Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
No. 1 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. No. 8 Phoenix Suns
Prediction: Thunder in 4
Russell Westbrook will have a troublesome game or two shooting from the field, but his and the Thunder's speed and ranginess on defense are exactly the right answer to Goran Dragic and the Phoenix offense.
OKC has the athletes to run with the Suns in transition, while Kevin Durant, Westbrook and company will have no problem exploiting the Suns in the half court. The run-heavy matchup might tax the Thunder more than they'd like for the first round, but they'll get by without difficulty.
No. 2 Los Angeles Clippers vs. No. 7 Dallas Mavericks
Prediction: Clippers in 5
Positioning the sweet-shooting Jose Calderon and the havoc-inducing Monta Ellis around Dirk Nowitzki's legendary offensive game can make the Mavs borderline unfair when everything comes together.
That's still only good enough to take one game from the Clips.
After all, Dallas is atrocious defensively, especially when it comes to containing guards. Give Chris Paul an inch and he'll kill you, so just imagine what he's going to do with all the space he finds in the porous Mavs.
No. 3 San Antonio Spurs vs. No. 6 Golden State Warriors
Prediction: Warriors in 7
A healthy Parker will take one game from Golden State on his own, and Gregg Popovich's coaching will take two more. But the Warriors have too many weapons for San Antonio to stop.
As quick as Parker is, he's not a solid defender and will lose track of Stephen Curry far more often than is acceptable. Depending on the look San Antonio offers, either David Lee can go to work inside or Harrison Barnes can spread the floor even further from the power forward position, giving Curry, Klay Thompson and friends even more room to fire from deep.
The Spurs will find room to drive, and they'll pound the ball inside whenever Andrew Bogut leaves the floor. On the other hand, the Dubs have the legs to keep up with San Antonio's offensive movement, and Andre Iguodala can lock down the hot shooter at any given moment.
It's going to be a battle, but as long as Pop doesn't outright dismantle the Warriors, they'll take down the classic Western power.
No. 4 Houston Rockets vs. No. 5 Portland Trail Blazers
Prediction: Rockets in 5
The Blazers are a dangerous group, but they're not built to beat Houston, and they're not built for the long haul.
LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard can both pour in baskets at will, but they give up a good chunk on the other end of the floor. Portland's rim protection disintegrates when Robin Lopez sits, and he'll have a major challenge guarding Dwight Howard anyway; relying on him to help defensively would be asking a ton.
Patrick Beverley will do an admirable job hounding Lillard, and Howard will be able to shy away from Lopez and toward Aldridge. Meanwhile James Harden will overwhelm Wesley Matthews or Nicolas Batum, depending on the player Portland throws at him.
Houston has the better balance and the stronger second unit, so though these two teams are about equal in terms of talent, the Blazers will struggle.