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NBA Today April 11

NBA Today April 11

McGrady says he'll play against Suns; Battier questionable with foot injury
April 10, 2008

HOUSTON (AP) -Houston Rockets guard Tracy McGrady will play against Phoenix on Friday night after missing Wednesday's game against Seattle with a sore left shoulder.

But team officials said Rockets forward Shane Battier was questionable for the game with a bruised left foot and ankle. Battier played 18 minutes on Wednesday, then sat out most of the second half as the Rockets pulled away for a 103-80 victory.

Houston is 53-25, one-half game ahead of Phoenix in the tight Western Conference standings.

``We'll just see who's available tomorrow,'' said Houston coach Rick Adelman. ``I just have to rely on the medical people and those two guys being truthful and telling us how they feel.''

McGrady initially sprained his shoulder late in Houston's 108-100 win over Sacramento on March 24. He played in Houston's next six games, but had recently started wearing a protective wrap.

He took a painkilling injection on Tuesday, but said he would be ready to play on Friday.

``I've still got some soreness in there, but I will be playing tomorrow,'' he said.

The Rockets have four games left in the regular season and McGrady is concerned now with getting himself healthy for the playoffs. Since hurting his shoulder, he's shot 37 percent from the field (56 of 150), including 6-for-24 from 3-point range.

``I want to be efficient when I'm out there,'' he said. ``This is the time to be on top of your game. My shoulder being the way it is, it's been tough. Hopefully, I can turn it around and not so much worry about my shoulder and have it cause me to shoot so bad.''

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Re: NBA Today April 11

NBA Today

Phoenix at Houston (8:30 p.m. EDT). The Suns trail the Rockets and San Antonio by half a game for third place in the Western Conference, and the Lakers by the same margin for first in the Pacific Division.

STARS

-Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks, swished a 3-pointer with 0.9 seconds left, breaking a tie and giving Dallas a 97-94 victory over the Utah Jazz.

-Allen Iverson, Nuggets, scored 33 points in a 114-105 victory over the Golden State Warriors.

DRIVER'S SEAT

Allen Iverson scored 33 points, J.R. Smith added 24 off the bench and the Denver Nuggets took control of the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with a 114-105 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night. The win moved Denver (48-31) a full game ahead of the Warriors in the race for eighth place in the West with only three games remaining. The Nuggets also control the tiebreaker, meaning they can clinch their fifth straight playoff berth by winning two of their final three games.

NICK OF TIME

Dirk Nowitzki swished a 3-pointer with 0.9 seconds left, breaking a tie and giving the Dallas Mavericks a 97-94 victory over the Utah Jazz on Thursday night that also clinched a playoff berth. Dallas got in on the combination of the victory and Golden State losing to Denver. With three games left, the Mavericks have a two-game edge on the Nuggets for the No. 7 seed.

SPEAKING

``Everybody knew what was at stake. It's easy for players to say it's just another game. But everybody knows it wasn't just another game. It was a game that both teams felt they had to have.'' - Denver's Allen Iverson, who scored 33 points as the Nuggets took control of the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with a 114-105 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night. The win moved Denver (48-31) a full game ahead of the Warriors in the race for eighth place in the West with only three games remaining.

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Oddsmakers see MVP in future of Lakers' Bryant

He's strongly favored to beat out New Orleans' Chris Paul for the NBA award.

With the NBA regular season close to an end, supporters of the Lakers' Kobe Bryant should feel good about his chances of winning the league's most-valuable-player award.

That's because Bryant -- still seeking his first NBA regular-season MVP honor -- is considered by Las Vegas oddsmakers as the strong favorite to beat out New Orleans' Chris Paul.

Bryant is given 1-2 odds to end his MVP drought, with Paul listed at 1-1, according to Sportsbetting.com.

So if a Bryant fan bet $100 and won, the fan would get $50 back. A wager of $100 on Paul would pay $100 if the Hornets' point guard took home the honor.

In a way, this is a great rally story for Bryant, who before the NBA All-Star break received his biggest MVP support from in-game chants yelled by nonvoting fans.

But Bryant's stock began to climb after Boston's Kevin Garnett -- regarded as the front-runner to win the MVP award during the first half of the season -- missed a chunk of games because of injury.

Garnett, who has helped Boston earn the league's best overall record this season, has also been hurt by the Celtics' dominant play and blowout wins. After averaging 20.4 points, 11.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists in his career, Garnett's numbers have dropped to 18.9 points, 9.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists this season.

Another plus for Bryant has been the surprising drop in support for Cleveland's LeBron James.

Although James is having the best season of his career and has an opportunity to average 30 points, eight rebounds and eight assists (which would be the first time any player had done that since Michael Jordan in 1998-99), his status has leveled since the All-Star break.

James is listed at 5-1 to win the MVP award, while Garnett is at 8-1.

The only other players in the running are Orlando's Dwight Howard at 30-1 and Phoenix's Steve Nash, who is also listed at 30-1 by Sportsbook.com.

Bryant supporters should note that he also had favorable odds to win the award at this point last season. But in the end, Bryant came up short and Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki was named MVP.

latimes.com

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