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NBA Playoffs: Western Conference Semifinals Preview

DALLAS - APRIL 23:  Forward Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks during play with the San Antonio Spurs in Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Center on April 23, 2009 in San Antonio, Texas. 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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Pete TreperinasCorrespondent IMay 4, 2009

LA Lakers (1) vs. Houston Rockets (5)

Houston surprised me in their first round series. In Game One, the Rockets blew Portland out and really set the tone.

The Rockets' role players had an excellent series as well. Von Wafer was a surprising handful and Aaron Brooks was filling the void that Tracy McGrady left. With Ron Artest playing solid D, and Yao Ming's offensive presence, I think Houston has a shot at beating the Lakers. 

Kobe and Co. were never really challenged by Utah in the first round. Andrew Bynum hasn't been as much of an addition to this team in the playoffs as I originally thought he'd be. This is why I look to Bynum to become kind of an x-factor in this series. 

Ming's domination in the post against Portland isn't something we'll be seeing in the semis. Ming was going up against the inexperienced Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla, now he'll have to deal with Bynum and Pau Gasol. 

Houston shot lights out throughout the first round. I don't think it's going to be the same in round two, and I just think the Rockets are going to have to play in a different way against the Lakers.

Kobe Bryant is a different player than Brandon Roy, who they saw in round one. It's going to be hard to shut Bryant down, and it's really a job fit for T-Mac. 

And let's not forget that LA was 4-0 against the Rockets this season. 

Lakers in Six. 

Denver Nuggets (2) vs. Dallas Mavericks (6)

I know this series already started last night, but I'll go ahead and give my insight anyways. 

Dallas surprised me in the first round, but game one against Denver last night was something ugly. Denver's defense has been solid, but Dirk Nowitzki was still able to put up 28 points and 10 rebounds in their game one loss. 

In order to win the series, the Mavs will need Jason Terry to play that Sixth Man role, as he did in the first round and throughout the year. Terry has given Dallas the extra push throughout the season, and he could make the difference in some games. 

Denver's offense is pretty strong, but I think that if the Nuggets win this series, it's going to be due to the offense. Chris Andersen had six blocks in game one, and he's really all over the court when he's out there. Believe it or not, this clown makes the Nuggets a lot better. 

For the Mavericks, winning the series will obviously rely heavily on the play of Dirk. He's an MVP winner, he's been to the finals, and he knows what it takes to win. 

Mavs in Seven. 

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