SAN ANTONIO SPURS v SACRAMENTO KINGS
SEASON SERIES: Spurs 2-1. But the Kings did win nearly three weeks ago.
STORYLINES: Shareef Abdur-Rahim makes his first postseason appearance in his 10-year career. Ron Artest has called his shot. Artest boldy stated that they were gonna win the NBA title [but, c'mon....that's Ron-Ron]. When your first matchup is the top seeded defending champions....it is quite a call. However, with Artest in Sacto, the Kings have an element of defense and toughness that they've not had in previous seasons. The point guard battle should be great, with quick gunners Mike Bibby and Tony Parker going head-to-head.
KEY FACTOR: Tim Duncan. Duncan has played all year rather gimpy. The Spurs hope that he'll be right for this postseason run. But he hasn't been too dominant this year....and they've needed that in their championship runs. If he struggles, the Kings chances jump up considerably.
PREDICTION: Spurs in 5. The Kings have a chance, but these are the Spurs.
SEASON SERIES: Suns 3-1. The lone Lakers win was on Sunday when MVP candidate Steve Nash sat out.
STORYLINES: They're baaack. The Lakers missed the playoffs for only the 5th time last year....yet are back again for another run. Two of the frontrunners for the NBA's MVP award will face off in this series, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. Kobe's dominance will be on display....while Nash's dominance will be more fluent.
KEY FACTOR: Kwame Brown. For the Lakers to have any shot at winning this series, somebody other than Kobe is going to have to come up big. While Lamar Odom really needs to be that guy, if Brown shows upthis series, it would be a huge deal. The Suns aren't a big team up front....so Brown can operate. He's done well moving around the basket and cleaning up messes lately. If he keeps that up, the Lakers will be a problem for Phoenix.
PREDICTION: Suns in 7. I really don't think it will go the distance, but I also think that Kobe won't let the Lakers lose at home in a Game 6. Remember that the Suns beat the Lakers handily all three times that Nash played. They just do everything just a little bit better. And as the regular season showed, they'll allow Kobe to go off as long as everyone else is in check.DENVER NUGGETS v LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
SEASON SERIES: Clippers 3-1. The Clips have won the last three.
STORYLINES: This is the first series in the new NBA that a division winner will NOT get home court advantage in the first round. In a weird twist, the Nuggets...despite being the #3 seed....will not have the homecourt against anyone in the Western Conference. Unreal. Also, this is a matchup of two of the lowliest franchises just 5 years ago or so. This is the first playoff appearance for the Clippers since 1997. The Staples Center should benefit from being booked with Clippers and Lakers games for a while. The Nuggets haven't won a playoff series in 12 years....and the Clippers haven't won one in nearly 30.
KEY FACTOR: K-Mart. Can he be efficient against Elton Brand who has had an MVP-type season? If Brand can dominate, the Nuggs are in trouble.
PREDICTION: Nuggets in 6. Two factors. Denver has been here before....and they have Carmelo Anthony. While the Clips can boast Sam-I-Am, they are chocked full of guys that have never experienced this.DALLAS MAVERICKS v MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
SEASON SERIES: Mavericks 3-1. Mavs won the last three.
STORYLINES: This is the Grizzlies' third straight postseason appearance, but they've never won a game yet. Dallas probably had it's best season in the Mark Cuban Era, but they've had a history of not being a playoff force.
KEY FACTOR: Rebounding. The Grizzlies are deep with role guys and will pound the paint and pound the boards all night. If they can dominate the glass, they have a shot in this thing.
PREDICTION: Mavericks in 7. Don't sleep on the Grizz! They have The Czar as their coach [against a relative newbie in Avery Johnson] and the best inside presence in this series [Pau Gasol]. They can throw a myriad of guys at Dirk, but will any of them really mess up his game? That's where guys like Jerry Stackhouse and Jason Terry come in. I think Dallas will win Game 7 at home.