Second Round Shaping Up in the West: Semifinals Preview

Matthew RadomileContributor IApril 30, 2008

With the first round coming to a close in the Western Conference, there are some exciting matchups (some are still undecided) for this year's semifinals.

The Lakers are truly red-hot, and are peaking when it counts. Kobe Bryant is finally surrounded with the counterparts that he's begged for, and this just could be his year. Kobe has shown a maturity in his game that he lacked for years. He's still getting his points, but he's getting everyone else involved, too. His numbers are championship caliber, averaging 33 points, six assists, and five rebounds per contest. But, lets face it, it's hard enough to guard Kobe alone. When you have to worry about the other four players being a threat, you're in trouble.

The Lakers are going to create matchup nightmares for any team they face from here on out. Gasol, Odom,and Radmanovic all stand 6'10'' or above, can all hit the outside shot, and have done so, along with Kobe and Fisher, filling out the starting lineup.

Jordan Farmar and Luke Walton are providing solid bench efforts as well. Neither the Rockets nor the Jazz have the physical qualities that Los Angeles has. If the Lakers face Utah, Boozer is really going to have to use his strength in the post. The towering players in L.A.'s front are not known for their post-defense by any means, and Boozer can expose this.

Deron Williams has been playing well, and would need to have a great series for his team to advance. Kobe and T-Mac would be a nice head-to-head as well, but it's unlikely the Rockets will provide an answer, and they need to get by Utah first. Bottom line, I don't see any team stopping the Lakers in this round. 

On to what should be the more exciting series, the Spurs square off against the Hornets on Saturday.

After getting through the first round pretty much with ease, this is going to be a true test for both teams. The Spurs are in their playoff mode, and are playing as competitive as ever, like true veterans. The Hornets are young and on a hot streak, led by MVP candidate Chris Paul.

Look out for CP3 and Tony Parker going head-to-head. Paul, arguably the most electrifying player thus far, matches-up against a veteran point guard like Tony Parker. Parker holds the size advantage, but that's nothing new for Chris Paul. Paul comes into the series averaging a double-double of 25 points, 12 assists, and nearly six rebounds per game. Wow. If that's not impressive for a first-time playoff point guard, what is?

Tim Duncan will face a terrific defender in Tyson Chandler. Chandler may be difficult to guard, too. Look for at least one high-flying alley-oop a game, 'cause he can run the floor with the best of them.

Both teams will want to control the pace of the game, and that could be the decider. The Hornets will also need David West to continue to play well, if they want to knock off the defending champs. The Spurs have much more depth than the Hornets, and that could be pivotal. This series looks to be a toss up, and should be a fun one to watch.