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NBA Western Conference Semi-Finals Preview

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 27:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts against the Utah Jazz in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on April 27, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers defeated the Jazz 107-96 to win the series 4-1. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Bare KnucksAnalyst IMay 4, 2009

The Western Conference Playoffs have created two very interesting matchups. While the Nuggets-Mavs series is sure to be an offensive explosion with neither team showing any defensive prowess, the Lakers-Rockets series is a matchup of two of the best frontcourts in the league (Gasol-Bynum-Odom vs. the international stars Scola-Ming), despite the Lakers winning all four regular season games. Apart from the on the court matchups, some extra-curricular activity also is budding its head.

The LA-Houston series was kicked off by Ron Artest’s implication that Kobe is not the best player he has ever guarded. Kobe and Artest have had altercations on the court this year highlighted on March 11th in Houston this year. The two had gotten “tangled up” several times as well as many in-your-face verbal altercations.

As we have seen many times before, Artest proved to just provoke Bryant who went on to score 37 points with 18 coming in the final quarter. When the flamboyant Craig Sager interviewed Artest recently, Artest, probably thinking he was being witty, made the comment that Brandon Roy was the best shooting guard that he had played against.

This, undoubtedly, was a jab at Kobe Bryant meant to put the pressure on the reigning MVP in this coming series. Despite the confidence that Artest showed, something that very few defenders emit when the challenge of guarding Kobe is in their hands, historically provoking Bryant proves only to be the opening of Pandora’s Box, with all hope being lost for the other team.

Perhaps this tactic will motivate Kobe to be the scorer early on instead of getting his teammates involved, in which case I retract my opinion of this being a stupid move on Artest’s part. Either way, this series should be entertaining with the clashing of some of the league’s biggest name stars as its showcase.

The Nuggets-Mavs series is sure to be exciting with both teams ability to score the basketball. The Mavs had a surprising April winning six of their last eight moving themselves into the No. 6 spot in the West.

They carried on with the momentum from the end of the season and quite handily took care of the veteran Spurs in five games. The Nuggets impressively dismissed the Hornets from the playoffs despite a Game 3 hiccup (Game 4 was 121-63 remember) in five games as well. The underlying story to this game is a duel between a player (J.R. Smith) and an owner (could it be anyone other than Mark Cuban?)

In January, the two got in a verbal yelling match, which ended with Mark Cuban being slapped with a $25,000 fine and no penalty to J.R. Smith. Smith claims that he will not be affected by this past and that his one and only regard will be winning the series at hand.

I’ll believe that when my shit turns purple and smells like rainbow sherbert. Due to his personality, as well as his teammates, I think that turning the other cheek is not in his repertoire.

This series will come down to who can make the stops when needed and maybe more importantly, can the Nugget’s keep their mind on the game and series at hand instead of going off on vendettas of proving themselves when things get hairy?

[More sports news and analysis - Bareknucks.com]

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