I know, I know, I’m a few games late so this playoffs preview is cheating a little bit. However, my opinions for the most part remain the same. Here’s how I see everything panning out for the first round and where the playoffs will go from there.

Cleveland (1) vs. Chicago (8) – Cleveland in 4

As great as it would be for this to be another first-round classic like last year’s Boston-Chicago epic, Cleveland’s just too complete of a team at this point. Chicago really underachieved this year, but give credit to the players for staying energized. Still, Cleveland has this in the bag and for once LeBron doesn’t have to play out of his mind.

Orlando (2) vs. Charlotte (7) – Orlando in 6

It was a great start for the legitimate dark horse of the playoffs this year, but I think Larry Brown and Co. have a few tricks up their sleeves. Larry Brown can coach circles around the current crop of Eastern Conference coaches and that’s not something to underestimate. However, if Orlando is able to get all of its cylinders bursting like it did last year it’ll be a force to be reckoned with.

Atlanta (3) vs. Milwaukee (6) – Atlanta in 6

What these upstarts lack in superstars, they have in unpredictability. The likely Coach of the Year Scott Skiles will keep the Bucks competitive. Atlanta’s been to this rodeo before though and that’ll give them the edge. Although the writing’s on the wall for this team: If it’s a quick second round exit for the Hawks, expect free agent-to-be Joe Johnson to bail for greener pastures.

Boston (4) vs. Miami (5) – Boston in 7

Now this is going to be one heated battle as shown by the Kevin Garnett skirmish in Game 1. As long as KG doesn’t blow up in every matchup that level of intensity may be just what this team has needed to get out of its current funk, even in the face of the Heat, who’s surprisingly been one of the better teams recently. Will another first-round exit convince Wade to stay in Miami instead of Chicago? Stay tuned.

Los Angeles (1) vs. Oklahoma City (8) – Los Angeles in 6

Yes, L.A. did shut down scoring champion Kevin Durant in Game 1; however, the one factor that I’m taking into account is the atmosphere of Game 3 and 4. An extremely enthusiastic nubile home crowd and its first playoff series against the defending champions: now THAT’S going to be an amazing environment. And L.A.’s been pretty inconsistent, but not enough to lose the series…probably.

Dallas (2) vs. San Antonio (7) – Dallas in 6

I know Manu’s been on fire and they’ve done really well recently. It’s just 1) Tony’s still recovering and now George Hill’s hurting, 2) Duncan’s hasn’t been playing high-quality ball for two months, 3) our bench is weaker than it was last year, and 4) this is a much better Mavericks team than we faced last year. I really want them to win, but I’d rather say they’ll lose and be happy when they win; you know, reverse psychology

Phoenix (3) vs. Portland (6) – Phoenix in 6

Well, didn’t this series get interesting? If there’s one thing that has allowed Portland to deal with its innumerable amount of injuries– it’s spunk. And you can never underestimate spunk. However, I think that Phoenix was simply caught off guard and should be back to form by the time Game 2 rolls around.

Denver (4) vs. Utah (5) – Utah in 6

I honestly don’t know what to make of either team. Both of very high ceilings in how far they can go in the playoffs, but each has variables that make it difficult to understand just how good these teams are. Denver does have the “movie magic” possibility of George Karl returning just in time for them to win the series and go to the conference finals, but I think Utah has the more dominant playing style to win this series.

Now, here’s how I see the conferences playing out; and mind you, the choice for the West is a risk and a slap in the face of my Spurs fans (and trust me, I HATE the Mavs) but the Mavericks just have the more advantageous path to the championship.

Eastern Conference – Cleveland over Orlando in 6

Western Conference – Dallas over Lakers in 7

NBA Finals – Cleveland over Dallas in 6

Related Stories

More from Paisano1

Editorial Board

At the University of Missouri, real change happened — but only when loss of university revenue was threatened. Missouri student…

More In Sports

Julia Maenius Staff Writer

The UTSA women’s golf team traveled to Fort Myers, Florida, to compete in the Conference USA (C-USA) Championship from March…