NBA Sunday: 24-second clock

Published: Sunday, March 28 2010 12:00 a.m. MDT

NBA rankings

1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Must win final nine games to equal 66 win output from a year ago.

2. L.A. Lakers: Bynum missed fourth straight game Saturday. Can he get healthy for playoffs?

3. Orlando Magic: Games vs. Denver, Mavs and Spurs this week could seal fate of No. 2 East seed.

4. Denver Nuggets: Sunday, Monday at Magic, Mavs, then just 2 of 7 on road to close out season.

5. Dallas Mavericks: Slipped up a bit since 13-game win streak but still prime to get No. 2 seed.

6. Utah Jazz: Defensive lapse against Pacers but rebounded vs. Wizards to capture 3-1 week.

7. Boston Celtics: NBA steals leader Rondo set single-season Celts record with 168th theft Fri.

8. Phoenix Suns: Six-game win streak has team in thick of things but 7 of 10 on road to close season.

9. Atlanta Hawks: Nice home wins vs. Spurs, Magic, but loss at Sixers hurts shot at No. 3 seed.

10. Oklahoma City: Youth will be tested down stretch with 7 of final 11 vs. playoff-bound teams.

Game of the week

Spurs at Boston

These two aging recent NBA champions are still fighting to improve their playoff seeding. They will play tonight (6 p.m.) in an ESPN-televised battle. The game, of course, will feature the two best power forwards of this generation — Tim Duncan vs. Kevin Garnett.

THE "MAGIC" 50: Dwight Howard and Orlando reached the "magic" 50-victory plateau last week and did so with the all-star center on his best behavior to stave off a suspension.

In defeating the Philadelphia 76ers last week, the Magic joined the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers as the only teams to win 50 games so far.

It's the third straight 50-victory season for the Magic, who won 52 and 59 games in the previous two seasons.

"I think it's the mark in the league of a very good team," said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, "with 60 being the mark of a great team."

Howard said, "It's showing we are improving every year. People don't realize how hard it is to win every single night. We have been persistent the last three years."

Amazingly, it's the first time Orlando's Vince Carter, a 12-year veteran, has played on a 50-victory team. He played on a New Jersey team that won 49 games in 2005-06, but that's as close as he got before this season.

The Magic's winning season has been playing out lately against the backdrop of Howard's ongoing tussle with the referees.

Howard went into Friday's game against Minnesota with a league-high 15 technical fouls, one shy of the total that would earn him an automatic one-game suspension. He has had two technicals rescinded by the league after review.

In Orlando, they're not calling Howard "Little Rasheed" for nothing.

Actually, Rasheed Wallace's 13 technicals rank no better than third in the league, as Boston center Kendrick Perkins has been T'd up 13 times. Kobe Bryant has 12 technicals, Stephen Jackson has 11, and Carmelo Anthony and Dirk Nowitzki have 10 each.

Center Andrew Bogut leads the well-mannered Milwaukee Bucks with two technicals.

Both Howard and Van Gundy admitted last week that a suspension might be inevitable. At least Howard has maintained his sense of humor, even though a one-game suspension would cost him $136,363, based on his $15 million salary.

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