Cavs Will Be East Champs

Rodd CaytonCorrespondent IApril 16, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 9:  Andrew Bynum #17 (R) of the Los Angeles Lakers high fives teammates Kobe Bryant #24 (L) and Derek Fisher #2 as he is introduced to the floor during the game against the Denver Nuggets, making his first start since suffering a torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee on January 31, at Staples Center April 9, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  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 Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

This is when basketball season gets interesting. In the NBA, most teams make the playoffs, and then there are the Clippers.

The Cleveland Cavaliers went 66-16 during the regular season, clinching home court advantage for as long as they remain alive.

The other two teams in the championship conversation when the season started, the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, are high playoff seeds.

I'm not sure many people expected the Orlando Magic to do so well, but they are (it is?) capable of reaching the pinnacle as well.

Here's my prediction for the NBA playoffs:

First Round

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Cleveland over No. 8 Detroit in six.
No. 2 Boston over No. 7 Chicago in four
No. 3 Orlando over No. 6 Philadelphia in five
No. 5 Miami over No. 4 Atlanta in six

The Pistons made some questionable personnel decisions after reaching the East finals six years in a row, and can't beat the Cavs. Detroit has enough pride to stretch the series, though.

The Bulls are young and enthusiastic, but the Celtics' talent advantage will dispatch them quickly.

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles over  No. 8 Utah in five
No. 2 Denver over No. 7 New Orleans in five
No. 3 San Antonio over No. 6 Dallas in five
No. 4 Portland over No. 5  Houston in seven

Salt Lake City is always a little more daunting in the postseason, so don't be surprised if the Jazz win a pair.

Despite injuries to key players, San Antonio has held its own throughout the season.  Gregg Popovich is good at getting his players to overachieve, not underachieve.

Portland and Houston are the most evenly matched teams in the first round. Each will win on the other's home court.

Second Round

Eastern Conference

 Cleveland over Miami in six
 Boston over Orlando in six.

It's LeBron James versus Dwyane Wade.  James has more help.

This is where the Celtics will really need Kevin Garnett. If he's delayed in coming off a knee injury, the Magic could steal a game or two ... and all the momentum in the series.

Western Conference

Los Angeles over Portland in seven
San Antonio over Denver in six

The Lakers have a hard time winning in Portland. It'll be harder still in the playoffs. They'd better hold serve.

San Antonio just looks like a higher seed than Denver. But if Carmelo Anthony gets hot, it's a different ball game.

Conference Finals

Cleveland over Boston in seven
Los Angeles over San Antonio in five

The Cavs will see just how important home court advantage is when they get stifled in Beantown.

The Spurs don't have enough firepower unless the Lakers fall into one of their funks. That won't happen.

The Finals

Both teams have been here recently. While both superstars will deliver, the championship will be decided among the coaches and big men.

Los Angeles has a slight advantage in the latter, a major edge in the former.

Lakers in five, though Cleveland has a chance if Kobe Bryant and his teammates suffer a letdown when they're denied the chance to get revenge on Boston.

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