The NBA West will produce one team standing in the end, but what a battle it will be to whittle things down. All eight teams are good, some excellent, but perhaps no great team in the bunch. The reason may be they have punched the hell out of each other during the regular NBA season, and the playoffs will be more of the same, but jack up the intensity several notches and there you are.
Easily the best matchup of the first round is the San Antonio Spurs versus the Phoenix Suns. Shaquille O’ Neal has been traded for this express reason, to produce against the likes of Tim Duncan. These teams do not like one another, and it seems like Duncan and Shaq have stood in each other’s way going on a decade for the right to be called the best. I had the Spurs upending the Suns in 6 in the West Finals before the season started, so let’s stay with Spurs in 6, just at an earlier date. The Spurs and Suns will wear one another out. Watch the effect on the winner as the playoffs progress.
The New Orleans Hornets let the #1 seed slip away late, and they get the Dallas Mavericks in the opening round. It is ironic that the Mavericks come in this season as the low seed, not much being expected. Last year, it was the Mavericks as the #1 seed that got pasted and wasted by the Golden State Warriors, an embarrassing loss for Dallas. I like Chris Paul a lot, but I smell an upset here. Dirk Nowitzki is one of the best when healthy, and he has been playing in MVP form the past couple of weeks. Dallas has the experience, and they have something to prove to themselves and the NBA. Go with Dallas in 6 to upset the up and coming Hornets.
The Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets are both really good teams, but just not at the elite level that it will take to win the NBA West. This is a rematch as well from a year ago, when the Jazz defeated the Rockets in 7 games, including a game 7 win on the road. I think the Rockets had a great season, especially the way they played without Yao Ming at the end. It ends here, with the Utah Jazz pecking away and taking the Rockets out in 5.