Suns v. Spurs - I know a lot of people will be jumping on the Warriors bandwagon for Round 2, but for the love of God, don't miss this series. Some are already billing it as the NBA Championship, even though I think that shows a bit of disrespect for the Pistons.
First off, the Suns are finally fully healthy for this playoff push. Amare looks 100%, Raja doesn't have any torn muscles and Kurt Thomas doesn't have any broken bones.
The problem for the Suns, however, is that the basketball version of Pete Sampras awaits them. Boring as hell, but incredibly efficient - yes that's the Spurs in a nutshell. But anyone who thinks that the Spurs will pull something similar to what they did to the Suns two years back, when they won the Western Conference Finals over Phoenix 4-1, is sorely mistaken. Amare literally made Duncan his whipping boy in that series, throwing down 37 a night on him. Amare is back at that explosive level again, and Duncan is 2 years older. The other key is that Leandro Barbosa has matured to the point that when Nash goes out, he can effectively run the team, mainly by scoring at will. There isn't a single person faster with a basketball in his hands on this planet than Barbosa. No one on the Spurs can guard him, including Parker.
But the Spurs, in their typical boring as hell style, are the best team in the NBA at slowing down the tempo of games. In their three matchups with the Suns, they held Phoenix to 12 pts below their season average. And they won the season series 2-1.
Despite this, there's just a feeling I have that the Suns won't lose this series. San Antonio is beginning to get decrepit and I have a feeling that the refs won't do them any favors because of Duncan's constant bitching and his run-in with Joey Crawford. There's also another more important thing. Steve Nash knows he has probably two more good years left in him, and he has to win NOW. With Dallas out, it's now or never for Phoenix. Nash knows this, and I think his tenacity in this series will show that. Plus he's been more vocal with his teammates this year, pushing them to play harder in big games. I believe Nash's extreme desire to prove he can win an NBA Championship pushes the Suns past the Spurs and into the Western Conference Finals.
Prediction: Suns in 7
Bonus opinion: If you truly love basketball, you have to root for the Suns in this series. For the past 3 years, the Suns have been one of the few teams in the league that actually created fans with their uptempo style of play. The NBA needs more fans and the Suns will bring that in if they can advance past the second round. More importantly, if the Warriors and Suns can both make it to the Western Conference Finals, it would be a watershed moment for the NBA. After years of hideous defensive basketball that culminated in the late 90's, watching the Warriors and Suns face off in the Western Conference Finals would be a return to the glory days of 80's basketball. The NBA needs that and fans need it to. Because seriously, who the hell wants to see the Jazz against the Spurs? Make it happen Stern, make it happen.
Warriors v. Jazz - Here is our link to the complete breakdown of the matchup.