Los Angeles Lakers Playoff Watch: Previewing Potential First-Round Opponents

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Los Angeles Lakers Playoff Watch: Previewing Potential First-Round Opponents
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Last time I checked the calendar, it indicated it was almost April. This can only mean one thing: The NBA playoffs are on the horizon!

Currently, the Lakers are the second seed in the Western Conference.

Considering the Spurs built such a cushion throughout the course of the season, it is very unlikely the Lakers will be able to catch them for the conference's top spot, despite their outstanding play as of late.

The team is playing as well as they have all season. The Lakers have won 13 of 14 games, and the team is looking primed for a deep playoff run once again.

There are three likely opponents the Lakers could be facing in the first round when the playoffs kick off next month: New Orleans, Memphis or Portland. 

How do the Lakers stack up against these potential first round opponents? Let's take a look.

New Orleans Hornets:

If the postseason started today, the Lakers would be in a first round battle with star point guard Chris Paul and the Hornets. The Lakers have defeated the Hornets three times this season, and the team will be looking for the season sweep when the teams meet for the final time Sunday in Los Angeles.

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It's clear to see that of the three potential first round match-ups, New Orleans is the most favorable draw for Los Angele because of how drastically the match-ups favor the LA.

Despite the Hornets' glaring advantage at the point guard position with Chris Paul, The Lakers have an advantage at every other position. While center Emeka Okafor is certainly a quality player, when center Andrew Bynum is dominating, the match-up is fairly one-sided.

Likewise, David West is an All-Star caliber forward for the Hornets, but he's not quite in the same category as forwards Pau Gasol or Lamar Odom. the Lakers win this match-up, too.

The most interesting match-up of the series would be between former Laker small forward Trevor Ariza and forward Ron Artest.

Although Ariza is younger and better offensively, Artest's superior defensive skills make him a potential game changer.

Final verdict: Lakers in five games.

Memphis Grizzlies:

The Lakers and Grizzlies split their four game series this season.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Surprisingly, the Grizzlies have managed to put themselves in prime playoff position despite the loss of star forward Rudy Gay, for the first time since the 2005-06 season.

Gay will miss the entire playoffs with shoulder surgery, his recovery timetable is estimated at four to six months.

The Grizzlies will have the combination of shooting guard Tony Allen and forward Shane Battier to attempt to slowdown Kobe. In addition, Pau Gasol usually struggles playing against his younger brother, Marc.

On the other hand, the Grizzles the experience and personnel to truly give the defending champs any serious problems. 

Final Verdict: Lakers in five games.

Portland Trail Blazers:

The Lakers have won the first three meetings between the two teams this season.

However, the last two have been very close games, winning both games by a combined 11 points.

These two teams have one more meeting this season on April 8th, in Portland.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

I don't speak for all fans, but this is the match-up I am hoping for in the first round. Despite that it would probably be the most difficult match-up for the Lakers.

At the beginning of the season, many questioned Portland's playoff chances after more injuries to star forward Brandon Roy and star center Greg Oden. However, versatile forward LaMarcus Aldridge has played like an MVP candidate this season, and the Blazers were able to weather the storm.

Now, after Roy's return from surgeries to both knees and the acquisition of forward Gerald Wallace, the Blazers are looking like a dangerous team heading into the postseason.

If the two teams end up meeting in the first round, the series will have the potential to be a drama filled classic.

In addition, Portland's eight man rotation has the potential to give the Lakers problems throughout the course of a series by creating multiple mismatches.

Final Verdict: Lakers in six games.

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