The 2010 Western Conference playoffs will begin Saturday night when the Denver Nuggets host the Utah Jazz. On Sunday afternoon the Oklahoma City Thunder will visit the Los Angeles Lakers. Later that day the Dallas Mavericks will host the San Antonio Spurs and the Portland Trail Blazers will visit the Phoenix Suns.
Here is a brief preview of each Western Conference first-round series:
1. Los Angeles Lakers (57-25) versus 8. Oklahoma City Thunder (50-32)
Regular season series: Lakers 3-1
The Thunder may be just what the doctor ordered for the Lakers. The Lakers have been in a malaise for much of the season and a playoff match up against the young energetic Oklahoma City Thunder just might wake them up.
Kevin Durant, his NBA leading 30.1 points per game, and the energy of Oklahoma City should get the Lakers’ attention. Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher will definitely be focused on the task at hand and if their teammates follow their lead the Lakers’ substantial playoff experience will be enough to get them past the Thunder.
Prediction: Lakers 4-0
2. Dallas Mavericks (55-27) versus 7. San Antonio Spurs (50-32)
Regular season series: Mavericks 3-1
This series is a rematch of last year’s first-round match up. Last season home-court advantage didn’t do the Spurs much good as the Mavericks defeated them 4-1. This season the Mavericks have home-court and they hope to use it to their advantage.
With Manu Ginobili finally playing like himself the Spurs got some impressive wins to close the regular season. The key to this series will be the health of the San Antonio Spurs. If Ginobili, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and George Hill all remain healthy the Spurs will have a shot at wresting home-court advantage from the Mavericks. If not the Spurs will fail to exact revenge on the team that ousted them from last year’s playoffs.
Prediction: Spurs 4-2
3. Phoenix Suns (54-28) versus 6. Portland Trail Blazers (50-32)
Regular season series: Trail Blazers 2-1
Were it not for the injury to Brandon Roy this would be a very interesting playoff series. The Trail Blazers have dealt with injuries all season long, but the Suns will be just too much for them without Roy there to make plays for himself and his teammates.
The Suns closed the regular season by winning 17 of their final 21 games and are one of the hottest teams heading into the playoffs. Just as they have all season long, the Trail Blazers will come to play each and every game. But Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire, and company will prove to be more than the Trail Blazers can handle.
Prediction: Suns 4-1
4. Denver Nuggets (50-32) versus 5. Utah Jazz (50-32)
Regular season series: Nuggets 3-1
By virtue of winning the season series the Nuggets just barely edged the Jazz for their second consecutive Northwest Division title. The margin of victory in this playoff series may be just as small.
The Nuggets will play the entire first-round without Head Coach George Karl and the Jazz will be without Andrei Kirilenko. This will be a hard-fought and physical series that will be decided by the team that grabs that one lose ball.
Prediction: Nuggets 4-3
Click here for a Preview of the Eastern Conference Playoffs Information from ESPN.com’s NBA Schedule, 2010 NBA Playoff Match ups,NBA Statistics and League Leaders, Phoenix Suns Schedule, and 2009-2010 NBA Regular Season Conference Standings was used for this article.