Dallas vs. Golden State
Everyone is talking about how Golden State swept the 3 regular season games between these two teams. I don't think this is particularly relevant, because the first game was played during the Mavs' 0-4 start and the last two occured after Dallas had all but locked up the 1 seed.
As blowout series go, this one should at least be fun. Golden State knows that they have to push the ball to have any chance. By playing Al Harrington at the 5, Nellie may force Dampier and Diop to the bench, because there will not be a player that they are capable of guarding on the court. Hopefully that opens up the floor and we get a wild up-and-down 5 game set
In addition to probably being the best team in the NBA, the Mavs are easily the toothiest lot in the league. Between head coach Avery Johnson, Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard, Jason Terry, and Devin Harris, five percent of this teams' body weight is in enamel.
Mavs in 5.
This the third rematch of a first round series from last year. Although Phoenix has a far superior team, I still expect this one to go 6 games. Kobe's hatred of Raja Bell alone will inspire him to a couple of 45 point games and wins for the Lakers.
Ultimately Phoenix will win in six, because the Lakers defenders will not be able to differentiate between Bell, Barbosa, and Boris the three eerily similar looking Suns. The Lakers will accidentally triple-team one of them at in inopportune moment, leaving the other two wide open.
For the good of the sport, I will be rooting hard for Phoenix to win it all. The league is already trending away from playing 7 foot stiffs, but a championship for the Suns would accelerate the sport's evolution to a more up-tempo game.
(On a side note, could David Stern please force the T'wolves to trade Garnett to the Lakers for Bynum, Odom, and every other first round draft pick for the next 6 years? Obviously it would make the Lakers an instant title contender, but it would benefit Minnesota as well. If you somehow manage to lose 50 games with a healthy, prime Kevin Garnett, it's time to tear it all down and start from stratch.)
San Antonio vs. Denver
Despite what you hear from every white guy over 40, this first round matchup shows just how strong the NBA is. A team featuring Allen Iverson AND Carmelo Anthony is universally expected to be one and done in the playoffs.
Maybe I'm the only one, but I'm giving the Nuggets a serious chance to win this series. They have played brilliantly down the stretch and have 2 of the 5 best scorers in the league. They have a halfway decent supporting cast, led by Camby, a big man that can make Duncan really work for points. If I had a set, I'd pick Denver. Since I don't, I'll go with the Spurs in 7.
Utah vs. Houston
I think Houston will make relatively short work of Utah. The Jazz are the kind of team that do everything well, always play hard, but never knock your socks off. It's the Jerry Sloan way. Unfortunately, I don't think they have another gear that they can shift into for the playoffs. Nobody on the Jazz is making Van Gundy wake up in cold sweats.
Conversely, a healthy and incredibly productive McGrady and Yao Ming should be giving the entire league nightmares. A friend of mine, that some describe as a Renaissance man, believes that Yao should be a cyclops. He would be that much more intimidating with just one eye, right in the middle of his forehead.
Houston in 5, with a genuine chance of going all the way.