No. 1 Thunder vs. No. 8 Rockets
Storyline: OKC built a championship-ready roster through savvy talent evaluation. But the Thunder blew it with the James Harden trade, one of the worst moves in NBA history. Look for Harden to beat his former team once — before OKC overwhelms his supporting cast.
Nuggets ties: Hope for long series. Wear down Thunder before conference finals.
Prediction: Thunder in 5
No. 2 Spurs vs. No. 7 Lakers
Storyline: See how public perception can change? In one season, Lakers went from underachieving soap opera to empathetic figures. Despite Kobe Bryant’s injury, don’t feel sorry for L.A. The Lakers had 82 chances — and needed final week to reach playoffs.
Nuggets ties: Hope for short series. Get the Spurs before their stars can get healthy.
Prediction: Spurs in 5
No. 3 Nuggets vs. No. 6 Warriors
Storyline: After finest regular season in its NBA history, Denver is locked in, the West’s best team since All-Star break. On the surface, Warriors appear to be a dangerous matchup. The teams play a similar, fast style — only the Nuggets play it better than Warriors.
The latest: I'm no athletic trainer, but Kenneth Faried (ankle) ran wind sprints after practice Friday. "I'm going to push myself," Faried said. Game 2 seems the likeliest return for Faried.
Prediction: Nuggets in 5
No. 4 Clippers vs. No. 5 Grizzlies
Storyline: Clippers’ revival brought good (more Blake Griffin commercials) and bad (Billy Crystal interviews on ESPN) into our lives. It’s a strange, new basketball world when the Clippers claim a higher playoff seed than their Staples Center roommate, the Lakers.
Denver ties: Denver appeared destined for 4-5 game — until 15-game winning streak.
Prediction: Clippers in 7
No. 1 Heat vs. No. 8 Bucks
Denver ties: Nuggets are 38-3 at home, with Miami owning one of the wins at Pepsi Center.
Prediction: Heat in 4
No. 2 Knicks vs. No. 7 Celtics
Denver ties: Series most likely to feature a shoving match. Look for C’s to beat on Melo.
Prediction: Knicks in 6
No. 3 Pacers vs. No. 6 Hawks
Denver ties: If Nuggets were in East, Denver would own No. 2 seed in playoffs.
Prediction: Pacers in 5
No. 4 Nets vs. No. 5 Bulls
Denver ties: Nuggets recently whipped both teams — Brooklyn by 21, Chicago by 32.
Prediction: Bulls in 7