Friday , Apr , 18 , 2008 Oly Sandor

Previewing The Wild Western Conference: Why L.A., New Orleans, Phoenix, & Utah Will Advance

In October, thirty teams began the season. On Saturday, sixteen begin a two month tournament, playing for the honour of having David Stern hand them the Lawrence O’Brien championship trophy in a champagne soaked ceremony come mid June. Who gets the hardware and, most importantly, bragging rights until June of 2009 when a new champion is crowned? …

Previewing The Wild Western Conference: Why L.A., New Orleans, Phoenix, & Utah Will AdvanceIn October, thirty teams began the season. On Saturday, sixteen begin a two month tournament, playing for the honour of having David Stern hand them the Lawrence O’Brien championship trophy in a champagne soaked ceremony come mid June.

Who gets the hardware and, most importantly, bragging rights until June of 2009 when a new champion is crowned? Well, HoopsVibe The Blog has your first round winners in the mighty Western Conference.

The Western Conference …

(1) L.A. Lakers versus (8) Denver Nuggets

Quick Breakdown: Even without Andrew Bynum, the Lakers have the size, skill, and depth to control the tempo and force the Nuggets into a half court game.

On defence, L.A. will throw Lamar Odom on Denver star Carmelo Anthony, while Kobe Bryant should recreate last summer’s role as Team USA’s lockdown defender and shadow Allen Iverson.

Prediction:
Lakers in six games. Denver will test L.A., but the purple-and-gold are too talented.

(2) New Orleans Hornets versus (7) Dallas Mavericks

Quick Breakdown:
Youth or experience? The upstart Hornets, led by Isiah Thomas clone Chris Paul, are playoff virgins, while the Mavericks are well-traveled in the ways of the second-season, coming a mere five quarters from winning the NBA Title in 2006.

But New Orleans’ David West and Tyson Chandler will give Dallas’ posts trouble. In fact, Team Cuban might wish they still had this guy to defend the five spot …

(A Random Shawn Bradley poster job clip)

Prediction: Hornets in seven games. I’m taking the virgin New Orleans squad (sorry if that sounds wrong, but you know what I mean). Look for changes this summer in Dallas.

(3) San Antonio versus (6) Phoenix Suns

Quick Breakdown:
Last year, the Spurs-Suns series had everything. Knees to the groin. Body-checks that would make NHL goon Sean Avery jealous. And dramatic suspensions. San Antonio prevailed and Commissioner David Stern still requires a presidential escort to enter Arizona.

This year, Stern and Stu Jackson won’t be enough for the Suns. Acquiring Shaquille O’Neal has improved Phoenix’s chemistry because Amare Stoudemire can play his natural position, the four-spot. Also, over the years, the methodical Tim Duncan has struggled to defend O’Neal.

Prediction: Suns in seven games. Revenge is best served cold for Phoenix.

(4) Utah Jazz versus (5) Houston Rockets

Quick Breakdown: The Rockets won twenty-two straight regular season games, but their poor playoff record means no R-E-S-P-E-C-T.  And slept-on point guard Rafer Alston is out for the first two games of the series with a hamstring pull.

Meanwhile, the Jazz aren’t flashy, but their blue-collar style will once again prevail over the Rockets.  

Prediction: Utah in seven games. Sorry, T-Mac, but you’ll unfortunately have to give another tough press conference.

Agree or disagree? Get at us in the comment box below with your thoughts. And click here to read and subscribe to Oly NBA Blog. And come back to HoopsVibe The Blog Friday evening for an Eastern Conference preview. Image courtesy of photographer Vikram’s portfolio.