New Orleans vs San Antonio
This is going to be a hell of a series, a huge test for the Hornets. Popovich brings a lot of defensive schemes that will try to keep Paul as one-dimensional as possible. I see the Hornets living and dying by David West's offensive game. If he can continue knocking down his sweet mid range jumper, then the Hornets will coast. If not, they're looking at some lopsided losses. West needs to keep Duncan busy on the defensive end, while a combination of Chandler and West keeps him from going off offensively. Paul will do his thing, and I like how he matches up with Parker, who doesn't have the size or post game to abuse CP3's defensive shortcomings.
Hornets in 6
Detroit vs Orlando
I am a huge fan of the Magic and how their team is set up. I really feel they are a good point guard away from becoming a dominant team in the East. That said, they will have Jameer Nelson (who admittedly played well against Toronto) matching up against Mr. Big Shot. Billups will absolutely abuse Nelson on the post, and it'll be up to the Magic to keep it from getting out of hand. They haven't been looking for Howard much on the offensive end but he still finds ways to score.. It's likely his points will be down since Detroit has the muscle to stave off those putback dunks, but his defensive impact should be enough to dampen an already mercurial Pistons offense. Live by the 3 and die by the 3 for the Magic.. Who happen to have two guys nearly 7 ft tall who shoot 40% from the distance. Magic in 6 or 7.
Magic in 6
Updated with the other two matchups..
Los Angeles vs Utah
I feel this is going to be THE series to watch in this year's playoffs. The matchups are just fun and the stars more than any other series are able to control the outcomes of the games. Gasol's finesse against Boozer's strength. Kirilenko trying to control Kobe. Deron Williams with the opportunity to raise his game if he can dominate Fisher and the other Laker point guards. The consistently inconsistent presences of Lamar Odom and Mehmet Okur. If Utah can buck up and hold their home court after going into a 2-game hole in LA, this is going to be a seven game classic. Kobe is the best offensive player on the planet, and I feel he will pull it out for LA.
Lakers in 7
Boston vs Cleveland
I originally had Boston beating Cleveland in six games, and with Doc Rivers' coaching flaws fully exposed in the first round, it is very tempting to change that pick. However, I very much feel that the Cavaliers are an 8-seed cloaked in Lebron James' brilliance. My brain tells me that having no secondary scoring option means the best defensive team in the league will lock down the king. My heart tells me that if Joe Johnson and Josh Smith can take turns punishing the Celtics, then Lebron can do it in his sleep. I'm sticking with my original prediction, though I would love to see an upset.
Celtics in 6