The Western Conference side of the playoffs are going to be strange this year, but I'll save your time and tell you the normalcy will come from the Lakers.
Yes, the Lakers will run train through the Western side of things and no, I don't care about the status of Andrew Bynum—in all honesty, he wasn't even a big deal in the finals last year.
The thing that will be making things weird is the absence of Steve Nash and his Phoenix Suns—what the hell? Isn't Nash a necessity for the playoffs? Who is going to be the punching bag?
And what about the Utah Jazz? They committed suicide.
The only teams that really matter in the west are the top four teams—Spurs, Lakers, Mavs and Thunder.
Anyway, let's get into my predictions for the playoffs, from the first round to the finals.
Bennett's Bit: Sure, the Grizzlies were able to keep up with the Spurs in the regular season. However, there is no way Tim Duncan is going to allow his Spurs to fall out in the first round to the young Grizzlies. Even if Duncan decides to slack, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker won't allow this upset.
Prediction: Spurs handle the Grizzlies, 4-1.
Bennett's Bit: It's weird to even think that the Hornets were once a good team in the NBA, but now they're just another team to fill out the playoff seeds. Kobe Bryant is going to destroy the Hornets, showing the viewers that he's ready for another title run.
Prediction: Lakers sweep the Hornets, 4-0.
Bennett's Bit: This will be an enjoyable first-round series to watch, probably the best in the west. The Mavs have all the experience on their side and, since they're getting old, they're going to do their best to make a run. I wouldn't be shocked to see this series go to seven games but, in any case, I see the Mavs advancing.
Prediction: Mavs beat the Blazers, 4-2.
Bennett's Bit: Some people may beg to differ, but this isn't going to be a close series. I understand the Nuggets have been playing some good round ball since the departure of Anthony and Billups, but that's not enough. The Thunder are going to be exciting to watch, thanks to a quickly maturing cast. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will guide the rest of the crew to an easy first-round win.
Prediction: Thunder dispose the Nuggets, 4-1.
If you ask me, it won't be a very exciting first round. No upsets. No seven-game series. Still no Nash.
However, the second round will be consolation.
No. 1 San Antonio Spurs vs. No. 4 Oklahoma City Thunder—Spurs swept regular season series 3-0.
Bennett's Bit: For the sake of an exciting Western Conference Finals, I will not pick the Spurs. In no way do I enjoy watching them play basketball. On the other hand, we have Kevin Durant—one of the most exciting players in the league—so for that reason alone, I'm picking the Thunder. Hate me for it.
Prediction: Thunder upset the Spurs, 4-2.
No. 2 Los Angeles Lakers vs. No. 3 Dallas Mavericks—Lakers won the regular season series 2-1.
Bennett's Bit: Derek Fisher against Jason Kidd. Pau Gasol going head-to-head with Dirk Nowitzki. Sounds like a good matchup, but the real difference is Kobe Bryant—there's only one of him. This series has the potential to be one of the best in the playoffs, and I think it will. I'm taking the Lakers in a close one.
Prediction: Lakers edge the Mavs, 4-3.
Now, it gets really exciting. Lakers and Thunder in the Western Conference Finals? I like it.
Western Conference Finals:
No. 2 Los Angeles Lakers vs. No. 4 Oklahoma City Thunder—Lakers won regular season series 2-1.
Bennett's Bit: Here you go, a Western Conference Finals that everyone can enjoy—no matter how much you hate Kobe. This is a matchup of the old versus the new. A team that's about to diminish, versus a team that's about to become top dog. The Thunder are great, but the Lakers are better—for now, that is. Kobe and the Lakers will sail past the Thunder, because of experience and coaching.
Prediction: Lakers advance past Thunder, 4-2.
Now, the NBA Playoffs are unpredictable, so I'm not expecting to be right on any of this. As a matter of fact, after watching the first game of each series in the opening round, I'll probably want to throw my predictions away.
The playoffs are where the truth comes out. Teams either come to play or they prove they were pretenders all along.
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