First Round Snapshots: Western Conference

The kick-off of the NBA playoffs is cause for great enthusiasm and frenetic activity. Yes. But it's also only the beginning of a long, however eventful, slog through months of faces and stories. So I guess I'm saying, pace yourself, fools! The first round alone could end up lasting two weeks. With that in mind, here are my decidedly sober, useful, and economical previews of this weekend's games. Previously, the East; Now, the West: ↵
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↵Dallas at San Antonio: This may be a huge, huge stretch, but I see this as Dallas' chance to make up for the Warriors loss, or at least that time Chris Paul slew them. They've been under the radar for much of the season, and under Rick Carlisle have regained some of their offensive verve. Dirk, Kidd, putative Sixth Man of the Year Jason Terry, and sometimes Josh Howard ... there's talent here, and maybe a little chip on their shoulder. The Spurs don't have Manu, and Pop's having trouble finding that ingenious solution he always does. The intra-state thing makes it even more perfect. I call upset. ↵
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↵New Orleans at Denver: So Denver might not be as good as the Lakers, but they're darn good. And while Paul probably should get a few MVP votes (every single year, like Shaq in his prime), it's not clear if Tyson Chandler will be able to contribute much. No matter how fantastic Paul plays, or if David West stays hot, without Chandler this team is vulnerable defensively and on the boards. Any time Chris Paul's involved in a highly-competitive situation, you've got to watch -- he can be as frightening as he is sublime. But that's the real attraction here, not the game's outcome. ↵
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↵Utah at L.A. Lakers: Sorry, Utah, but you can't win on the road, and the Lakers are a juggernaut. Watch this one for insight into what Los Angeles plans to do down the road with Odom, or how much healthier Bynum gets. Though, at the risk of getting an angry, blood-soaked thank you notes delivered to my door tomorrow, I should point out that Deron William can freak out in the same manner I praised Paul for up above. ↵
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↵Houston at Portland: Maybe the most important, and interesting, game of the weekend. Is Houston a contender? Is Portland going to play young? If these two end up playing even, that's good for Houston, since Portland has problems on the road. But with a lot of people wondering just how seriously to take these teams, anything decisive that happens here could well shake up a lot of playoff prognoses. The Rockets' frontcourt might be the difference, unless Oden can make himself a force to be felt -- despite coming off the bench. Combine that with Artest, and it just might be too much physicality for a Blazers team sometimes accused of wanting in that department.↵

This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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