Lakers vs. Thunder: It's not Kobe, but the Lakers front line that will seal the fate of OKC. Gasol, Bynum, and Odom control the paint and protect the rim. Artest, who appears to pay homage to Dennis Rodman, will come control Durant. (Note: Andrew Bynum travels nearly every time he touches the ball! He shuffles his feet and never establishes a pivot! Don't hold your breath for a call, though) Lakers sweep.
Nuggets vs. Jazz: Utah seemed to be the hottest team coming into the playoffs. They play defense, they're unselfish with the ball, they rebound, and they're deep. The Jazz have a weakness and that is the lack of a player to check a superstar swingman like Carmello. Usually its Kirelinko, but he's hurt. The loss of Memo Okur doesn't help. On the other hand, Denver lived outside the three point line and one has to imagine they will shoot themselves out of a game in this series. Nuggets in 6.
Suns vs. Blazers: The Blazers came in and stole game one, as the Suns got little help from Amare Stoudamire. Jared Bayless was the X-factor (pardon the cliche) in the Blazers winning the battle of the bench. The Blazers are a grind-it-out, execute in the half court kind of team, while the Suns are Nash and Stoudamire running the pick and role with shooters waiting on the perimeter. I don't like the match-up if I'm the suns. The Blazers have lanky, athletic players like Aldridge, Batum, Webster, and Miller to switch on that pick and roll. All being said, the Suns played below their level and still had a chance to win. Phoenix picks up their play and finds a way to win the series. Suns in 7.
Mavs vs. Spurs: Dallas looks good, as in challenge-the-Lakers good. The offensive arsenal is ridiculous with Nowitski, Caron Butler, and J-Kidd distributing. Add the frontline beef of Dampier, Haywood, and Marion...they have the versatility to grind or run. It's amazing to see Tim Duncan still doing his thing in the playoffs, but Dallas will prevail. Mavs in 5.
Mavs vs. Suns: Two high big scoring offenses will collide in this match-up. The Mavs can run their bigs (Dampier or Haywood) to grind it out or play a smaller line up to guard the perimeter against the Suns three point shooters. The Mavs versatility will take carry them past Phoenix and into the conference finals. Mavs in 6.
Lakers vs. Nuggets: The Nuggets only advantage is at the point guard match-up with Billups on Fisher. Otherwise, the Lakers match-up well to beat this Nuggets team. The Nuggets need Kenyon Martin or they don't have a chance. Lakers in 5.
Western conference finals
Lakers vs. Mavs: The Mavs are deeper and have more offensive weapons, but it matters not. The Lakers are more physical and defend the rim. They understand to win in the playoffs means scrapping, grinding, and winning a game with a high school basketball score. They will push the Mavs around and take the West. Lakers in 6.
NBA Finals match-up
Lakers vs. Magic: Sorry to bore you with a repeat match-up, but these are the top teams. A healthy Jameer Nelson will make a difference and the absence of Trevor Ariza will, also. Kobe will be worn down at this point and Dwight Howard will neutralize Gasol. Same finals match-up as last year, but a different result. Magic in 7.