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Western Conference First Round Playoffs Preview

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by user Wtt02005

Kobe Bryant and the Lakers’ dominating performance over the Hornets wrapped up the seedings for the West. The playoff matchups are ready to go.

(1) San Antonio Spurs vs (8) Sacramento Kings

The Spurs as 1st seed is no surprise as they have been one of the most consistent winning ball clubs since their first championship in 1999. They have an excellent coach and unselfish team mentality. The Kings, on the other hand, are a surprise, having been one of the more successful franchises in the last five years. On the verge of winning the championship in 2002, Robert Horry and the Lakers stopped them in their tracks. They have been unable to rebound since then and just barely made the playoffs this season.

The Kings have little to no chance of beating the Spurs, and it has more to do with how good the Spurs are and not how bad the Kings are. Even with Duncan hobbling about with injuries, the Spurs won sixty games this year which shows how good they play as a team. This will be seen in the playoffs. The Kings are still roughly a new team, trying to find a way to incorporate Artest in their system. They have been successful, but Artest’s thumb injury will complicate matters. The Kings only hope is Mike Bibby catching on fire. This is the reason the Kings won the last game these two teams played.

Unfortunately for the Kings, the Spurs have experienced many playoff letdowns (notably the ones with the Lakers) that they know nothing is handed to you when it comes to the NBA Championship. They will be all business as usual this postseason.

Final: Spurs 4-1. The Spurs may seem vulnerable because of Duncan’s injury, but you cannot forget the improvement of Tony Parker who is the catalyst on this team. I give the Kings one victory because I expect the star power of Bibby, Artest, Miller, Wells, and Abdur-rahim to overwhelm the Spurs just one time at Arco Arena. It will be a short series as the Spurs will want to rest the Big Fundamental.

(2) Phoenix Suns vs (7) Los Angeles Lakers

Despite no Amare Stoudemire, The Suns raced to a Pacific Division title and second seed overall in the West. Led by potential MVP Steve Nash, underrated Shawn Marion, and potential Most Improved Player Boris Diaw, the Suns expect no less than the NBA championship. Unlike last year, the Suns have a bench composed of gunners (House, Jones, Barbosa) and defensive-minded players (Grant, Tim Thomas). It is a much different team compared to last season, but they have definitely improved.

The Lakers have returned to the playoffs after a one year absence. There were two difference makers: Kobe did not get injured and had a MVP-type season and Lamar Odom’s improved play. With Lamar Odom being a facilitator, Kobe has not worried about getting his team involved. He defined his role and has taken more jump shots than all his other seasons. This has led to his increased scoring. Odom is averaging six assists a game and may be starting to show traces of Scottie Pippen’s greatness. I’ll stop there because Odom has a long ways to go, but he is definitely the second reason for the team’s success.

It appears the Lakers won five straight at home just so they could choose the better of the two evils. The Lakers do not have a chance against the Spurs, but they could beat Phoenix. It’s a very slim chance, but Phoenix has those nights when they let teams score 140 points. The league’s scoring leader and possible MVP Kobe Bryant will definitely take advantage.

Another reason why the Lakers have a chance is that Phoenix may pick up more injuries. Though he is still Kwame Brown, his recent improvement may make Kurt Thomas’ injury and Phoenix’s slim backcourt apparent. In addition, Nash’s neck and shoulder injuries (which led to his resting this last week of the season) may aggravate more. We definitely know what happens to the Suns team without Steve Nash

Unfortunately, I remember when the Suns let Kobe score 50 points against them, but they still beat the Lakers by ten points. Phoenix is content with letting Kobe score as long as they can stop the other players. Finally, if I am not mistaken, Phoenix has won six of the last seven meetings.

Final: Suns 4-2. Kobe will somehow win two games in crunch time. Otherwise, expect blowouts or just convincing victories for the Phoenix Suns.

(3) Denver Nuggets vs (6) Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers had one heck of a breakout season, almost reaching the fifty win mark. Though Brand is a MVP candidate, Sam Cassell is the real reason this team is as good as they are. In addition, the Clippers have kept their squad pretty consistent since Brand’s 1st season some five years ago. Players like Ross, Maggette, Kaman, and Brand have played together for some time.

The Nuggets have enjoyed the luxury of playing in the Northwest Division as they have won the division title without much competition. They are third seed but are not that great. Denver has always been hyped, and it will be apparent in the playoffs because the fifth-eighth seeds can give them a run for their money. Need more evidence? Eight seeded Sacramento and Denver have the same record of 44-38.

This is a interesting matchup because both teams are equally skilled. Each team just has a few issues that prevent them from being one of the elite in the West. I give the nod to the Clippers because Denver has yet to capitalize on its talent. Every year is supposed to be a breakout year for them with players like Kenyon Martin and Marcus Camby, but it never works out. The city still cares more about Kobe than their own team.

Final: Clippers 4-3. Either Sam Cassell or Elton Brand will carry the team to victory in a game 7.

(4) Dallas Mavericks vs (5) Memphis Grizzlies

Having been labeled soft for their lack of an inside game, the Mavericks under Avery Johnson have instilled a defensive mentality that has made them very successful this season. Unfortunately, they must prove themselves in the playoffs if they want to be part of the West powerhouses. That is why the Mavericks will take nothing short of the championship as a success. Unfortunately for them, things will not start on the right foot as they will receive the fourth seed in return for the second best record in the Western Conference.

To add insult to injury, the team will face the Memphis Grizzlies who for the first time will not enter the playoffs struggling. The last two years, the Grizzlies were swept in the first round because they had a losing streak entering the playoffs. This postseason will be different for them against Dallas. With players like potential MVP Pau Gasol, potential Sixth Man Mike Miller, and most importantly, a set rotation, The Grizzlies can at least put up a fight against the Mavericks.

Final: Mavericks 4-2. The Mavericks have never really had much luck in the postseason, so I’m expecting a few jitters. Pau Gasol’s inside game will probably torch Diop and Dampier enough to win games. Eventually, the Mavericks’ firepower, defense (yes they have one), and Marc Cuban’s enthusiasm will overpower them.

There you have it. No surprises or upsets (which is characteristic of the NBA playoffs). I will be back with my Eastern Previews soon.


Fri 04/21/06, 12:23 pm EST

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