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Peripheral Vision - Friday's NBA games to watch

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Finally, the Cavaliers are back in action.  Tonight we head to Philadelphia and take on a Sixers team that is either flailing or simply surrendered.  Philly has lost 7 of their last 8 games, and none of those losses were even close.  Meanwhile, the Cavs have won 20 of their last 24 games.

LeBron James is expected to return to action tonight....and one has to ask, if it was truly rest that James needed, then his status would not be in question, would it?  No word yet on whether or not Antawn Jamison will be back, but all signs point to a Sunday start for AJ.

Aside from the obvious Cavs game to watch tonight, there's a full slate of games that will have some impact on us.  Let's take a look;

Los Angeles Lakers at Phoenix Suns, 9pm EST
The Lakers needed a last-second shot to prevent a four-game losing streak in their most recent game, and they didn't look at all like the defending champs in doing so.  Will they rebound properly in time to grab home court advantage from the Cavs?  They're 3 games back of us....but maybe they should focus more on how to hold off the Dallas Mavericks, who are only 2.5 games back in the race for the West.  Phoenix is 24-8 at home, and the Lakers have their hands full in a game they desperately need.

Indiana Pacers at Boston Celtics, 730pm EST
Boston is still falling apart, and it's grown into a long-term issue.  Since Christmas Day, the Celtics are 17-18.  That's nearly a half-season of below-.500 basketball.  At this point, they're testing the theory of a division champion NOT having home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.  They're in fourth place, but are only six games ahead of fifth-seed Milwaukee.  Normally, that's a safe lead, but the Bucks have gained four games on Boston in the last two weeks.  If both teams continue their respective levels of play, the Celtics might find themselves atop the Atlantic Division, but playing on the road the first series in the Eastern Playoffs.  Meanwhile, Indiana sucks.  If Boston loses at home to them.....well, you know.

Chicago Bulls at Miami Heat News, 730pm EST
The Bulls have lost 6 in a row, and their lineup is depleted.  Last night, they were destroyed by Orlando and cannot be looking forward to playing again tonight.  If Miami wins this game, they'll have a 2.5 game lead for that final spot in the playoffs.  It could be over for Chicago if they drop this one, and the rest of the season will be about lining up the seeds.

Utah Jazz at Milwaukee Bucks, 830pm EST
This is the big test for the Bucks.  They've been kicking butt for the better part of three weeks and are tightening their grip on the 5th seed (and possibly climbing).  Are they for real?  Utah will help us find out.  The Jazz are only 4.5 games out of first place in the West and have won four straight.  This might be the best game of the entire night.

Los Angeles Clippers at Charlotte Bobcats, 7pm EST
Charlotte is winning games at the right time of the season, having pulled four straight together.  They are tied for 6th place in the East (a 3-way tie with Toronto and Miami) and are in position to make the postseason for the first time since who really knows.  With the Clippers playing like they normally do in March, expect a fifth straight win for the Bobcats.