Playoff capsules Blazers' Roy has right knee surgery
By Brian Mahoney
NO. 1 CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (61-21) VS. NO. 8 CHICAGO BULLS (41-41)
Season series: Tied, 2-2. The Bulls won at Cleveland in November during the Cavaliers' 3-3 start, then pulled out a 109-108 home victory on April 8 when LeBron James was resting. The Cavs limited the Bulls to an average of 86 points in winning the other two meetings, though Chicago was without Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng in one of them.
Storyline: The loaded Cavaliers begin the chase for a first NBA championship, hoping not to have any early rust after sitting James for the final four games of the regular season and choosing not to bring Shaquille O'Neal back from his February thumb injury. Chicago won its final three games to grab the last spot and was a dangerous underdog last year, pushing Boston to seven games in a thrilling first-round series.
Prediction: Cavaliers in 5.
NO. 2 ORLANDO MAGIC (59-23) VS. NO. 7 CHARLOTTE BOBCATS (44-38)
Season series: Magic, 3-1. Orlando won the first three meetings before the Bobcats snapped the Magic's eight-game winning streak with a 96-89 victory on March 14 in Orlando. Two of the Magic's wins came way back in November, the second on the night Stephen Jackson made his debut with Charlotte on Nov. 16.
Storyline: The Magic's quest to return to the NBA finals starts against a postseason newcomer. Charlotte is making the first playoff appearance in the franchise's six-year history.
Prediction: Magic in 6.
NO. 3 ATLANTA HAWKS (53-29) VS. NO. 6 MILWAUKEE BUCKS (46-36)
Season series: Hawks, 2-1. All three games were close, with Atlanta's 104-96 victory on Monday the largest margin of victory in the series. Al Horford had double-doubles in all three games and could put up even bigger numbers without Andrew Bogut to help defend him. John Salmons averaged 30.7 points for Milwaukee. Brandon Jennings shot just 10 of 36 (28 percent).
Storyline: The Hawks reached the second round last year and are hoping they're ready to go even further this time. Their road may have gotten easier when the Bucks, no longer considered as dangerous an underdog since Bogut's season-ending injuries, fell to the No. 6 seed.
Prediction: Hawks in 6.
NO. 4 BOSTON CELTICS (50-32) VS. NO. 5 MIAMI HEAT (47-35)
Season series: Celtics, 3-0. Boston has won 11 of the last 12 meetings, winning the three games this season by seven, six and five points. The Celtics' sweep this season came despite missing Kevin Garnett in one game and Paul Pierce in another. Dwyane Wade had a 44-point game in an overtime loss and averaged 33.7, while Rajon Rondo averaged 20 points and 11 assists.
Storyline: The Celtics, despite a poor finish and an underachieving second half of the season, insist they can still be title threats because their Big Three of Garnett, Pierce and Ray Allen is healthy. However, the Heat played far better down the stretch, and Wade gives them a chance at the upset here.
Prediction: Celtics in 7.
NO. 1 LOS ANGELES LAKERS (57-25) VS. NO. 8 OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (50-32).
Season series: Lakers, 3-1. Los Angeles won the first three meetings before the Thunder's 91-75 home victory on March 26 that snapped their 12-game losing streak in the series. Kobe Bryant averaged 32.3 points in the first three meetings, then was held to 11 on 4-of-11 shooting while committing nine turnovers in the finale. Kevin Durant scored 25.8 per game for Oklahoma City.
Storyline: After stumbling a bit late in the season while dealing with some injuries, the defending champion Lakers try to put everything together for a run toward a third straight NBA finals appearance. The Thunder were one of the league's biggest surprises and earned their first postseason berth since moving from Seattle. Durant led the NBA with 30.1 points per game and Bryant was fourth at 27.0
Prediction: Lakers in 5.
NO. 2 DALLAS MAVERICKS (55-27) VS. NO. 7 SAN ANTONIO SPURS (50-32)
Season series: Mavericks, 3-1. Little can be determined from this year's series, because the teams have never really seen each other at full strength. The first three meetings came before the Mavericks acquired Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood in February, and the last one came on the final night of the season, when the Spurs rested Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. Dallas won that game to set up this series.
Storyline: Second straight playoff meeting and third in five years for the division rivals from Texas. The Mavericks won both of them, taking a thrilling seven-game series in 2006 on their way to the NBA finals, then knocking off an injury-weakened San Antonio team last year.
Prediction: Spurs in 7.
NO. 3 PHOENIX SUNS (54-28) VS. NO. 6 PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (50-32)
Season series: Trail Blazers, 2-1. Portland averaged 106.5 points while winning the first two meetings before the Suns showed their defensive improvement in a 93-87 victory on March 21. None of the games was decided by more than seven points.
Storyline: Strong bounce-back season for the Suns after missing the playoffs last year landed them the No. 3 seed. Phoenix was 23-6 since the All-Star break and gets a Portland team that will be without its best player. Brandon Roy has a torn meniscus in his knee that required surgery. He could return if Portland advances past Phoenix.
Prediction: Suns in 6.
NO. 4 DENVER NUGGETS (53-29) VS. NO. 5 UTAH JAZZ (53-29)
Season series: Nuggets, 3-1. Denver earned the tiebreaker and home-court advantage in this series by winning the first three meetings to clinch the season series. The Jazz may come to regret a 105-95 home loss on Jan. 2, a game in which neither Chauncey Billups nor Carmelo Anthony played. Utah won the other game both missed, but the two All-Stars were unstoppable when they did play, with Anthony averaging 33.5 points and Billups 27.
Storyline: In the balanced Western Conference, either of these teams is capable of knocking off the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in the second round. However, one of them won't even get past their opening series. Denver hopes to get coach George Karl back from his cancer treatments if it advances.
Prediction: Nuggets in 7.