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2009 NBA Playoffs: Previewing The West


The Western Conference playoff race figures to be the Lakers versus the field.

Los Angeles has sprinted away from the pack this season while the #2 through #8 teams in the West are grouped as closely as any other season in the history of the NBA.

Quick look at who will represent the West in June:                                            

Dallas Mavericks

Odds to win NBA Title: +6000
Odds to win Western Conference: +2500

Reasons they can win: Any team that wins close to 50 games have a chance at playoff time, and if the Mavericks can finalize a favorable playoff road by getting out of the 8th seed, they’ll have a chance to make some noise.

Reasons they can’t: Dallas’ window for championship success closed when Dwyane Wade went off in the 2006 NBA Finals. That was the best Mavericks team, the most united, and the most capable of bringing home the hardware. This team isn’t the same one.

Denver Nuggets

Odds to win NBA Title: +2000
Odds to win Western Conference: +800

Reasons they can win: The move to get Chauncey Billups from Detroit for Allen Iverson has helped turned Denver into a legitimate contender with both talent and playoff savvy. The Nuggets’ recent stretch of 13 wins in 14 games, while scoring 100+ points each time, demonstrated their ability to take it up a notch.

Reasons they can’t: The Nuggets have been awful in the postseason under George Karl, and come into this year’s playoffs on a skid of 2-16 SU & 3-15 ATS in their last 18 games.

Houston Rockets

Odds to win NBA Title: +2000
Odds to win Western Conference: +800

Reasons they can win: Locking up home court is crucial as the Rockets are 32-8 at home. Also, like Orlando, they boast a dynamic mix of good outside shooting and the dominant big man in Yao Ming.

Reasons they can’t: Houston hasn’t made it out of the first round since ’97, losing 22 of their last 34 playoff games. In addition, Denver and Portland are the only two other Western Conference playoff teams that the Rockets own a winning record over in the last three seasons.

Los Angeles Lakers

Odds to win NBA Title: +125
Odds to win Western Conference: -400

Reasons they can win: There are numerous reasons the Lakers can win the title, starting with their clear cut status as the West’s #1 seed, as well as their success against Cleveland and Boston this season (4-0). Of course they also boast that MVP-caliber player capable of carrying his team in big games.

Reasons they can’t: There are two major concerns for the Lakers as they make a bid for their first title in six years. First, they will be working center Andrew Bynum back into the lineup in postseason action. Second, the Lakers floundered in the Finals last year against Boston’s half court defense, failing to even cover a pointspread in the six games.

New Orleans Hornets

Odds to win NBA Title: +3000
Odds to win Western Conference: +1300

Reasons they can win: If point guard play proves to be just as important in the NBA playoffs as it is in the NCAA Tournament, New Orleans is in as good of shape as anybody. The Hornets have also proven good but not great both on the road and at home, so stealing road wins is possible.

Reasons they can’t: The Hornets went into the 2008 playoffs with a lot more momentum than they are carrying now. That’s why they were able to beat Dallas in round one and nearly upset San Antonio a bit later. Coming into the ’09 postseason, New Orleans is just 5-5 down the stretch.

Portland Blazers

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Odds to win NBA Title: +2000
Odds to win Western Conference: +1000

Reasons they can win: Youthful exuberance seems to be one of the biggest things going for Portland as it makes its first playoff appearance since ’03. The Blazers have a talented roster that is gelling more and more with every game it plays together. They might be too naïve to realize they aren’t supposed to win this early.

Reasons they can’t: The Blazers youth and inexperience can also be looked at as a negative. Typically the NBA postseason is a learning experience where teams build in successive seasons before reaching the pinnacle. Not to mention, Portland is 4-17 SU & 7-14 ATS as a road underdog, and stealing road games is the key to surviving playoff series’.

San Antonio Spurs

Odds to win NBA Title: +2000
Odds to win Western Conference: +1000

Reasons they can win: The Spurs are as good as anybody when it comes to making clutch plays in playoff basketball. Head coach Greg Poppovich seems to always be able to push the right buttons. San Antonio’s past postseason success is a testament to that.

Reasons they can’t: The season-ending injury to Manu Ginobli is a killer. The Spurs are somewhat limited offensively as it is, and when Ginobli went down, they lost one of their few players who has proven capable of coming up big in the postseason. In addition, San Antonio has won just five of its last 15 games against the Lakers. 

Utah Jazz

Odds to win NBA Title: +2000
Odds to win Western Conference: +800

Reasons they can win: Other teams may boast similar or even better records at home, but no team has a better theoretical home court advantage than the Jazz. They figure to finish the season at 33-8 at home. That makes it tough on visiting playoff clubs to steal the key win. Also, Utah is 33-18 vs. the Western Conference, regularly beating the clubs that stand between them and playoff success.

Reasons they can’t: Utah is another club that played streaky at times this season but played its better basketball earlier in the year. With a 6-13 ATS mark in March and April, there is a big concern that the Jazz “used it up” in making their midseason surge.

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  1. The Lakers are prohibitive favorites in the West and should roll through the conference playoffs with relative ease. San Antonio or Denver might make some of the games interesting, but they do not have enough to hand with LA in a seven game series.