San Antonio Spurs (1) vs. Utah Jazz (8)
Utah has youth, size, and dominant offensive rebounding (second in the league); it's easy to think Spurs vs. Grizzlies 2011 all over again. However, there are major differences this year: Utah is a below average defensive team (19th in the league), and the Spurs have a healthy Manu Ginobili.
|One more time?|
As tempting as it is to make the call for an upset again, it isn't happening this year. Utah won't be able to slow down San Antonio's offense.
Pick: San Antonio Spurs
Oklahoma City Thunder (2) vs. Dallas Mavericks (7)
|Dirk and KD are elite offensive players.|
The Maverick offense, normally a staple in the top 10, was ranked 22nd this year. Without an ultra-efficient offense, Dallas's defense, though supposedly improved from last season, will surrender too many fast-break points to the young Thunder. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden should be able to feast on Nowitzki's and Brendan Haywood's pick-n-roll defense.
Pick: Oklahoma City Thunder
Los Angeles Lakers (3) vs. Denver Nuggets (6)
|Sessions needs to perform well.|
Sessions changes the game. His ability to deliver the ball to the All-NBA-caliber 7-footers allows L.A. to dominate the inside matchup, which means less fast-breaking for the deep, energetic Nuggets. Denver doesn't have a single big man than can contend with Bynum or Gasol, and that's a damning matchup disadvantage.
Pick: Los Angeles Lakers
Memphis Grizzlies (4) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (5)
This is the most difficult matchup to assess because of injury variables. Is Zach Randolph back to form? Is Chris Paul's hamstring going to limit him?
|CP3 's health is the most important variable in the series.|
But L.A.'s number four-ranked offense doesn't turn the ball over (.127 TOV%) thanks to CP3 (2.1 turnovers per game), and they don't rely on a post scorer. Instead, the Clippers attack with the Paul/Griffin pick-n-roll. If Paul is healthy, Memphis will have a hard time stopping the Clippers.
Pick: Los Angeles Clippers