Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Hey, it's the playoffs! We'll miss the bad teams, but let's talk about the good ones. Today, the Western Conference. Let's NBA!

What Up?

This could be a classic, but those expecting a first-rounder on par with Chicago's battle against the Celtics last year could be disappointed.

It could happen, just don't expect it. Why? Well, Chicago entered the playoffs playing its best ball of the season last year, staying solid defensively and coming out of nowhere to act as one of the league's better offensive outfits. Toss in a matchup against a team working without its best player, and you were given a classic.

The Thunder this season? They've struggled for the last couple of weeks, losing their defensive edge while working an inconsistent offense. Russell Westbrook(notes) had a terrible finish to the season, as the Thunder fell in the standings to the bottom of the playoff pool. When you anticipate the fact that the Lakers like to muck it up, and you could have a pretty nasty offensive series that leans heavily on clutching and the defensive end.

Or, we could get something special. The mix is there, just don't expect it.

The Lakers are the better team right now. They know how to get into scoring sets, they defend better and the squad is too top heavy to fall apart this early. But it could go seven, it could be fun and nobody should discount the threat of an Oklahoma City upset. Not with the way the Lakers have played since February.

Just, as with the rest, don't expect it. Just let it do things to you. -- Kelly Dwyer

An Important Matchup
Kobe Bryant(notes) vs. Thabo Sefolosha(notes)

On one hand is an All-Star, All-NBA, All-Everything shooting guard who can score more ways than you can imagine. On the other is a Swiss defensive specialist who the Bulls considered expendable because his defense wasn't that great.

Things change, though. This season, Thabo Sefolosha has been the player Chicago thought it drafted - a lockdown defender who rises to the challenge of guarding the opposing team's best perimeter player. For the Thunder to compete in this series, he has to either make Kobe Bryant work for his points or somehow convince him that shooting the ball is so much more fun than playing within the offense. Kobe usually likes that suggestion. -- Trey Kerby

An Unimportant Matchup
DJ Mbenga(notes) vs. Serge Ibaka(notes)

Say what you want about the NBA title, but the Battle of the Congo is the most important championship to be decided this postseason. Since Dikembe Mutombo's(notes) retirement, these two have carried the torch of "guys from the Congo who seem pretty chill." It's a large torch.

I propose that whoever's team wins this series gets royalties from that Michael Crichton book and movie. The other guy has to write bad slam poetry because some people mistakenly call the coffee house instrument "congo" drums. -- Trey Kerby

Mark Eaton says...
Made-up thoughts on "going for it" in the NBA playoffs and in life, from the 7-foot-4 former Utah Jazz center and current celebrity motivational speaker.

At least a couple of times a week, I take a nice long walk and daydream about spending my whole day collecting stones. Y'know, just picking rocks up off the street or boosting rough-hewn chunks from my neighborhood quarry. We've all thought about it.

But just as I'm starting to drift away into thoughts of organizing them by color and how far I think I could throw them, my mind snaps to, and I remember what John Lothrop Motley once said: "Deeds, not stones, are the true monuments of the great." And then I go back to my custom-built giant house and I start thinking about six different ways to Turn Disappointment into This Appointment. Then I realize that's not a really good idea for a seminar, and I start something else. But the bottom line is, I'm doing something. Plus, no giant piles of rocks for intruders to hide behind and pop out from.

Anyway, you know who told me about deeds-not-stones? Kevin Ollie(notes). He's super wise. And if he's telling ol' Mark great stuff like that, can you imagine how much wisdom he's sharing with Kevin Durant(notes), Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green(notes)? To say nothing of Serge Ibaka! (I will say nothing of Serge Ibaka.) The Lakers better be careful. If they focus too much on the "stones" they've got, they might find themselves "deed" to rights. ;[)-------|------------<  (That's my winking big beard super-tall emoticon, because I'm really proud of that joke.) -- Dan Devine

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BDL playoff previews
Eastern Conference: Cavs vs. Bulls | Magic vs. Bobcats | Hawks vs. Bucks | Celtics vs. Heat
Western Conference: Mavericks vs. Spurs | Suns vs. Trailblazers | Nuggets vs. Jazz

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