(1) Dallas vs. (8) Golden State
Nellie’s baaaack. This is probably the most interesting 1 vs. 8 matchup in many years. Why? For one, the Warriors have simply owned the Mavs over the last two seasons, winning five in a row between the clubs – and no other team beat Dallas twice this year. Secondly, they’re hot, winning nine of their last ten, and finishing the season on a 16-5 run, no doubt sparked by the midseason trades of the Bonehead Brother and Troy Murphy, allowing the Warriors to play Nellie’s preferred smallball style. Still, the Mavs have great players up and down their lineup, and didn’t win 67 games as a fluke. Due to both teams looking to push the ball, this should be a tremendously entertaining series, but the Mavs’ experience will be the ultimate difference. Make no mistake, though, they will get a scare here.
The Pick – Dallas rides Nowitzki to a closeout win at home in Game 7. Mavs in seven.
(2) Phoenix vs. (7) LA Lakers
Over/Under on Kobe 50s? 1.5. See, this is why we love the Varsity. Another juicy matchup. Since Kobe has decided that the only way LA has a chance to win games is by going medieval on his opponents, watching just to see the Mamba pursue Jordan’s record 63 vs. the Celtics is worth the time. We also love the subplot of Raja Bell firmly implanting himself in Kobe’s head (and shorts) – perhaps this will be the year that Kobe remembers “that kid.” Even so, despite last year’s close series until Kobe decided to “set up his teammates,” the two teams are further apart this time around. Phoenix has Stoudemire back patrolling the middle, and the Lakers have regressed at key non-Kobe positions (particularly Smush Parker and Lamar Odom). Phil Jackson will have to find a new Zen mantra in order to inspire enough confidence into those guys to beat the Suns this year. Not gonna happen.
The Pick – Kobe as The Man? Zero playoff series wins in two seasons – make it three this time around. Suns in five.