Lakers and Nuggets for the chance to play the OKC Thunder (yes, I'm projecting).
Lakers: The Lakers come into the playoffs with the suspension of Metta World Peace and the health of Kobe's shin as the hot topics of discussion. We all know that 'the elbow' has MWP out for at least the first 6 games of this series, but more importantly we may be an injured shin away from Kobe being out of the playoffs. The Lakers were already thin on the wings prior to the suspension and that will impact this game, because I'm not sure who's going to guard Gallo. The Lakers do have the best big man tandem in the league in Bynum and Gasol and will be smart to lean on those two as they play a Nuggets team without a lot of size.
Who has to step up: Devin Ebanks, Matt Barnes, and Ramon Sessions. Ebanks has been playing well as of late but he and Matt Barnes are going to not only find a way to play some defense, but they are going to have to find a way to consistently score also. Ramon Sessions is going to have to play ball and find a way to slow down Ty Lawson.
Nuggets: These ain't the Carmelo Anthony Nuggets. This team runs and runs and runs. They have Danillo (Gallo) Gallinari, Ty Lawson, and Aaron Afflalo. Gallo, before hurting his foot earlier this year, was on a tear. He is a 6'11" guy with a perimeter game and with MWP out he should be able to get going. Afflalo can do it all, including some defense on Kobe. When you add in an active, yet immature McGee and the rookie fan favorite in Faried, these Nuggets are going to keep coming at you.
Who has to step up: Danillo Gallinari and Ty Lawson. Gallo is going to have to revert to his mid-season tear that he was on and he isn't scared to take those big shots. Ty Lawson is going to have to see if anyone on the Lakers can keep up with him. The more he pushes the ball and exposes that defense, the easier it'll be for these Nuggets to score. If the game slows down the Lakers will be able to use their size advantage.
Outcome: I got the Lakers in 7, just in time for the return of MWP and a matchup with the Thunder.