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Picking the NBA playoffs

Nevada Appeal Staff Reports

After another uneventful regular season, the first round of playoffs begin Saturday in the National Basketball Association. In recent years, the NBA has deteriorated to the point of becoming, dare I say, boring. The only real story is whether or not the Los Angeles Lakers will win another championship; if the Lakers lose, the sooner that happens, the less people will care who wins the title.

During the playoffs we should at least be happy that we won’t be seeing any of Philadelphia malcontent Allen “Me, Myself and” Iverson. Commissioner David Stern’s new marketing project, Cleveland’s Lebron James, also failed to reach the postseason, and after 21 consecutive years, thankfully the Portland Jailblazers are sitting at home.

When all is said and done, the NBA champion will again come from the stronger Western Conference. In the Eastern Conference, two teams with losing records made the playoffs, which shows obvious overall weakness. In the NBA Least, only one head coach has been with his current team more than one season, and it is rare when first-year coaches win world titles.

By the way, did anyone notice that every coach fired this year was black? (Boston’s white Jim O’Brien resigned.) No one complained because it’s just a coincidence that it happened that way. None of the firings stirred up serious racial issues.

Predictions: If I added up all the time I spent watching the NBA this season, it would equal about one total game. Knowing the predictable nature of pro basketball makes picking series easier.

Denver vs. Minnesota – Denver plays well at home and is quite a surprise story after winning only 17 games last year. However, after seven consecutive playoff failures, Minnesota finally will advance to the second round. Minnesota in 5.

Houston vs. Los Angeles Lakers – Houston’s Chinese giant Yao Ming will lead a group of inexperienced players against LA’s four future Hall of Famers. The availability of Laker Karl Malone will help determine the length of the series. LA in 5 or 6.

Memphis vs. San Antonio – Memphis proved it can compete by taking three of four games from the Spurs during the regular season. But the Grizzlies have struggled too much lately to knock off the defending champs. San Antonio in 5.

Dallas vs. Sacramento – These are the two highest scoring clubs in the league, and neither plays any defense, so an entertaining series is expected. Dallas has the advantage on the front line and in rebounding, while Sacramento and forward Chris Webber limped into the postseason with a 4-8 finish. I need at least one upset, so Dallas in 6.

Boston vs. Indiana – There have been no Larry Bird or Bill Russell sightings lately in Boston. Indiana in a four-game sweep.

New York vs. New Jersey – Seeing as though these natural rival teams hate each other, things could get very interesting here. If Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin were totally healthy, New Jersey would be the Eastern Conference favorite. New Jersey in 6.

Milwaukee vs. Detroit – With a season-ending home loss to eliminated Toronto, Milwaukee lost home court advantage in the first round and fell to a No. 6 seed. That mistake will prove to be fatal against a high-quality Detroit squad. Detroit in 5.

New Orleans vs. Miami – As for this rather uninteresting match-up, I would venture to guess that many people didn’t know the city of New Orleans even had a team. I’m desperate for another upset pick, so I’ll guess New Orleans in 6.

Finals – Either the Lakers or San Antonio has won the last five world titles, so predicting comes easy in the consistent NBA. I picked LA over New Jersey before the season started, so I’ll stick with that, but Indiana now sure looks like the favorite in the East.

Most Valuable Player – Minnesota’s Kevin Garnett is overdue for the award.

Rookie of the Year – I would give Denver’s Carmelo Anthony and Cleveland’s Lebron James each half of my vote.

Coach of the Year – After every season taking Karl Malone and John Stockton to the playoffs, Utah coach Jerry Sloan did his best job this year by leading a group of no-names to an above .500 record.

Joe Ellison is the Nevada Appeal Betting Columnist. Contact him at editor@nevadaappeal.com.