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LCB Hoops Picks: Western Conference, First Round

April 16, 2010

On Thursday, Langston and Berndon gave you their picks for the Eastern Conference. This time around they break down the Western Conference match-ups of the first round.
Langston: I'd be lying to you if I told you I knew the Lakers were ready to defend their crown. Since the calendar turned the team has been hit with injury after injury and at times they have displayed spotty execution, struggled from deep, looked confused on defensive rotations, and played with a disconcerting indifference. It's almost as if they're the Thunder, you know, the team led by a 21 year-old lacking any meaningful big game experience. But they're still the defending champs and held such a big lead in the West that they could pick and choose the games they played or rested, something no other team in the best conference had the luxury to do. Kobe finally got some time to heal and even though it wasn't that much, it should help. Andrew is back, regrouping the most dangerous back-court in the league and the key to their championship dreams. Sasha is hurt and though he is one of their best bench defenders, it removes any anxiety of him chucking the ball with each touch. In spite of their utter lack of cohesiveness entering game one, I cannot doubt this team. After all, since Pau joined the team, the worst they've done is lose in the Finals. So, until they lose four games in a single series, I'll be my typical homer self expecting the World from these Lakers.


Berndon: These are the games that I will pay a good deal more attention to. The West had all 8 teams win 50 games, and both the level of play and the balance and equality of all the teams involved makes at least 2 of the 4 series a coin flip. And even though I'm pretty sure the Lake Show will advance against Oklahoma City, they're going to get a battle from Durant and the boys in their first playoff test. Everything else should be really close, with matchups that are more fitting of a Conference Semi or Conference Final round. That's how good the West has been this year.

Picks
Langston
(2) Dallas Mavericks v. (7) San Antonio Spurs: These two teams probably know each other better than any two teams in the league. They battle over the Southwest crown every year and they've played in three of the past five playoffs, including the Spurs first first-round defeat since 2000 in the 2009 playoffs. You can expect big games each night from Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki, and you can expect DeJaun Blair to rack up a ton of rebounds and Jason Kidd to get assist after assist. The x-factor's of the series will be the health of San Antonio's back-court and the Manu-Caron/Marion match-up. George Hill is dealing with a sore ankle and Tony is struggling with an injured hand that is clearly effecting his shooting touch. If those two can play healthy and Manu can continue his scorching play, the Spurs should take this is in six. But since I don't see all of that happening, I'll take this series going seven games with the Mavericks winning thanks to both their depth and home-court advantage.


(3) Phoenix Suns v. (6) Portland Trailblazers: Normally, I would be salivating for a series with these two teams, but with the injury issues in Portland my excitement has been subdued. Brandon Roy is a beast, but as we saw earlier this year the Blazers just aren't the same team without their leader as they will be in this series. The Suns are an unstoppable monster on offense thanks to the immortal Steve Nash and his forever changing cast of scorers. Their talents are enhanced with their terrific bench that is paced by the perpetually progressing Goran Dragic and the continually neglected Channing Frye, who together get the crowd off their feet and have the ability to put the game away in a matter of minutes. I'll take the Suns in 5, making a potentially great series look embarrassingly easy.

Berndon
(1) Los Angeles Lakers v. (8) Oklahoma City Thunder: I don't think David Stern could have scripted this any better. The league's next superstar and perennial MVP candidate going up against the defending champs. There's even already been some bad blood spewed about, with Grandpa Phil bitching already that KD gets to the line way too much. Durant was offended, and I'm looking forward to seeing whether or not Artest can check him, or whether he'll average something outer worldly like 40 ppg for the series.  I think Thabo Sefoloshia can give Kobe problems, and that the Thunder will stretch this one to 6. The Lakers will get by, but it won't be easy by any means.

(4) Denver Nuggets v. (5)  Utah Jazz : I genuinely feel bad for Denver and the fact that they're not going to advance nearly as far as last season because their Coach will not be on the bench. This is clearly a different team with Adrian Dantley on the bench. The personality of the team has changed, and I'm not sold on his ability to handle the pressure of playoff basketball. Plus he was on the 1980's Pistons, whom I absolutely loathe. At the other end, Utah is less talented, but Jerry Sloan has been there time after time. He'll know what buttons to push, and with AK 47 coming back with a clean bill of health, I look for Utah to also take this one in 6.

2 comments:

Russ said...

If the Thunder had somebody who could effectively defend Gasol/Bynum inside, I would pick them to win, but they are to get crushed inside. They should have traded for Camby.

April 18, 2010 at 10:48 AM
Langston said...

They're fine. This wasn't supposed to be the Thunder's year. As it is, they have a team that can learn, improve, and be great together for the foreseeable future. If they traded for Camby, they would have sacrificed that for a chance at winning a couple games.

April 18, 2010 at 6:44 PM

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