Why you should care: With Manu Ginobili, Tyson Chandler and Tracy McGrady all on the sideline, the Mavs have to see this as a chance to make some ground in the Southwest Division. Even though they are missing Jason Terry, who is in the running for Sixth Man of the Year, they are a dangerous team. These two teams always play a close, playoff level game. It also kicks off a very tough week for the Spurs. I would be happy with them going 3-1 this week, and this is actually the easiest game of the four. Expect a tough, physical game with emotions flowing.
Date: Wednesday, February 25 (7:30)
Team: Portland Trailblazers (H)
Why you should care: This is the first of two meetings in five days for these teams. Portland is the team of the future, but they are making a great push to be the team of the present. They are only 2.5 games behind the Spurs as of Monday, and they have as good of shot as any team to take second in the West. Brandon Roy is one of my favorite players to watch; his game is complete in all facets, and he has proven a strong leader. I also like watching LaMarcus Aldridge, who looks up to Tim Duncan and tries to model his game after Duncan.
Date: Friday, February 27 (8:30)
Team: Cleveland Cavaliers (H)
Why you should care: This is a marquee matchup and a rematch of the 2007 NBA Finals, which the Spurs swept. They also did a good job at taking LeBron out of his comfort zone, forcing him to play a midrange game that he doesn’t excel at. It’s two years later, though, and the Cavs have the third best record in the league and LeBron is the favorite to win the MVP award. It’s too bad that Manu Ginobili is injured, knocking the competitive level down a notch. I also worry about the Spurs energy after two tough games earlier in the week.
Date: Sunday, March 1 (7:00)
Team: Portland Trailblazers (A)
Why you should care: It’s always interesting when the league schedules two teams to play each other back-to-back or at least a few days apart. You just saw the team a few days before and already have a game plan. However, how do you let the previous game affect the game plan? Do you tweak it to solve a problem from the last game, or do you stay confident with it and not change a thing? Pop typically sticks with his game plan and doesn’t change much, but it will be interesting to see how things change from game one to game two.