NBA Western Conference Playoff Preview
by Jason Green of Predictem.com
No.1 L.A. Lakers vs. No.8 Utah Jazz
This season the Lakers beat the Jazz 2 out of 3 times. The Lakers would probably rather have played another team in the first round, but it will still be a major upset if the Jazz can win this series. For the Jazz to do that they will have to win al least one game in L.A, which will not be easy, as the Lakers had the best home record in the West (36-5) and the Jazz are not a good road team (15-26). Add to the fact that the Jazz did not end the season well losing their last 2 games and 7 out of their last 10. Add to the fact again that Andrew Bynum is back for the Lakers, which is not good for the Jazz who do not have good interior defense. Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams will both have to have a huge series to pull off the upset. Kobe does not have to do it all, as the Lakers are stacked with Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Bynum, and one of the deepest benches in the league. The Jazz will have to play great defense all series and it is not a good omen for them that the Lakers dropped 125 points on them in their last game.
No.2 Denver Nuggets vs. No.7 New Orleans Hornets
This season these two teams split their season series each winning 2 games a piece. This may be a close series and each does not have a huge home court advantage, as each team won on the other’s floor. A big key to the series will be the health of Tyson Chandler. He missed much of the latter part of the season and the Hornets will need his defense and offense. The Hornets do not have much inside presence and they will have to step up to defend Nene and Kenyon Martin down low. The PG match up is a sweet one between Chauncey Billups and Chris Paul. The Nuggets have to play good perimeter D and not allow Paul to have big scoring games. David West and Peja Stojakovic have to help Paul out in the scoring department. Denver is a much better offensive team and New Orleans is a much better defensive team. The team that can play their game has a big advantage in this series, as the Hornets cannot play a run and gun style and win this series.
No.3 San Antonio Spurs vs. No.6 Dallas Mavericks
This season these two teams split the 4 games they played against each other. The Mavericks ended the season well winning 7 of their last 10 games. Sore knees bothered Tim Duncan at the end of the season and the Spurs need him to be the rock inside for them in this series. The Mavs have to play good interior D on Duncan and Drew Gooden and not allow them to dominate the boards. Tony Parker has to have a good scoring series and play good perimeter D on PG Jason Kidd and backup PG Jason Terry, who is averaging over 20 ppg.
No. 4 Portland Trailblazers vs. No.5 Houston Rockets
This season the Rockets won 2 of 3 games against the Blazers. Can the Rockets finally win a playoff series? The big key in this series is if the Blazers can contain Yao Ming. If he scores big and rebounds well the Blazers may be in trouble. Greg Oden has to have a good defensive series and not let Ming dominate on both ends of the floor. The Blazers also have to play good D on Ron Artest and Luis Scola, who can both score from the paint. Brandon Roy and LeMarcus Aldridge will be counted on for most of the scoring. If the Blazers can run an up-tempo game and get a lot of easy transition buckets they will be in good shape.