The NBA Playoffs start Saturday, and Hoophead and The Wiz are here to preview every series! We've broken down the Beasts of the East, and now it's time to look at Kobe, Durant, those sneaky Spurs and the best of the Western Conference...
Hoophead: San Antonio cruised for most of the season, but stumbled down the stretch. Injuries to Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are concerns but shouldn't prevent the experienced Spurs from beating Memphis. The Grizzlies will put up a fight, though, with the strong frontcourt of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. The key is whether young point guard Mike Conley can contain his experienced counterpart, Tony Parker. Hoophead’s prediction: Spurs in six.
The Wiz: If I were the Spurs, I'd be mighty nervous. Manu Ginobili is doubtful for Game 1 of this series, and without him these teams are very evenly matched. Yes, the Spurs still have Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and a ton of guys who can catch fire from three. But the Grizzlies are relentless defensively and pound the ball into the paint on offense. San Antonio will get all they can handle. Wiz’s prediction: Spurs in seven.
Hoophead: The Hornets overachieved this season thanks to the leadership of point guard Chris Paul and coach Monty Williams. However the Lakers have too much size, talent, and experience for New Orleans in this series. The health of center Andrew Bynum is a question mark for the LA, but the Lakers won't need him to get past undersized New Orleans. Hoophead’s prediction: Lakers in five.
The Wiz: Even with Andrew Bynum questionable for the first game or two of this series, L.A. is just going to be too much for the Hornets. New Orleans really took a hit when David West tore his ACL a few weeks back. They just don't have enough depth and size in the frontcourt to handle Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and the rest of L.A.'s bigs. There's going to be a lot of pressure falling on Chris Paul's shoulders, and he's looked beat up at times this year. And, oh yeah, L.A. has that Kobe guy. Wiz’s prediction: Defending champs in five.
Hoophead: With an aging roster, this could the the Mavs' final chance to make a run at a title with Dirk Nowitzki as its centerpiece. Even with star Brandon Roy out with an injury, the Blazers have been playing well after trading for swingman Gerald Wallace in February. The matchup to watch is superstar Nowitzki going against playoff newbie LaMarcus Aldridge. The Mavs' urgency to win will get them by Portland. Hoophead’s prediction: Mavs in six.
The Wiz: I want to like the Mavs. I really do. Dirk Nowitzki is great. Jason Kidd is ageless. But this team relies on the jump shot too much for my liking. And even with Tyson Chandler joining Dallas, they're not a great rebounding team. Blazers big man LaMarcus Aldridge smoked the Mavs for 27.8 points per game in their four meetings, and there's more where that came from. Aldridge and Gerald Wallace will get the job done inside the arc, and Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum will be there to knock down some big shots. Wiz’s prediction: Blazers in six.
Hoophead: Two of the NBA's hottest teams square off. The Nuggets have played terrific team ball since trading away stars Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups in February (eight Nuggets average double-digits in scoring). The Thunder has gone 19-4 since March 1, boosted by the acquisition of center Kendrick Perkins. Oklahoma City gets the edge because in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook it has two players who can take over games in crunch time. Hoophead’s prediction: Thunder in six.
The Wiz: I really like both of these teams. The Thunder are so well-balanced, and their chemistry is amazing. I think the acquisition of big man Kendrick Perkins will really shine through in this series. As for the Nuggets? Well, George Karl should win coach of the century for the job he's done since they traded Carmelo. This team is actually better now! They defend harder, and while they lack a true Number 1 option, they take nothing but good shots. And I love the fact that they attack and get to the free throw line. These teams are so evenly matched. But in the end, I think it will come down to a superstar making superstar plays. And that superstar would be Kevin Durant. Wiz’s prediction: OKC in seven.
How about your picks? Leave them in the comments section!