We already talked about the Eastern Conference First Round matchups, so let's get to the West. This year, we had a run for the best record in the NBA between the Lakers and the Cavs, but the Lakers came up a little short. They'll have to be happy with being the #1 seed in the West.
Los Angeles Lakes vs. Utah Jazz
The Lakers have played ball all year long, and then the moment that almost had people jumping off bridges, Andrew Bynum tore up his knee. Everyone in La La Land remember how the Celtics just out manned the Lakers last year in the Finals and there was worry to go around. A few weeks ago, Bynum returned and showed us all why the Lakers didn't trade him for Jason Kidd. With Bynum ready to go, the Lakers look headed for a showdown with the Cavaliers. They should have any problems in the playoffs.
The Jazz kind of limped in to the playoffs and they are looking great at home, but they can't win on the road. With Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer, this team should be picking and rolling their way to the conference finals, but they meet the Lakers in round 1. The rest of the Jazz team is actually good and part of me could say that the Jazz could (I'm not saying will), but they could give the Lakers problems in the first round. There are Jazz fans out there that have to have hope (Eric, that's for you), but in the end, the Jazz shouldn't pack for anything longer than a first round playoff series.
Series Winner - Lakers 4-1
Denver Nuggets vs. New Orleans Hornets
Denver comes into this series riding high. After acquiring Chauncey Billups and getting Kenyon Martin back in the fold, the Nuggets are ready. They have a point guard that can get the ball to their scorers (Melo, JR Smith, and Nene) and this team finally decided to play some defense. I know a lot of people want to give George Karl a lot of credit, but I think that Billups should get as much as Karl. This is a scary Nuggets team.
The Hornets are winning despite all of their issues. They have lost both Tyson Chandler and David West for extended periods of time during the season. West has returned and is playing well, but Chandler is just coming back and by his own admission, his toe is about 70%. That does not bode well for a team that isn't as deep as they were last year and is facing a stacked Nuggets team that can score. Chris Paul will again have to carry this team if they are going to make it past the first round.
Series Winner - Nuggets 4-2
San Antonio Spurs vs. Dallas Mavericks
The Spurs come in hoping that Tim Duncan's knees aren't sore. He has played through pain over the last few games of the season, but the Spurs will need him to win this series. Tony Parker has carried the Spurs for the majority of the year and should have garnered some MVP votes in my estimation. This is the same crew, minus Ginobli (out for the season), and a little older. It's time for the Spurs to restock this team on the wings. They will struggle in this first round.
The Mavericks are balling a little bit. Jason Kidd looks like he's found the 'Fountain of Youth' and Dirk is getting back into that form that had him in line for an MVP a few years ago. Josh Howard is stepping up and they are getting production, or at least defense from their bench. They've been somewhat under the radar for the entire year. Look for Jason Terry to have a big series for the Mavs.
Series Winner - Mavericks 4-2
Portland Trailblazers vs. Houston Rockets
The Trailblazers are led by do everything Brandon Roy, but they are a deep team. I mean real deep. This team can play 10 players each game and the guys coming off the bench are just as good as the starters. LaMarcus Aldridge (don't the Bulls wish they would have kept him instead of Tyrus Thomas?), Greg Oden, Rudy Fernandez, Travis Outlaw, and crew will definitely cause the Rockets problems during this series. They have enough big bodies to play Yao and enough young guys to run and score.
The Houston Rockets made it this far without Tracy McGrady and not many people thought they would. Yao has stepped up and more importantly hasn't gotten hurt this year. When you add that to a behaving Ron Artest, and a surprising supporting cast in Aaron Brooks, Chuck Hayes, Carl Landry, and Kyle Lowry, you see how the Rockets were able to overcome the loss of McGrady. I think this will be the stage where the Rockets realize that they need that go to scorer and I don't see Artest being that guy on a night in night out basis. This will definitely be an exciting series.
Series Winner - Trailblazers 4-3
What's your take? Who are you rooting for? Can the Jazz give the Lakers any problems?