NBA: Intriguing Western Conference matchups spice up postseason

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 18, 2008

Associated Press
Shaq and the Suns vs. the Spurs. Kobe Bryant against Allen Iverson. The Mavericksí chance to go from favored flops to dangerous ídogs.
Thatís only the first round.
Coming off its tightest playoff race ever, the Western Conference is now set for a postseason that could be even better.
iItís going to be bananas; itís going to be crazy,î Dallas guard Jason Terry said. iItís going to be great for NBA fans all across the world.î
The playoffs begin Saturday: Washington visits Cleveland for Round 3 of their postseason rivalry; Phoenix heads to San Antonio; the Hornets play host to Dallas in their first postseason game since returning to New Orleans; and Utah travels to Houston for another playoff rematch.
On Sunday, itís Toronto at Orlando; the Lakers taking on Denver; Detroit entertaining Philadelphia; and Boston hosting Atlanta.
The Celtics or Pistons are heavy favorites to reach the NBA finals. Nothing is certain out West, where the top-seeded Lakers were only seven victories better than the No. 8 Nuggets, who finished 50-32.
The Spurs are the No. 3 seed, the same spot from where they started last yearís title run. They went through the Suns, who provide a more sizable road block this time in the form of the 7-foot-1, 325-pound Shaquille OíNeal, who helped Phoenix win both meetings since arriving from Miami.
iThe Phoenix-San Antonio matchup is going to be an absolute bloodbath,î Houstonís Shane Battier said.
SEATTLE ó Today, NBA owners are set to approve the SuperSonicsí move to Oklahoma City. The last two votes on moves ó the Hornets from Charlotte to New Orleans and the Grizzlies from Vancouver to Memphis ó passed by a combined vote of 59-1.
An approval wonít quite decide whether 41 years of NBA history in the city is over.
iIím not so worried about the board of governorsí vote, really,î Seattle mayor Greg Nickels said. iWe expect they are going to approve it … convincingly. Weíre really focused on litigation.î
Yes, this two-year saga likely will be settled in court.
MILWAUKEE ó Milwaukee fired Larry Krystkowiak after his first full season as coach.
The Bucks finished 26-56.
New general manager John Hammond has ties to several coaches without top jobs, including Larry Brown, Rick Carlisle and Alvin Gentry. Scott Skiles also could be considered.
DEERFIELD, Ill. ó Chicago, which finished 11th in the Eastern Conference just one season after reaching the second round of the playoffs, fired interim coach Jim Boylan.
The Bulls went 33-49, including 24-32 under Boylan.