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NBA Playoffs: Western Conference Preview and Predictions

Kobe Bryant and the L.A. Lakers are in tough against a tough crop of Western Conference teams Kobe Bryant and the L.A. Lakers are in tough against a tough crop of Western Conference teams

The NBA playoffs start this weekend, which is great news for hoops faithful around the country. The road out of the Western Conference is tough. With no clear favorite, the L.A. Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, and Phoenix Suns all have their work cut out for them.

It really is a dogfight in the West, with nearly every series up for grabs. Even the #1 vs. #8 game could come down to the wire. The Lakers are a relatively weak top seed, while the Oklahoma City Thunder have competed hard all season.

Still, when it comes to picking a winner, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers are the smart choice. Besides having Bryant, who is still the best player in the Western Conference, the Lakers face a very young Thunder team.

The pressure and the grind of playoff ball will be difficult for Oklahoma City to adjust to. They’ll give L.A. a run for their money, but don’t have what it takes yet.

Lakers in 6 games.

The #2 seed Dallas Mavericks face a very good #7 seed in the San Antonio Spurs. This battle of Texas calls for an upset.

The Mavs have competed in close games all year, and have squeaked out enough wins to place them way up the West standings, but they draw the worst possible opponent in the Spurs.

San Antonio are built for the playoffs, and the highly experienced duo of Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan are as formidable as they come. The Spurs are healthy and have surged leading up to the post-season.

Spurs in 6 games.

The #3 Phoenix Suns take on the #6 Portland Trailblazers in what could be the least competitive opening round series in the conference.

The Blazers are in tough without Brandon Roy and simply don’t have the offense to gun with the Suns, who have been on an absolute tear in the final 20 or so games of the regular season.

Suns in 5 games.

The most difficult series to predict is the #4 Denver Nuggets and the #5 Utah Jazz. Both teams are struggling with injuries to key players who will play, but with diminished effectiveness.

However, possibly the most significant absence is that of Nuggets head coach George Karl, who is battling cancer. Without their bench boss, Denver’s performance has slipped a bit, while the Jazz have had a strong second half of the season.

Jazz in 7 games.

The scene in the Western Conference gets even harder to call in the second round of the NBA playoffs. But the first round will tell a lot about what’s to come. How will Kobe Bryant and the Lakers perform? How about aging stars like Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Steve Nash? It’s the time of year that basketball legends are made, and someone will step up while someone else drops the ball.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 01 June 2011 19:55

Happy is a regular contributor to RosebudMag.com and has written for various other publications, including Black Belt, Inside Hockey, and FoxSports.com. He transitioned to life as a writer following a decade-long career as a touring musician. He lives with his son in Vancouver, British Columbia

Website: www.rosebudmag.com/hkreter

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