Scola (Houston) — Since being inserted into the starting lineup when Yao went down, the Argentine forward/center has averaged 12.3 points and 7.9 rebounds while adding intangibles that don’t show up in the box score.

3. Al Horford (Atlanta) — The center remains the most efficient rookie this season with 9.6 points on 48.7 percent shooting and 9.7 rebounds.

BY THE NUMBERS

15 Wins by Philadelphia in its last 19 games, a run that has pulled the 76ers within a game of .500 at 33-34 and into the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

40-26 Record going into last night by the Denver Nuggets, who would miss the Western Conference playoffs by two spots if the season ended today.

QUOTABLE

“When they start talking about the Eastern Conference [on TV], all I keep hearing about are the Celtics, the Pistons, even the Cavaliers. I want to change that.”

— Dwight Howard, whose Orlando Magic rank third in the East behind Boston and Detroit and ahead of Cleveland

GAMES TO WATCH

Boston at Houston

Today, 8 p.m. TNT

The Rockets put their 22-game win streak on the line against the Celtics, who own the best record in the NBA.

Detroit at Cleveland

Tomorrow, 8 p.m. TNT

The Eastern Conference’s second-ranked team pays a visit to the Cavaliers, who currently hold the fourth spot.

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