The West has shown once again that it is the superior conference. I thought the East took a step up last year and was poised to do so again this year, but it was not so. Look at how many sub .500 teams are in the Eastern conference playoffs vs. in the West. That said, the best team is probably in the East, and the West may be up for grabs in a big way.
San Antonio vs. Sacto - Sacramento is back in and the addition of Artest has proven to be very big for them. I would have automatically put the Spurs over these guys easy, but Tim Duncan has been hurt all year. He's proven himself a warrior though. Lesser men would have taken a month or two off to heal, but Timmy just put his head down and balled tough. And while his offense was a bit off, his defense has been tight and he's just finding ways to win even when hurt, the mark of a truly great player. His team has home advantage throughout. In the end nobody matches up very good with Timmy and I think Bruce Bowen can quickly throw Artest off his game. And I'm not sure Artest is quick enough to neurtalize Ginobli. All signs point to a Spurs Victory here. I'm thinking 4-1 Spurs. And who knows maybe
Dallas vs. Memphis - An injustice that the Mavs are a four seed here. Pau Gasol has been stepping up this year in a big way, and the Logo did good by brining in seasoned vets like Eddy Jones, Bobby Jackson, and yes Damon Stoudemire. Mike Miller coming off the bench has been a nice addition too. On the Dallas side, Dirk is once again Dirk. And his running mates have gotten better. Josh Howard has raised his game, Diop is playing good minutes at center, and Terry is more than making up for the dissapearance of Van Exel's big shots down the stretch. I think in the end it's going to come down to the coaching. And I just don't trust the Czar. Dallas 4-2.
Clippers vs. Denver - It's a friggin' miracle. The Clips are back in the playoffs. So how come Dunleavy isn't getting any praise? Well because mostly it can be attributed to Sam Cassell. He's a winner everywhere he goes. Granted, he eventually is too tough to put up with, but the guy can ball and he hits back breaker shots. Elton Brand is a load on the block and Mobley provides ample offense in a hurry. Magette is a good slasher, but has been hobbled by injury. For Denver Melo is playing the best ball of his young career. He's lethal in crunch time now too. Right now, he's the absolute best at dagger shots (granted the record is short). Ruben Patterson brings good wing defense and Denver will need it considering that Maggette is such a good slasher. Kenyon Martin should be able to handle Brand pretty well. His offense is atrocious, but his D is still pretty firece. And of course, Mr. Glass is ready to put up a few 20 rebound 6 block efforts at Center. He should score a bit too seeing as he's facing the human spazz, Kaman. In the end, I think this is going to come down to two things. Coaching (advantage Denver) and playoff experience. Mobley and Cassell have it, but the young Clips have never been. I'm not sure they're ready for primetime yet. Denver 4-1.
Phoenix vs. La Lakers - The Lakers are becoming a hot pick to upset Phoenix in the first round. Kobe is unstoppable, clearly, and he's got the better coach, but Phoenix has a floor coach. And the horses to run all day on LA. If this were the old days of best of five I would give LA a chance. But best of seven is a long series for an undermanned and less talented squad. Phoenix, 4-1 (Well, unless Odom decides to play his heart out. Not a given).
San Antonio vs. Dallas - This could be the Western Conference finals. The best thing for Dallas is that Timmy is hurt leaving Dirk to run hog wild. Dallas has more players at every position and finally has some guys playing some defense too (credit to Avery for changing the mindset of this team). But this is the Spurs right? And even hurt, Timmy finds a way to get it done. Ginobli brings another level in the playoffs. And Pops is a great coach. Plus I see Robert Horry is still rocking a Spurs uniform. He's done nothing all year, meaning he's ready to tear opponents hearts out now. Plus, I don't think anybody on Dallas can contain Tony Parker. Spurs 4-2.
Denver vs. Phoenix - This is tougher for me to call. I think Phoenix lacks depth, but they have two bona fide All stars in Marion and Nash. And Diaw has emerged as a good foil to most big men. In the end they look like very similar teams. Except, I can't shake the feeling that without Amare, the playoffs are going to be a lot tougher for the Suns. Karl is going to have a scheme ready to contain Nash, and Patterson will be able to check Marion a little bit. I'm surprised I'm saying this, but I like Denver here. 4-3 in a hard fought series.
Round 3, conference finals - San Antonio vs. Denver. This isn't even close. San Antonio in a walk, 4-1. Denver needs more personel before they're ready to unseat the champs.