IN THE EAST
MAGIC (37-33 through Sunday):
Seven of Orlando's final 11 games are on the road, including a
Texas Three-Step through San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. But
with a 412-game lead and Tracy McGrady, the Magic's spot should
ODDS: 1 TO 3.
They have a home-and-home against the Heat as well as dates
against (in order of futility) the Cavaliers, Nuggets, Raptors,
Clippers and Bulls. That should prove less formidable to coach
George Karl than Argentina, Spain and Yugoslavia were at the
ODDS: 2 TO 3.
The Madison Square Garden faithful remember 1998-99, when New
York reached the Finals as an eighth seed. Though the Knicks have
six sub-.500 teams on their schedule, they are unlikely to nab a
postseason berth this time, not after a crushing defeat at
Chicago last Saturday.
ODDS: 6 TO 1.
With a 113-107 loss at Golden State on Sunday, Washington had
dropped the first two on a hellish six-game road trip that will
determine how quickly Michael Jordan gets back into his business
suit. Come mid-April, MJ should have ample time to start plotting
where to deal his former teammates.
ODDS: 7 TO 1.
IN THE WEST
Unlike the East, where the bubble teams are vying for two spots,
the West probably has only one to offer. If a child--rookie
forward Amare Stoudemire--doesn't lead Phoenix, Stephon Marbury
and Shawn Marion will.
The front-runner for Rookie of the Year continues to shine, but
Yao Ming mania will probably not extend into the playoffs. The
Spurs, Lakers, Trail Blazers and Nets remain on Houston's
schedule, and coach Rudy Tomjanovich's full participation is in
doubt because of bladder-cancer treatments.
ODDS: 2 TO 1.
For the first time in a while Golden State can be safely
described as up-and-coming. But with a five-game road trip and a
season finale at home against the Lakers, the Warriors will be
down and out when the regular season ends, extending their streak
of missing the playoffs to nine seasons.
ODDS: 15 TO 1.
New franchise foundation Ray Allen seems happy to be in Seattle,
but it's time for the team to wake up and smell the coffee. If
the Sonics aren't out of contention by the time they start a
three-game swing through Texas on April 11, they will be when
that visit is over.
ODDS: 20 TO 1.
EIGHT COLOR PHOTOS