Philadelphia vs. Indiana: Sixers in 4. There's definitely potential for an upset here, especially if Reggie and Jalen get hot, but I'll figure Larry Brown's coaching and Allen Iverson's talent get 'em at least past the first round.
Milwaukee vs. Orlando: Bucks in 4. Forget Philly, Milwaukee's the Beast of the East at the moment. Orlando gets lucky once on McGrady and Miller, otherwise it's all Bucks.
Miami vs. Charlotte: Heat in 3. Charlotte is the only really lousy team to make the playoffs this year. They're candy - Zo & co. should walk.
New York vs. Toronto: Knicks in 5. This is going to be a hard-fought battle, and with Oakley, Childs, and Ernie Grunfeld in Toronto and Camby and Jackson in New York, there's definitely enough subplots to make this as interesting as the Knicks and Heat. New York doesn't look ready for primetime lately, but I think Sprewell will put the team on his back and get them out of the first round. Split in NYC, split in Toronto, New York wins Game 5 in compelling fashion.
San Antonio vs. Minnesota: Spurs in 4. KG deserves to play deeper in the playoffs, but it's not going to happen this year.
Los Angeles vs. Portland: Blazers in 5. This one could go either way, so I'm going to follow my heart and pick Portland. The only two teams I'm actively rooting against this year are the past two champs, San Antonio and LA (Indiana too, but they're garbage.) So, I'll say the Blazers put it together and knock off the reigning champs in 5. Kobe, why didn't you pass the ball?
Sacramento vs. Phoenix: Sacramento in 4. I think these are my favorite two teams in the West...it's too bad they have to play each other. Kings run better than the Suns and they play D this year. Sacramento wins.
Utah vs. Dallas: Utah in 5. Definitely potential for an upset here, but I think that Malone/Stockton/Stark's desire for a ring will eventually outweigh the athleticism of Finley, Nowitzki, etc. (and non-athleticism of Shawn Bradley...man, he's terrible.) Home court will be huge in the final game.
PHILADELPHIA vs. NEW YORK: Knicks in 7. This is where the wishful thinking kicks in, even if the glass-half-empty side thinks Philly in 6. Knicks could be in serious trouble if Philly knocks off Indy early and NYC-Toronto goes 5. But the thing is, I still believe Philly is a worse team with Mutombo than they were before, even if they now match up better with the Western giants. With Ratliff and Kukoc in the mix, you had three legitimate scorers. Now you've got Iverson and a bunch of outstanding team players - Lynch, McKie, Snow, Hill. Triple-team Iverson and let the other guys beat you...I'm betting in a seven game series against the Knicks, they can't.
MIAMI vs. MILWAUKEE: Bucks in 6. Miami's got tons more playoff experience, and I really want to pull the trigger on a Knicks-Heat Eastern Finals, but the Bucks are just scary right now. All in all, this is probably a terrible pick given George Karl's playoff history, but I'll give 'em the benefit of the doubt for now.
SAN ANTONIO vs. UTAH: San Antonio in 5. Karl Malone has seen the future in power forwards, and its name is Tim Duncan. Don't much care for SA, as I've said before, but I'd be surprised if they can't handily knock off the Jazz.
PORTLAND vs. SACRAMENTO: Kings in 6. Again, this could go either way, but I'll pick the Kings 'cause I like 'em and 'cause they like each other. Amazing team chemistry (i.e. the extra pass) will get them past the loaded Blazers.
NEW YORK vs. MILWAUKEE: Knicks in 7. Milwaukee's scary, but I suspect the bloom will have come off the rose by the Eastern finals. To be honest, I hope the Knicks and Heat match up here - it'll be good for basketball and bad for my blood pressure.
SAN ANTONIO vs. SACRAMENTO: Kings in 7. Oh, why not? They're fun, and San Antonio is due for a choke.
NBA FINALS: NEW YORK vs. SACRAMENTO: Knicks in 7. Sounds like fantasy, I know. But gotta keep living the dream.
Any way it shakes out, it should be an interesting year, since I think there at least 10 title contenders out there (6 in the West, 4 in the East.) Like I said, I'll be happy if anyone but LA or San Antonio wins it. But, since it's now fifteen minutes until tip-off of the first game, I bid you adieu..Have a great post-season.