The Spurs welcomed back Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker last week, meaning they will have all their key pieces in place for the Pistons' only regular-season visit to San Antonio this season. Detroit is 3-1 on the road against Western Conference teams, including a victory against the Lakers in Los Angeles.
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Raptors at Nuggets
Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony are in similar positions: They're both top five picks from the celebrated 2003 draft class who are trying to elevate their teams past the opening round of the playoffs for the first time. Toronto's Bosh is playing like a bona fide MVP candidate. Denver's Anthony has offset his early shooting struggles by averaging career highs in rebounds and assists.
3 of 6Al Tielemans/SI, John W. McDonough/SI
Lakers at 76ers
The Sixers have been an early disappointment, struggling to play .500 basketball after adding Elton Brand in the offseason. Beating the Lakers would be a big confidence-builder. Kobe Bryant figures to be primed for this matchup; he attended a Philadelphia-area high school and relishes his return there even though (or perhaps because) he always gets booed roundly.
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Suns at Hornets
For pure entertainment value, a matchup of Steve Nash vs. Chris Paul is tough to beat. Phoenix will be looking to return the favor after losing at home to New Orleans last month. The Suns entered the week tied for the league lead (along with the Celtics and Rockets) with seven road victories.
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Trail Blazers at Celtics
The young upstarts test the defending champions in a nationally televised game. Winning at Boston is never easy, but it will be especially difficult for Brandon Roy and Co. considering this will be their fourth stop on a five-game Eastern road trip while the Celtics will be completing a three-game homestand.
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Celtics at Pacers
Led by Danny Granger, Indiana drilled the Celtics 95-79 before a capacity crowd in its home opener Nov. 1. The Pacers certainly got Boston's attention in leading by as many as 25 points and dominating a team that had only three double-digit losses all last season. This matchup comes four days after the teams meet in Boston and caps a week in which Indiana also plays host to the Lakers and visits the Cavaliers.
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