This is going to be a tighter series than you would expect. Despite Rudy Gay’s season-ending injury, the Grizzlies are still no walkover. They possess good front-court size and can dominate the paint. The Grizzlies lead the NBA in points in the paint, which is very critical for post-season success. What they do lack is experience. The entire San Antonio starting five has NBA Finals experience as the Grizzlies have never even won a playoff game. The Spurs have had some trouble defending the paint due to their length (lack of), so Zach Randolph will be a huge factor in this match-up. Antonio McDyess and Dejuan Blair will have their hands full. Memphis might be able to steal a couple games, but in my opinion, the Spurs are just better. San Antonio’s discipline and intensity will eventually wear out the Grizzlies. We also got to remember, they are the Grizzlies.
Spurs, Manu Ginobili: His health will be very critical, as I believe the Spurs will have some trouble without him. His ability to create for his teammates and knock down big shots is irreplaceable. Without him, this series can go seven.
Grizzlies, Tony Allen: His playoff experience and leadership can very well be a boost to this young Grizzly team. Allen has the abilities to impact a game, both offensively and defensively.
Spurs in 6
The Hornets are limping into the playoffs after being waxed by the Mavs, and things don’t expect to be looking any brighter when they visit Staples Center. The Hornets have been struggling even more than the Lakers have. It doesn’t help when your star power forward (David West) is out for the season either. The defending champs understand what is necessary to take care of business. The Lakers must be able to slow down Chris Paul, since quick point guards have been their area of weakness. Derek Fisher won’t be able to stay in front of Paul, therefore, team defense is essential. I think that the length of the Lakers will make things difficult for New Orleans. The Hornets aren’t a great three-point shooting team so they will have problems stretching the floor. They also have no depth, and in my opinion, they aren’t that good. There is no way Kobe Bryant will allow his team to lose, especially when you have this guy in your corner.
Lakers, Andrew Bynum: His play/health will dictate the entire playoffs for the Lakers. The front -court pairing of Bynum and Gasol is the biggest in the league. If Bynum plays well, the Lakers can very well be headed to another NBA Finals.
Hornets, Chris Paul: Even if CPIII averaged a triple-double, the Hornets would still lose in six.
Lakers in 4
This matchup interests me the most since we are all aware of the Mavs’ first-round woes. The Blazers have been dangerous since acquiring Gerald Wallace, not to mention, the return of Brandon Roy. Their versatility gives the Blazers the ability to match-up well against the Mavs. Dirk Nowitzki will have to continue to carry his team if they want to avoid another early exit. It will be tough as Portland can throw Aldridge, Camby, and Wallace at him. During the last couple of seasons, everyone has been on Portland’s jock and I think, finally, this will be the year it pays off.
Mavs, Jason Kidd: Point guard play will dictate this match-up since Kidd has been playing like garbage for the past month. Not only must he be able to find his teammates, he must be able to pull the trigger on the open three.
Blazers, Brandon Roy: If Roy can show some consistency, he may be in for a big series as I don’t think Kidd or Beaubois can match-up against him.
Blazers in 7
The Nuggets got away with murder by absolutely killing the Knicks in the Melo trade; producing an 18-7 record since shipping him to NYC. The Nuggets now have depth across the entire line-up. On the other hand, the Thunder have grown up quickly since last years’ playoff run against LA. They even acquired Kendrick Perkins to boost their interior defense. This match-up can go either way since both teams match up so well. As much as I like the Thunder, I honestly think the depth of Denver will give fits for Oklahoma City. You can never have enough depth in the postseason.
Thunder, Kendrick Perkins: People tend to forget that if Perkins didn’t get injured, then it perhaps might have been Boston hoisting last year’s trophy. His experience and interior defense will be huge for OKC.
Nuggets, Team Depth: Eight players averaged double figures in the regular season. If J.R. Smith, Raymond Felton, Al Harrington, and Wilson Chandler can continue that in the playoffs then this team is going to be scary.
Nuggets in 7