2012 NBA Playoffs: The Complete Guide to the Western Conference Bracket

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2012 NBA Playoffs: The Complete Guide to the Western Conference Bracket
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The 2012 NBA playoffs commence Saturday, signaling the merciful yet mournful conclusion of a 66-game regular season that looked like a doddering dad trying to shove a broken dining room chair into his kitchen’s trash compactor.

Players experienced more “D’oh!” moments than Homer Simpson, while frustrated coaches were often asked to turn expired ground chuck into steakhouse-quality filet mignon. The endurance test a condensed slate created for the league’s 30 teams was fascinating, comical and grotesque all at once. The harebrained labor dispute’s November resolution did allow for a Christmas Day start, but it necessitated at least one back-to-back-to-back set for every squad.

The challenge of crowding that many contests into a few months meant each franchise consumed an equal portion of the resulting feces sandwich.

Thanks, lockout!

One week, Mark Cuban assailed a frantic schedule that did not include a planned stop in Washington D.C., which would have made a White House visit easier. The next, Gregg Popovich appeared ready to challenge the employees who concocted the 66-date itinerary to a no-holds barred cage match.

"Ridiculous," the Spurs coach said (via Spurs Nation).

The payoff for surviving a bizarre season looms this weekend for 16 teams. The title contenders each harbored the arduous goal of arriving intact to take a shot at securing the Larry O’Brien Trophy. The others in the postseason field just wanted to dance beyond late April. They will hope that opponent missteps lead to upset opportunities.

No team has ever pulled off a stunning postseason overthrow without making the playoffs. Shhhh...don’t tell the Houston Rockets. They need silence and space to recuperate from a breathtaking display of choke-artistry.

The 16 qualifiers, by contrast, will spend what breath remains for a whack at golden glory. Each one boasts a fatal flaw that, if exposed by the wrong foe, will cause travel agencies across the country to gain another group of customers.

How’s this for a revamp of TNT’s playoff coverage slogan: Sack up or go home.

The strongest squads survive. The meager or overmatched ones make early vacation plans.

What advantages and shortcomings does each postseason entrant possess? What are the recipes for success and doom?

Keep reading for a Western Conference primer.

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