Charles Barkley said he wouldn't be surprised if the Clippers would make it to the Western Conference Finals and by the same token he wouldn't be surprised if the Nuggets made it to the Western Conference Finals. The Chuck Wagon usually goes out on more of a limb but I will give it a shot. First Round Matchups.
San Antonio vs. Sacramento:
Tony Parker has matured this season and has been able to carry the team when Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli weren't healthy. They are experienced and seem primed to make a championship run. I think when we look back on the 2006 playoffs, the downfall of the Spurs will be this first round match up. I am not saying upset but the Kings led by the man from Queens are going to give the Spurs all they can handle. This series will wear them down physically and emotionally. This team that isn't 100% anyway This isn't your Daddy's (I mean Shaq Daddy's) Sacramento Queens. Ron Artest gives this team toughness and character. They wont pull the upset but they will make it a rough out each night. Spurs in 5.
Phoenix vs Kobe..uh L.A:
Kobe will be geared up to prove he is the man. The Suns are hurting but I give the edge to them. Steve Nash should be able to run this offense to perfection against the defenseless Lakers. Shaun Marion should have a huge series and leave voters wondering why he didn't get more MVP consideration. Kobe will average about 40 but Kwame Brown will be last seen on a milk carton. Just like last year with the Wizards. Everyone says the Suns Frontline is weak but in this matchup it doesn't matter. Nash makes everyone around him better, Kobe doesn't. Suns in 6.
Nuggets vs Clippers:
Carmelo Anthony is a wonderful player. Rueben Patterson and Reggie Evans provide spark. Andre Miller is efficient. But I'm going with the Clippers. They have the veteran leadership of Sam Cassell and Cuttino Mobley. Some inside presence with Chris Kaman. The Red Sox and White Sox have broken curses in baseball, so why not the Clippers rolling into the second round for the first time in 30 years. Clippers in six.
Dallas vs Memphis:
I want to pick Memphis with Eddie Jones, Mike Miller, Paul Gasol, Bobby Jackson but I just see Avery Johnson out coaching Mike Fratello. Just call it a hunch. But Dallas plays defense now. Avery Johnson has proved himself and I dont see him falling short. Dallas probably is the worst first round opponent Memphis could have gotten. Dirk will hear chants of MVP and challenge Kobe for first round scoring honors. Mavs in 5
In the east....
Detroit vs Milwaukee
Detroit has....never mind. The Bucks backed into the playoffs. Michael Redd gives it his all. But lets not waste time, Pistons on a mission. Sweep.
Miami vs Chicago
Shaq Diesel is suppose to wake up this time of year and assert himself. Chicago will throw everybody at him. Dwayne Wade has had trouble with Chicago. I think Chicago guards make him work at both ends of the floor. Chicago bench is way too thin but Scott Skiles will prove he is as good a coach as the one on the opposite bench. Alonzo Mourning is coming back but he wont be 100%. Expect a mild scare. Heat in six.
New Jersey vs Indiana
The Pacers seemed like they packed it in at the end of the season. Jermaine O'niel gives the Nets matchup problems but the three headed monster (Kidd, Carter, Jefferson) will eliminate that and then some. The Pacers are being lauded as the most dangerous team in the playoffs. Look for the Nets to try to end this quickly. Nets in 5.
Washington vs Cleveland
Lebron James playoff debut. Two of the NBA's top scorers in the same playoff game. This is probably the most intriguing series in both conferences. I think this is going to be a learning experience for Lebron. It will mark the beginning of a new era but the first step is always the hardest. The difference in this series will be Caron Butler and Larry Hughes. Caron will showcase his talents, and Larry will get the chance to learn how to be a sidekick. Wizards in seven.