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  1. It's that time of the year again. Who else caught that 60 point curtain call last night by Kobe Bean Bryant? Or the Golden State Warriors' record-breaking 73rd win? What a time to be alive.  
    Onto the picks:
    Western Conference
    Houston Rockets @ Golden State Warriors
    Not only did the Warriors sweep the Rockets 3-0, by an average margin of 12.3 points, they are also the Latest and Greatest Team of All Time. The only thing left for them to accomplish is a dominant playoff run, something they failed to do last year. The Rockets are much worse this year than last year, where they were promptly outclassed in the Western Conference Finals 4-1. James Harden is a good scorer, but he lacks leadership qualities necessary for a champion, and Dwight Howard is long past his physical prime, incapable of dominating longer than in brief spurts.
    GSW in a sweep: 4-0
    Memphis Grizzlies @ San Antonio Spurs
    Not only are the Spurs well-rested, loaded, proven, and hungry, they also have controlled the Grizzlies since that shocking first round upset in 2011. Moreover, neither Conley nor Gasol the Younger are suiting up, and the Grizzlies have fallen ass-backwards into the playoffs, having coughed up 12 of their last 14 games.
    SAS in another sweep: 4-0
    Dallas Mavericks @ Oklahoma City Thunder
    Should be an interesting contrast of styles between the athletic, iso-heavy Thunder and the veteran, systemic Mavericks. However, Westbrook and Durant will exploit the Mavericks' subpar man to man defense, force them to collapse repeatedly. Although Mavericks coach Carlisle is one of the 5 best in the NBA, and facing a rookie college coach in Donovan, he can only do so much with a vastly inferior hand.
    OKC 4-1
    Portland Trailblazers @ Los Angeles Clippers
    PG Chris Paul has largely owned his opposite number, Damian Lillard, and will continue to neutralize him with the Clippers' superior pick and roll defense. Even if the rest of the Blazers flourish, they need Lillard to overcome the more talented Clippers. However, Blake Griffin has not rediscovered his old form after missing half of the season with his leg injury and the suspension.
    LAC, 4-2
    Eastern Conference
    Detroit Pistons @ Cleveland Cavaliers
    Surprisingly, the Pistons do match up well with the Cavaliers: they have enough forwards to control LBJ, and a terrific defender in Caldwell Pope to terrorize Kyrie Irving. Plus the only Cavalier capable of slowing down the emerging Pistons giant, Drummond, is Mozgov, a benched guy who's lost his confidence. But LBJ has returned to his dominant MVP form in recent weeks.
    CAVS, 4-2
    Indiana Pacers @ Toronto Raptors
    The Raptors have prevented George from scoring 20 points, limiting him to 20 of 65 FG attempts in four regular season games. Despite being a veteran of the playoffs, George must step up to give the underdogs a chance. The Raptors are still trying to get that playoff monkey off their backs, having failed to win a series since the Vince Carter days back in 2001. They are capable of matching up any lineup - be it small or big, and throw enough bodies at George all series long. However, if the Raptors' guards, Lowry and DeRozan don't perform at peak levels, they could be sent home early again.
    TOR, 4-1
    Charlotte Hornets @ Miami Heat
    Two dramatically different teams. The Hornets prefer playing faster, pushing the pace. But the veteran Heat play better defense, and have more isolation scorers in Johnson and Wade, which is absolutely necessary in the playoffs. If the Hornets can keep the Heat spread, and keep their passing snappy, they can steal the series.
    MIA, 4-3
    Boston Celtics @ Atlanta Hawks
    Both teams are elite on defense and play at a fast pace, but the Hawks have the two best players in Horford and Millsap, who will dominate the inferior Celtics frontcourt. Moreover, the Hawks are far more battle-tested in the playoffs, having won series, while none of the Celtics have even won a single game. Coach Stevens is brilliant but he'll be offset by an equally capable Coach Budenholzer.
    ATL, 4-3
    With another season right around the corner, It's high time to essay forth another college try at forecasting the NBA, but I will be limiting myself to playoff teams. After all, who can be arsed to write about the sad-sack teams, much less read about them?
    Eastern Conference

    1. Cleveland Cavaliers. The Big Three of LBJ, Irving, and Love did not find a comfort zone last season, but once Irivng and Love went down with injuries in the playoffs, Coach Blatt found the magic formula by going with an old school big lineup with Mozgov, Thompson and LBJ up front. This season, since Love and Irving will be healthy, exactly how Coach Blatt deploys the roster will be the major narrative of the season, after whether LBJ will be the first player to lead his team to six straight Finals berth in the modern era.

    2. Atlanta Hawks. Despite surprising last season, too many pundits remain unconvinced, dismissing the Hawks as a one-season wonder, a fluke. They will win due to a great coaching staff, a fantastic system, and a loaded roster, although there's no superstar who can bail them out when necessary. DeMarre Carroll is gone, but he's easily replaceable, as long the other players do it collectively.

    3. Toronto Raptors. The GM Ujiri has turned around the Raptors since he arrived from the Denver Nuggets, and they upgraded on defense with pitbulls in Carroll and Biyombo. With PG Lowry rededicated to a new regiment, the Raptors may surprise and muscle their way into the top.

    4. Miami Heat. With a formidable starting unit (Whiteside, Dragic, Deng, Bosh and Wade), and if the max guys stay healthy, the Heat can rise and challenge the incumbents in Cleveland. But the starters are far too fragile to survive 82 games.

    5. Chicago Bulls. The Bulls could reach as high as the second seed or fall low enough and struggle to make the playoffs. Hence, this middling spot is just right. Pau Gasol was happy to escape from LA, but he won't be featured much in newcomer coach Hoiberg's run and gun attack. But ultimately, it doesn't look like Derrick Rose will ever rediscover his old MVP form. Moreover, the offense will be better under Hoiberg, but their defense will suffer, and that spells a slow decline and a down cycle.

    6. Washington Wizards. A dynamic backcourt in Wall and Beal will not be enough to offset a shitty offseason. It looks like the management at Washington is just spinning wheels until the free agent class of 2016 looks their way.

    7. Milwaukee Bucks. They used to laugh at Coach Kidd, but after a few shrewd moves in the last two years, nobody is laughing now. Moreover, free agent Greg Monroe will offset the losses of Pachulia and Ilyasova, but there's not enough experience and chemistry to muscle into the top ranks just yet. The Bucks' loaded roster are cursed with potential, and will remain a team of the future.

    8. Final Playoff Spot. The final playoff seed will be clinched by a .500 team or worse. Indiana Pacers, if George is back to his old form, could make it. Orlando Magic with a loaded backcourt and a hard ass for coach, has a shot. The Pistons under Van Gundy do, too, but I think the Boston Celtics have the most realistic shot since they are rebuilding the right way - piece by piece, with patience, instead of waiting for a homerun in the draft. Moreover, their playoff experience last year will help immeasurably over the other also-rans.

    Western Conference

    1. San Antonio Spurs. Now that the Spurs have signed 3 time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, they will have the best and most consistent and versatile scoring option since Duncan was an MVP caliber player 10 years ago. As long the Spurs stay healthy and Coach Pop doesn't sacrifice too many games for sake of rest, the Spurs will be the best in the league.

    2. Golden State Warriors. Due to an improved western conference, it's unlikely that the Warriors will win 67 games again, but they will remain serious championship contenders. While most will monitor the Warriors' small ball lineup and three point attempts, the real secret is whether the Warriors will play defense as hard as ever, or succumb to the disease of more and rest on their laurels.

    3. Oklahoma City Thunder. Kevin Durant and Westbrook are by far the best one-two punch in the league. If KD returns to form and Westbrook stays healthy, the Thunder will embark on a season-long revenge tour. But I have little faith in Coach Donovan, because the NBA is far more sophisticated than college basketball, which means he has to lean heavily on his assistants (former head coach Maurice Cheeks and Monty Williams).

    4. Los Angeles Clippers. Chris Paul is a great player, but he is beginning to decline. His monopolizing of the ball forces everyone into dependents. Moreover, the undersized Paul wears down in the playoffs every year, because of this very fact - he holds onto the ball until he finds an opportunity to get rid of it, and opposing teams bully him for it. So, the Clippers must adjust by realizing that Blake Griffin is their best player, and make him control the game instead like Charles Barkley used to 20 years ago.

    5. Houston Rockets. The Rockets were lucky last year, because they finished 5th in point differential in the West and 7th overall, but clinched the second seed in the West and overcame a 3-1 hole vs the Clippers, only to get waxed by the Warriors. The Rockets will contend behind MVP caliber Harden, but it really depends on Howard and his health to vault them beyond the others.

    6. Memphis Grizzlies. Despite being extremely physical and built for the playoff grind, they still lack consistent outside shooting. That will allow opposing teams to clog the paint and slow down the Grizzlies' bigmen without worrying about getting burned from beyond the arc.

    7. New Orleans Pelicans. Although the Unibrow Anthony Davis has posted some historic numbers, he has to learn how to translate numbers into team success, and lift his team to new levels. If the Pelicans crack 55 wins, Davis will be an MVP finalist.

    8. Utah Jazz. The Jazz finished strong last year according to a sustainable formula: improved defense. Gobert and Favors are terrific talents in the frontcourt, and the swingman Gordon Hayward will continue to mature into an all-around talent.

    Dallas Mavericks? Despite making the playoffs 14 of the last 15 years, the loss of DeAndre Jordan will be too hard to overcome, since they lost Tyson Chandler to the Suns. And who really thinks that Deron Williams will ever get his game back?

    Sacramento Kings? No doubt, their roster is an interesting mix, and Coach Karl has a history of maxing out results from teams with strong personalities, but there's way too much volatility in the front office to expect a legitimate playoff bid.

    Los Angeles Lakers? If Kobe Bryant was 10 years younger, he could lead this mediocre team into the playoffs. At best, he will push them towards .500, but his body cannot hold up for 82 games.

  3. Eastern Conference

    Brooklyn Nets @ Atlanta Hawks
    The Nets can win if C Brook Lopez keeps playing like an All-Star and overpowers C Horford, forcing the Hawks to double-team him and open up shots for the Nets' perimeter guys. However, the Hawks will win because they are a well-oiled machine where players will consistently step up and cover for one another. Moreover, they're a confident team led by a superior coach, and will be too multi-dimensional for the Nets to counteract.
    Hawks in 5

    Boston Celtics @ Cleveland Cavaliers
    The Celtics can steal this series if their deep backcourt controls PG Kyrie Irving. The Celtics actually flourished after the all-star break, and are rolling right now. However, the Cavaliers will win handily because LBJ will dominate the Celtics by feeding easy buckets to C Mozgov and PF Thompson, taking pressure off playoff-rookies in Love & Irving.
    Cavaliers in 5

    Milwaukee Bucks @ Chicago Bulls
    The Bucks can steal this series if F Middleton limits Butler and PG MCW destroys Rose, and their collective athleticism and length forces the tempo into their liking. However, the Bulls will win because even if PG Rose and SG Butler are shut down, they can go to Pau Gasol – he averaged 24 and 13 against the Bucks this season. The Bucks do not have enough offensive firepower to keep up with the now-versatile Bulls (Noah and Gibson up front, Dunleavy and Hinrich from outside, and the unstoppable Mirotic off the bench).
    Chicago in 6

    Washington Wizards @ Toronto Raptors
    The Raptors can win if PG Lowry wins his matchup vs PG John Wall, and they actually play defense for a change. The Wizard will win if Wall relentlessly attacks the hoop instead of settling for the open jumper. As long the Wizards play stout defense and slow down the pace to prevent the Raptors from going off, the series won't go the distance.
    Wizards in 6

    Western Conference

    New Orleans Pelicans @ Golden State Warriors
    The Pelicans can win if Anthony Davis completely dominates the paint and limit the Warriors to jumpshots. Yes, they're good from outside, but they're also prolific slashers. However, the Warriors will win cuz they're nigh invincible at home (39-2), and they have a stout interior defense in Bogut and DPOY favorite, Draymond Green. Expect the Splash Brothers to detonate regardless of what the Pelicans do.
    Warriors in 5

    Dallas Mavericks @ Houston Rockets
    The Mavericks can win if SG Ellis offsets MVP candidate Harden, on offense and defense both, and both PF Nowitzki & SF Chandler are effective and productive. However, the Rockets will win because of the Beard, who hasn't led the team into the second round. As long Howard controls the paint and the combination of veterans in Prigioni & Terry step up, the Rockets will eke out a competitive 7 game victory.
    Rockets in 7

    San Antonio Spurs @ Los Angeles Clippers
    The Clippers will win if PG Paul consistently feeds PF Griffin inside, who can out-athlete either defender (Splitter or Duncan) and control the pace. However, the Spurs will win because they're peaking at the right time. Even though they're playing on the road, the veteran Spurs will not get rattled. Expect SF Leonard to dominate his inferior counterpart in Barnes or Crawford and lead the Three Amigos to the second round.
    Spurs in 7

    Portland Trailblazers @ Memphis Grizzlies
    The Blazers can win if PG Lillard and PF Aldridge dominate, and their bench steps up. However, the Grizzlies will win as long they go through their bigs in PF Randolph and C Gasol. The Grindhouse is a tough place to win. Then again - neither team is at full strength, so it could come down to whichever team's replacements steps up.
    Grizzlies by 6
  4. Another season brings forth another bunch of narratives to drown in or float until a timely rescue boat of logicians and degenerate gamblers happen by.

    Eastern Conference (playoff teams only)

    1. Chicago Bulls
    Luckily for Chicago fans, and Derrick Rose himself, the FIBA World Cup was a great step towards regaining that old MVP form. Free agent Pau Gasol replaces the vastly overrated and overpaid Carlos Boozer - tho not a tough mofo, he's a true seven footer who will add scoring and size up front next to Joakim Noah. Expect 55 to 60 plus wins, if Rose stays healthy throughout.

    2. Cleveland Cavaliers
    LBJ and Uncle Drew and K-Love are already believers of Coach Blatt's system that creates space and open look with cuts and ball movement. I don't foresee a clumsy beginning like the 9-8 start of the Miami Heat in 2010-11, but there will be growing pains. Coach Blatt is legitimate, but the NBA learning curve is quite steep.

    3. Toronto Raptors
    No longer surprising anyone this year, the young nucleus with DeRozan & Lowry will continue to mature.

    4. Washington Wizards
    Just like the Raptors, the Wizards are young and surprising. Spearheaded by their dynamic backcourt in Wall and Beal, plus a powerful frontcourt, they can take another leap from playoff-level to contender-level.

    5. Miami Heat
    Bosh will return to his salad days at Toronto, but wiser and more skilled. Wade will continue to show flashes of his old self, but less and less often.

    6. Brooklyn Nets
    New coach Lionel Hollins will try to right the sinking ship, but unless Deron Williams regains his old form, this team will not even match last season's brief turnaround.

    7. Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets
    Al Jefferson and friends will crack 40 wins and qualify for the playoffs, but not much else.

    8. Indiana Pacers
    Indeed, they lost their two top scorers in Paul George (horrific injury) and "Born Ready" Stephenson (free agency), but the Eastern conference is quite weak, and nobody else qualifies. Hawks? Knicks? Puh-leez.

    Western Conference

    1. San Antonio Spurs
    Yes, Virginia, it is a dynasty going strong 15 years and counting. Expect another 50-plus wins and deep playoff run, if not necessarily a repeat.

    2. Los Angeles Clippers
    A rough preseason (rebounding kinks) will be a forgotten memory if Griffin takes the last step to MVP candidacy. If OKC or San Antonio suffer a down season, the Clippers can step in and steal the title.

    3. Oklahoma City Thunder
    If and only if Durant and Westbrook and Ibaka are healthy during the postseason...

    4. Golden State Warriors
    Expect new coach Kerr to infuse offensive creativity with the best shooters in the league and maintian defensive integrity.

    5. Portland Trailblazers
    Another surprise, but I can't expect them to fly under the radar again this year.

    6. Dallas Mavericks
    The two Chandlers will add fresh blood on offense and defense, but it's just too bad that Dirk Nowitzki is no longer in his prime.

    7. Houston Rockets
    Yes, they got weaker with free agent defections, but reserve big Kostas Papanikolaou might help off the bench.

    8. Memphis Grizzlies
    2 years ago, the Grizz were on the verge of title contention. Then they began that slouch towards Gommorah...
  5. East conference

    Indiana vs Atlanta

    If Atlanta's perimeter guys get hot and stay hot from outside, and the Pacers fail to utilize their size advantage, the Hawks can win.

    Because Indiana is still a powerhouse defensive team, & Atlanta is average on both offense & defense, the Pacers will win.

    Pacers in 5

    Miami vs Charlotte

    If Al Jefferson turns into Wilt Chamberlain and dominates Miami up front, with post play and on the boards, the Bobcats can win.

    Because this series is tailor made for LBJ, the Heat will not have trouble advancing. Expect several nuclear explosions from the King, who may be pissed that he's not the MVP this year.

    Heat in 4

    Toronto vs Brooklyn

    If Toronto can run and gun with Lowry & DeRozan, and out-athlete the Nets, they can win. They do have the right antidote because Brooklyn is now oriented from the outside-in.

    Because Brooklyn is full of playoff scarred vets, all primed for the money season, they'll move on.

    Nets in 6

    Chicago vs Washington

    If Wall & Beal play with confidence and focus, and Nene is healthy enough to overpower Noah, they can upset the Bulls.

    Because Coach Thibodeau will have the perfect defensive strategy for Washington, exploiting their impatience, the Bulls will advance to the next round.

    Bulls in 6

    West conference

    San Antonio vs Dallas

    If Dirk Nowizki reverts to his MVP peak, averages 30 & 15, & Ellis wreaks havoc, and their defense controls Parker, without doubling Duncan or leaving the Sharpshooters around the perimeter, Dallas can steal this series.

    Because San Antonio is utterly the superior team in every regard, and they're built to destroy Dallas, it'll be a sweep.

    Spurs in 4

    Oklahoma City vs Memphis

    If Z-Bo & Gasol the Younger control the interior & their outside shooters hit consistently, they can steal the series.

    Because KD & Rusty are two of the best players in this series, as well as the best duo in the league, Oklahoma City will not break a sweat more than once.

    Thunder in 5

    Los Angeles vs Golden State

    If the Splash Brothers hit everything & David Lee competently replaces the injured Bogut, they can steal this series.

    Because Coach Rivers has successfully changed the team's mindset & has them focusing on defense & half court plays, and Griffin has become the best player, they will advance.

    Clippers in 5

    Houston vs Portland

    If Howard controls both ends of the floor & Harden produces efficiently as the go to guy, they can win the series.

    Because Aldridge & Lillard will out score Howard & Harden, Portland will survive this series.

    Blazers in 7

  6. Post on NBA 2013 Playoff picks in Play

    By The Heretic, posted
    East Conference

    Heat vs Bucks

    If the Bucks' guards successfully penetrate the Miami defense & hit 3 point shooters with kickouts, and Larry Sanders protects the hoop from LBJ & Wade's thunderous drives, it'll be competitive. But they lack focus, savvy and discipline to even slow down a vastly superior team in the Heat.

    Heat 4-0

    Knicks vs Celtics

    If KG, PP, JT all dial the clock back several years, slow the pace down, create havoc in the paint and saddle fouls on the Knicks' frontcourt, and stop their 3 point marksmen, they can steal the series.

    Knicks will take it because the Celtics are too old and too predictable. Plus Anthony seems to be at the peak of his game.

    Knicks 4-2

    Pacers vs Hawks

    If the Hawks stay smart and dilligently attack the Pacers' tough defense, they can win. But the Pacers are from top to bottom the bigger, stronger, meaner, and sharper team.

    Pacers 4-1

    Nets vs Bulls

    If center Lopez controls the paint and D-Will & JJ control the outside, the Nets will control the series. But the Bulls' fanatical defense will not allow either to happen. Plus the Bulls' coach Tibs is far superior to the Nets' coach PJ Carlesimo in every aspect.

    Bulls 4-2

    Western Conference

    Thunder vs Rockets

    If the Rockets get hot from outside and keep fast breaking into easy buckets off forced turnovers, they can steal a game or two. But the Thunder have two of the top 5 players in the league, and a solid roster and a solid system.

    Plus Harden has not matured his game sufficiently to figure out how to score if he's prevented from driving and his outside shot is off.

    Thunder 4-0

    Spurs vs Lakers

    If D-Ho & Gasol control the paint at both ends of the court, they can push the series. Since their perimeter guys can't create for themselves and they're limited by a short bench they have no alternative. The Spurs are the better team all-around - deeper, more consistent, far better coached, and will not beat themselves with bad turnovers or bad defense. They won't even need Manu Ginobili or T-Mac.

    Spurs 4-1

    Nuggets vs Warriors

    If the Warriors get fiery hot from outside, they can steal a game or two. But the Nuggets are too athletic, too deep, even minus Gallinari. They'll be relentless - running, on the boards, attacking the paint. Both are running teams, but Warriors only run for threes, while Nuggs run for dunks.

    Nuggets 4-1

    Clippers vs Grizzlies

    If Paul & Griffin are effective in the paint and the rest of the team sticks to the details, they will win the series. The Grizzlies will force the tempo to a deadstill and make each possession a matter of life and death.

    Last year, the Clippers stole the series in 7 cuz the Grizzlies choked away a 26 point lead in game one, lost games 3 and 4 by a couple of points. This time they're healthier and more experienced.

    Grizzlies, 4-3

    Originally posted at http://www.insidehoo...d.php?p=8467282
  7. Since the Super Bowl is over, we can move on to other competitive sports - and my favorite is the NBA.

    As it stands right now, the best teams are the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, LA Clippers in the west, and the Miami Heat & New York Knicks in the east.

    The MVP race is still a two-horse race between LBJ and Kevin Durant, but in the last few weeks, LBJ has surged ahead.

    Thoughts, comments?
  8. Despite landing the best center in the league, we've seen this show before.

    1968, Lakers land Wilt Chamberlain, fresh off 3 MVP seasons in a row. Wilt + Baylor + West? Dynasty, guarant-sheed.

    What happened? The Lakers blew a 2-0 lead in the 1969 Finals. They didn't even win a title till 1972.

    1975, Lakers land Kareem Abdul Jabbar, the dominant center in the league. There was no dominant team in the mid-70's.

    What happened? The Lakers didn't even make the 1976 playoffs. Won diddly-poo till 1980.

    1996, Lakers sign Shaquille O'Neal to 126 million contract. All the great stars from the mid-late 80s were on their decline, and Shaq was just entering his prime. They collected the most talent in the league.

    What happened? The Lakers couldn't get past savvier teams like Utah & San Antonio, and did diddly-poo for 4 years till Phil Jackson rode into Los Angeles.

    2012, Lakers trade for Dwight Howard.

    You know the drill.
  9. Post on NBA 2012 Playoff picks in Play

    By The Heretic, posted
    East Conference

    Bulls vs Sixers If 76ers take care of the ball, score consistently vs Bulls' unfriendly defense, and slow down Rose's penetration, they win.

    But the Bulls are deeper, meaner, and far more skilled.

    Even with a hobbled Rose, Chicago in 5.

    Heat vs Knicks
    If Melo goes thermonuclear (30ppg at good percentage) & Amare doesn't shit the bed, & Chandler rejects easy buckets, & solid production from bench guys like JR, Novak, Shumpert, they win.

    Too bad Miami is more talented, and more reliable on defense. LBJ will go off.

    Miami in 5 or 6.

    Pacers vs Magic
    If SVG offense breaks every known 3-point playoff record, and the Magic actually play defense minus Howard, they can win.

    But Pacers are deeper, more talented and sharper. Their perimeter defense will neutralize Orlando's threeball offense, & Hibbert turns into a mini-Howard.

    Indiana in a sweep.

    Hawks vs Celtics
    If Hawks play pedal-to-metal, and diligent halfcourt offense, (attack inside, not settle for cheap jumpers outside) and force Celts into tough shots, they win.

    However... Celts are rested enough for at least the first round. Could be the most competitive match-up of them all, cuz both teams are dead even.

    I feel Rondo's versatile game, PP's clutch shots, and KG's stubborn D will be enough for 7 games.

    West Conference

    Spurs vs Jazz
    If Jazz bully the Spurs up front, they can steal this.

    But despite coasting through the season they've dominated, which means they're much deeper and more talented than the media or ISH thinks. Moreover: Duncan remains productive in his limited minutes & he is rested/healthy, then Pop ups his minutes for domination.

    Spurs in 5

    Thunder vs Mavericks
    If Dirk emerges from Wayback Machine circa 2011 Finals, & Mavs force both KD and Westbrook into bad shots, the Mavs win.

    But the Thunder are far more energetic and younger. Their firepower alone will be too much for the aging & exhausted Mavericks.

    Upset special: Harden is cleared, but nobody knows how he will play. Plus the Thunder has slipped in the last 4 weeks or so and gave up the #1 spot to the coasting Spurs.

    Thunder in 6

    Lakers vs Nuggets
    If Nuggets go small-ball, take advantage of the Lakers on fastbreaks, pick & roll in halfcourt, they win.

    But Kobe seems rested and primed, and as long Bynum & Gasol go hard, post strong, they'll get easy shots and be locked in on defense, they take this series.

    Lakers in 6

    Upset special: Nuggets have higher point differential (3 to 1.4) and are younger, deeper, & more athletic. If Bryant doesn't have enough Kobe-ball for an entire series, and the absence of World Peace shortens Coach Brown's bench, and Session turtles up....

    Grizzlies vs Clippers
    If Paul & B-Griff are dominant, & Clips play defense as well as they lob passes for highlight dunks, they win.

    Too bad the Grizzlies are tougher, stronger, meaner, and better constituted for the playoffs (halfcourt as well as wreaking havoc with turnovers and scoring easy points on fastbreaks).

    Grizz will wear down Paul and despite 1 or 2 big games from him, they win in 6.