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Tuesday April 18, 2006 11:19 pm

The NBA Playoff Participants Are Set: Western Conference Quick Look

Posted by Dennis Velasco Categories: Editorial, NBA, Playoffs,

NBA Western Conference Playoff PreviewWESTERN CONFERENCE

  1. San Antonio Spurs – The defending NBA Champs have it all as they can play tight defense, score inside and out, and most of all, they have done it before.  Experience in the playoffs goes a long way.  Tim Duncan is great and Tony Parker stepped up his game this season, but this is when Manu Ginobili shows that he’s one of the best players on the planet.
  2. Phoenix Suns – The injury and loss of Amare Stoudemire before the season was supposed to weaken the Suns in a big way, but they stuck together thanks to the reigning MVP, Steve Nash, the excellent play of Shawn Marion, and improved production from Boris Diaw and Raja Bell. They’ll be able to outrun any team in the league, but slow them down and it’ll be a different story as they do not have a legitimate low-post scorer, which is where they’ll miss Stoudemire.
  3. Denver Nuggets – A major key to their playoff success is having Marcus Camby stay healthy and for Carmelo Anthony to prove that he’s the superstar he believes he is. Andre Miller has the ability to take over a game, but seems disinterested a lot of the time.  Head coach George Karl can only hope the Nuggets don’t rest on their laurels and get inflated heads because they’re a number three seed. 
  4. Dallas Mavericks – Unfortunately they’re in the same division as the Spurs and gets a lower seed than the Suns and Nuggets despite having a better won-loss record than both.  In any case, this season the Mavs put the “D” back in Dallas thanks to the gritty attitude head coach Avery Johnson instilled. Look for Dirk Nowitzki to elevate his MVP-type play from the regular season.
  5. Memphis Grizzlies – Their best player is Pau Gasol and to the casual NBA fan, reading that name would make them scratch their head.  The Grizzlies are the epitome of team in the NBA as there is no superstar as opposed to five players on the court at any time working as one.  Yes, that sounds corny, but it’s true and it may enable the Grizzlies to surprise in the playoffs. 
  6. Los Angeles Clippers – Wait, is this the right Los Angeles team that performed at a suprisingly very good level and can legitimately put a championship team on the floor?  Believe it or not, the Clip Joint has become a Clip Mansion.  Thanks to the stellar play of Elton Brand, who deservedly makes his first NBA playoff appearance, the veteran leadership of Sam Cassell, and Chris Kaman elevating his game, the Clips can get out of the shadow of that “other” Los Angeles team.
  7. Los Angeles Lakers – Speaking of… the Lakers make the playoffs despite being a perceived one-man team.  Kobe, Kobe, Kobe - the first, second, and third option on offense.  Bryant is lucky that the other players pretty much have deferred to him.  Bryant is even luckier that he’s performed as well as he’s ever had in his career.  However, the playoffs are on a different level and playing one of the top teams in the first round will be tough for the Lakers as their opponents will surely have a game plan to contain Bryant.  Can Lamar Odom, Smush Parker, Kwame Brown, et al. step up?
  8. Sacramento Kings – Ron Artest really is a difference-maker and arguably one of the ten best players in the NBA.  Don’t think so?  If it wasn’t for him, the Kings would probably be where they were before he joined the team after a trade with the Pacers that jettisoned Peja Stojakovic out of Sacremento, and that would be out of the playoffs.  Mike Bibby continues to play at a high level, Kevin Martin was a revelation, Kenny Thomas had a revival, and if the Kings have a healthy Bonzi Wells and Shareef Abdur-Rahim, as well as solid bench play from guys such as Francisco Garcia, the Kings should do well.

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