Lakers V Nuggets
I would have paid alot of money to have seen George Karl's face when he was told about Carmelo Anthony's arrest for DUI the other night. The Nuggets were having a trouble free season until 'Melo undid all that good work.
Denver finished in eighth spot in the tight Western Conference, but that was only 7 games back of their first round opponents, Los Angeles. To highlight what that says about the two conferences, eigth placed Atlanta finished a massive 29 games back of first seeded Boston in the East.
The Nuggets have talent to compete in Allen Iverson, 'Melo(when sober), Marcus Camby and the maturing JR Smith and this will be a high scoring series.
For the Lakers though, Kobe is happy and finally has quality support starting with Pau Gasol. Kobe wanted to be traded in the off season, now his team sits atop the Western Conference and LA will go deep this year, but will still need 6 games to get past Denver.
Hornets V Mavericks
The last 2 years have provided a lot of hurt for Dallas Mavericks fans. In full view of the NBA and basketball world, Dallas have fallen apart spectacularly in the playoffs in both seasons. Ironically, both teams that have tripped them up (Miami & Golden State) didn't even make this years playoffs either.
Chris Paul has been so good this year, that he is a legitimate MVP candidate. And New Orleans' success on the court, has helped the city recover from the tragedy of almost 3 years ago in hurricane Katrina. But the test for CP3 and the Hornets now is to go out and repeat their efforts in the playoffs. David West & Peja Stojakovic have had excellent seasons but they come up against a Dallas team, eager to put the last 2 years behind them. The Mavericks traded for Jason Kidd just before the trade deadline and after an awkward transition period, he appears to have settled in and he is undoubtedly the type of leader this team has missed when things fell apart in the past. This will be a fun series to watch and it will be New Orleans who prevail in 7.
Spurs V Suns
Facing the San Antonio Spurs must feel like meeting your girlfriends' Dad for the first time. Intimidating and daunting.
Just before the trade deadline this year, Phoenix surprised everyone by trading away one of the teams' stalwarts and arguably their best defender in Shawn Marion to Miami for Shaquille O'Neal. 54 & 61 win seasons back to back hadn't yielded one shot at the NBA crown so rookie GM Steve Kerr decided something had to be done and made the big move.
To think that one of these teams won't make into the Conference semi's is hard to fathom and it is even harder to fathom if that team was San Antonio. The Spurs in 6.
Rockets V Jazz
Tracy McGrady desperately wants to get past the first round of the playoffs. In previous years his teams have blown big series leads 3-1('03 versus Detroit when McGrady was with Orlando), 2-0('05 versus Dallas) & 2-0(last year versus Utah) and this years opponent - Utah returns as most recent tormentors. McGrady remains one of the league's best individual talents but unless he gets this gigantic monkey off of his back, he's going to be tagged as a something of a failure.
For Utah, Deron Williams elevated his game this year to show that he'll be one of the league's premier point guards for a lot of years to come. Added to Carlos Boozer's solid inside game and it's going to be another year of hurt for McGrady and the Rockets.....Utah in 5.