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February-12-2003,
NBA NOTEBOOK...By "Easy" Al Monte

FIRST HALF NOTES

The Philadelphia 76ers enter the All-Star break with nine losses in their last 11 games at the First Union Center, and the same record at this point last season, 25-24. Philadelphia started 15-4 this season, but has lost 20 of the last 30 games, including 11 of 16 at home.

Indiana (34-15) starts the second half of the season tied with New Jersey atop the Eastern Conference. Only the 1997-98 Pacers had a better record at the break at 34-13. Indiana, one game ahead of Detroit in the Central Division, is 12-10 against teams with winning records. While they`re an impressive 22-3 at home, the Pacers are 12-12 on the road. They play 11 of first 16 games in the second half on the road, including a West Coast trip with consecutive games against the Lakers, Portland and Sacramento.

Cleveland (10-40) resumes its dreary season Wednesday night in Indianapolis against the Central-leading Pacers, who are 34-15. The Cavs are 2-6 since the 38-year-old Keith Smart took over the coaching duties.

Detroit entered the All-Star break with a four-game winning streak. It has won the last three by an average of 27.7 points.

The Memphis Grizzlies have not won since beating San Antonio 99-93 on Jan. 22.

The Minnesota Timberwolves (29-20) have won nine straight at home. The Wolves have six straight first-round playoff exits.

The Portland Trail Blazers (32-16) were one of the hottest NBA teams heading into the All-Star break. They`d won 22 of their last 27 games. Portland`s 18-10 away record gave the team the most road wins in the league.

Phoenix went into the All-Star break on a three-game winning streak after a 115-111 overtime victory over the lowly Chicago Bulls on Feb. 3. The victory was the 13th in 14 home games for the Suns and moved them eight games above .500. They were at .500 at last year`s All-Star break.

The Los Angeles Clippers, last in the Pacific Division and 9 1/2 games out of the last playoff spot in the West, have lost four in a row and seven of eight following Wednesday`s 89-80 setback at Detroit. The Clippers were handed their sixth straight road loss. The Los Angeles Lakers have won 13 of its last 17 games to improve to 24-23 and will play eight of its remaining 11 February games at home. The Lakers trail Houston by 1 1/2 games for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Yao Ming averaged 13.0 points, 8.1 rebounds and shot 52.9 percent from the field as Houston (26-22) made a 10-game improvement on its first-half record from last season.

Owners of the worst road record in the league (2-25), the Bulls do have a 15-7 mark in Chicago, and are riding a five-game winning streak at the United Center.

Denver is 1-22 when scoring less than 80 points. The Nuggets are 3-21 on the road.

San Antonio has won eight of nine against Denver.

Seattle is 17-7 against Milwaukee since the 1990-91 season.

Golden State is one victory shy of its winningest season since 1995-96, when it went 30-52.



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