Friday, April 16, 2010

Playoff Predictions: 1st Round (Western Conference)

LA Lakers (1) vs. Oklahoma City (8)

I'll be rooting like crazy for the Thunder, but I don't think it's their time yet. They are going to fall short against a more talented and experienced team in the Lakers, who are looking to repeat as champions. The Lakers have struggled coming into the postseason, but I expect them to turn it on once the postseason starts. Kobe should be well rested after taking the last few games off, and is still one of the league's best closers. Bynum is expected to return from injuries in time for the playoffs. The trio of Odom, Gasol and Bynum should dominate this series and carry the Lakers to the win. The Thunder have no one that can match up with them in the frontcourt. Durant is a future MVP and Westbrook is developing into a nice star as well. He should be able to dominate the matchup against Fisher. But I don't think it will be enough. If Artest is able to slow down Durant, this series could be over faster than people think. It's a nice achievement that Oklahoma City was able to win 50 games and make it to the playoffs, but their run won't last long. It should be a good learning experience for this young, up-and-coming team, though. I read that this is the first time a #8 seed has won 50 games. Nice. [LA Lakers in 5]

Dallas (2) vs. San Antonio (7)

I'm not sure why the Spurs gave up on the last game of the season. They had a chance to move into the #6 spot, and play Phoenix instead; which seems like a more favorable matchup. But you should never count out these former champs; they will be a tough out. Gregg Popovich is still one of the league's best coaches, and Tim Duncan is still one of the all-time greats, even if he is showing signs of age. Manu's revival has been huge for this team down the stretch. And he will be the key for the Spurs in this series. If Parker or Hill miss any games, the Spurs are going to struggle. Blair could be a difference maker with his energy and hustle. But their inconsistency on the defensive end will hurt them. Dallas has too much depth and firepower for the Spurs to handle. Kidd still is one of the best play-makers in the game despite his age. Dirk and Terry are a dynamic 1-2 scoring punch. And Butler and Marion provide help at the wing positions. Haywood and Dampier are two big bodies that they can throw at Duncan to try to contain him. Beaubois and Barea will hit some big shots for Dallas off of the bench. This is Dallas' series to lose. I give the Spurs a puncher's chance to win though. [Dallas in 6]

Phoenix (3) vs. Portland (6)

Phoenix gets a lucky break here. Portland is limping into the postseason full of injuries. Without Roy, Portland stands 0 chance of beating the Suns in a 7-game series. They might be able to steal 1 or 2 games though, based on hustle and heart. I commend them for playing as well as they have, overcoming the loss of several key players. McMillian deserves some recognition for Coach of the Year. But they don't have the talent or depth to compete with these other playoff teams. I don't think Aldridge can carry this team on his back. And Miller isn't going to score over 50 points again anytime soon. Camby will get some rebounds and blocks, but isn't a difference-maker. Batum, Fernandez, Webster and Bayless are too inconsistent to be relied on. Meanwhile, the Suns have way too much offensive firepower. Nash, J-Rich, and Amare are going to feast on Portland. And their supporting cast of Hill, Frye, Barbosa, Dragic and Dudley will hit some big shots, too. It should be a fun series to watch. They'll need Lopez back to be competitive in the 2nd round, though. A Dirk vs Nash matchup should be exciting. [Phoenix in 5]

Denver (4) vs. Utah (5)

That is definitely one of the more interesting matchups in the first round. I think it can go either way. Though I like Denver more at the moment. Mainly because they have homecourt advantage. Utah historically is an awful road team. Many experts have commented that Denver has not been the same team without George Karl at the helm. We'll see how that plays into the series. Billups vs Deron should be an epic matchup at the PG spot. JR Smith, as always, will be an X-factor for his team. He'll either shoot the Nuggets into victory or defeat. Carmelo has been huge against Utah in the regular season games. I just read that Kirilenko will miss the series due to injury, so that will hurt Utah quite a bit. Both Boozer and Kenyon Martin are coming up injuries, also. So health could play a big role in this series. Birdman has been playing hurt also. I think Okur's outside shooting will be huge for Utah. I don't see any of Denver's bigs running out to guard Okur at the three point line. Millsap and Lawson off of the bench are key player for their respective teams also. It should be the most competitive series in the first round. [Denver in 7]

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