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Original Issue

Leading Off

Playoff Prep

Clippers forwardElton Brand split the defense of Dirk Nowitzki (left) and another Dallasdefender during the Mavericks' 75-73 victory on April 10. Their WesternConference playoff spot clinched, the Clippers were joined last weekend bytheir Staples Center co-tenant, the Lakers, who qualified on Sunday when KobeBryant (inset) scored 43 points in a 109-89 rout of the Suns.

Photograph by JohnW. McDonough

Blowing Hot andCold

Last Friday racersfrom 32 countries slogged through the sixth day of the seven-day, 212-kilometerDesert Marathon in southern Morocco, won by Morocco's Lahcen Ahansal (inset).On April 8 a record field of 54 runners participated in the North PoleMarathon, in which temperatures dipped to -23°C. Irish novelist Michael Collins(inset) prevailed.

Greeting Cards

After sluggerAlbert Pujols (inset) belted his third home run--a two-run walk-off shot todefeat the Reds 8-7 on Sunday in St. Louis--his elated Cardinals teammatesanticipated his arrival at the plate. At week's end Pujols was batting .341with an NL--leading eight homers.

• For more LeadingOff pictures, go to SI.com/photos.

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Photograph by John W. McDonough

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PETER READ MILLER

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Pierre Verdy/AFP/Getty Images

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PIERRE VERDY/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

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MIKE KING/NPMARATHON.COM

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Mike King/NPMARATHON.COM

TWO PHOTOS

Photographs by Dilip Vishwanat/US PRESSWIRE