2011 NBA Playoffs Predictions: Breaking Down the Western Conference First Round

Yahya SyedCorrespondent IApril 15, 2011

2011 NBA Playoffs Predictions: Breaking Down the Western Conference First Round

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 12:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives on Richard Jefferson #24 of the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center on April 12, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by
    Harry How/Getty Images

    It's that time of year again.  The playoffs are here, and it's time to determine who'll advance and who'll be a first-round out.  Once again, the race is close in the West, where all the teams are separated by only a few games. 

    Whether it be talking about the Lakers' run for a three-peat or the now-mature Oklahoma City Thunder, we've got the breakdown of the Western Conference first round with all the details.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies

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    MEMPHIS, TN - APRIL 25:  Tim Duncan #21 of San Antonio Spurs puts up a shot over Lorenzen Wright #42 of the Memphis Grizzlies during Game four of Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2004 NBA Playoffs April 25, 2004 at The Pyramid in Memphis Tennessee.
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    The San Antonio Spurs had the best record in the NBA up until the last few weeks of the season, when a five-game skid eventually helped the Bulls take the top spot.  However, as long as Ginobili, Parker and Duncan are healthy, they are a force to be reckoned with.  

    Greg Popovich has had to make do with a variety of players on his roster this year, making this Spurs team different than those of the past several years.  It will be interesting to see them face the Grizzlies, a team that has jelled past the All-Star break, with the likes of Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol and even the troubled OJ Mayo playing quality minutes.  With good perimeter defense with the likes of Tony Allen, the Grizzlies will be able to put up quite a fight.  However, expect the Spurs to take the series.  

    Prediction: Spurs in five.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. New Orleans Hornets

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 7:  Lamar Odom #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots over David West #30 of the New Orleans Hornets at Staples Center on January 7, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  The Lakers won 101-97.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    The Los Angeles Lakers are attempting to win their third consecutive title, but they'll have to get through the Hornets first.  

    Kobe Bryant will be more determined than ever to get his sixth ring.  The Lakers' size, ability to rebound the ball and assortment of role players will help them win against whatever team they face.  Although Chris Paul and the Hornets will put up a fight, expect the Lakers to win in five games. 

    Prediction: Lakers in five.

Dallas Mavericks vs. Portland Trailblazers

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    DALLAS, TX - JANUARY 04:  Forward LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the Portland Trail Blazers takes a shot against Tyson Chandler #6 of the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center on January 4, 2011 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledge
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    The Dallas Mavericks and the Portland Trailblazers are two of the strongest teams in the NBA this season, with Dallas being considered a title favorite earlier this year.  With some of the deepest rosters in the NBA, it will be their key players that will determine the game.  

    Although Dirk Nowitzki has had an excellent season, it will be the play of LaMarcus Aldridge that will help the Blazers advance to the next round—solidifying him as Portland's franchise player.  

    Prediction: Portland in seven.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Denver Nuggets

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 10:  Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Scott Brooks draws up a play for his team during a timeout in the first half against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on April 10, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. The Thunder defeated
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    The Denver Nuggets are the feel-good story this year in the NBA.  With George Karl returning to the bench and the Nuggets having a winning record after the Carmelo trade, they have turned into a formidable opponent that would be difficult for any team to face.  

    However, the Thunder have finally become a solid contendor, with the addition of Kendrick Perkins solidifying their front line.  The front court of the Thunder is finally established and can compete with any other in the league.  Expect them to make a deep run this post-season.  

    Prediction: Thunder in six.

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