Now that the NBA playoffs have begun, here are my predictions for who will be raising the Larry O'Brien Trophy this June, starting with first round matchups. The NBA Playoffs are structured similarly to the NHL playoffs, except there is no reseeding after the first round.
>Western Conference Round 1:
1 Dallas Mavericks vs. 8 Golden State Warriors
Surprisingly, the Warriors swept the season series against the Mavericks despite the Mavs having the best record in the NBA. Also, Golden State coach Don Nelson will face off against his former team in the Mavericks. Nelson will be the X factor in this series. The Warriors have had some inconsistencies during the season due to injury, but they could pull off an upset. Pick: Warriors in 7.
4 Utah Jazz vs. 5 Houston Rockets
Last year, neither team made the playoffs. Now they face each other in what could be one of the more interesting matchups. The season series was split between the teams, and this series will come down to the wire. If Utah is healthy, they have more than enough weapons to take down the Rockets. Pick: Jazz in 7.
3 San Antonio Spurs vs. 6 Denver Nuggets
The San Antonio Spurs look like the best team going into this post-season, going 23-6 since the All-Star break. San Antonio won the season series, 2-1, and the Spurs should do well in this series. Pick: Spurs in 5.
2 Phoenix Suns vs. 7 Los Angeles Lakers
The Suns have one of the most potent offenses in the NBA, which includes MVP candidate Steve Nash. However, it has been very obvious that the weakness of the Suns has been its defense. This should not make much of a difference in the series. Pick: Suns in 6.
>Eastern Conference, Round 1:
1 Detroit Pistons vs. 8 Orlando Magic
Detroit swept the season series 4-0 against the Magic. In each meeting, the Pistons managed to shut down the best center in the Eastern Conference, Orlando's Dwight Howard. The Pistons should prevail, but it won't be as easy in the playoffs. Pick: Pistons in 6.
4 Miami Heat vs. 5 Chicago Bulls
The Heat's road to any possible title defense is going to be a difficult one in the playoffs. The Bulls are a very strong overall team, especially after acquiring Ben Wallace from Detroit. The Bulls are the much better team, and Heat star Dwayne Wade may still not be 100 percent. Pick: Bulls in 6.
3 Toronto Raptors vs. 6 New Jersey Nets
Arguably the most interesting storyline going into the playoffs is the return of former Raptor Vince Carter to Toronto. The Raptors have MVP candidate Chris Bosh and No. 1 overall draft pick Andrea Bargnani, both making playoff debuts. Overall, I believe that the Raptors will prevail. Pick: Raptors in 7.
2 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 7 Washington Wizards
The Cavs and Wizards met last year in a 4-5 match-up. Cleveland won that series in six games. This year, Cleveland is much better and the Wizards' clutch star Gilbert Arenas has an ankle injury and his return is uncertain. This series will be a quick one. Pick: Cavaliers in 4.
Scott Gattie is a sophomore at West Seneca East.