Ryan Chartrand

Western Conference

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

Many experts have picked the Nuggets to upset the Lakers in the first round. These predictions are based on how good the Nuggets look on paper and their X-factor, J.R. Smith. The bottom line is, this isn’t fantasy basketball and playoff games aren’t won on stat sheets. Defense and teamwork will prevail as the Lakers go on to win this series in five games.

Utah Jazz (5) vs. Houston Rockets (4)

Rafer Alston missed the first game and is expected to miss the second.

Deron Williams will abuse Alston’s stand-in, Bobby Jackson, which will lead to the Jazz stealing the first two games from the injury-riddled Rockets.

It will then be easy for the Jazz to close out the series in a clean sweep because they were an NBA-best 37-4 at home this season.

And once again, Tracy McGrady will be one-and-done.

Phoenix Suns (6) vs. San Antonio Spurs (3)

The marquee match-up of the first round is even being called the “real” Western Conference finals. On top of that, there’s an unspoken grudge lingering from last year due to Robert Horry hip-checking Steve Nash into the scorer’s table.

Suns general manager Steve Kerr took a long shot by trading for Shaquille O’Neal this season for the sole purpose of stopping Tim Duncan, and the Suns won their first two games against the Spurs with O’Neal.

Yet Duncan has also never lost in the first round of the playoffs since entering the league. This will be an interesting series to watch, with the Suns finally getting over the hump and beating the Spurs in seven games.

Dallas Mavericks (7) vs. New Orleans Hornets (2)

It’s not an upset if the winner is just flat-out better. Dirk Nowitzki is still the reigning MVP, and the Mavericks have a deeper bench than the Hornets.

As for Chris Paul’s lack of playoff experience, there is no better way than to kick it off than with a match-up against Jason Kidd, who is a great defender and a winner. The Mavericks will win this series in seven games.

Eastern Conference

Atlanta Hawks (8) vs. Boston Celtics (1)

The Celtics, who hold the best record in the league, will be playing against a team with barely any playoff experience. No further analysis needed – Celtics in four.

Washington Wizards (5) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (4)

This is one of the toughest series to analyze. Even though LeBron James is one of the best players in the league, he just won’t get enough help.

The Wizards are deeper, hungrier and want revenge for being knocked out of the playoffs the past two years by the Cavaliers. Washington will take this series in six games.

Toronto Raptors (6) vs. Orlando Magic (3)

It will not be Dwight Howard or Chris Bosh dictating the outcome of this series, but the play of Hedo Turkoglu that will be the deciding factor.

In addition, the emergence of Jose Calderon this season has caused inconsistency at the point guard position, as he and T.J. Ford battle every night for minutes. Orlando will take this series in five games.

Philadelphia 76ers (7) vs. Detroit Pistons (2)

The 76ers turned out to be one the NBA’s nice surprises this year. However, the veteran Pistons are looking to get back to the Eastern Conference finals once again, and they will show no mercy as all the pressure is on them this year.

Philadelphia will win only one game, as the Pistons move on in five.

Dmitry Bisk is an animal science alumnus and a Mustang Daily sports columnist.

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