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Lakers privately admit they’d like to avoid Portland, Memphis

Mar 31, 2011, 2:00 PM EST

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Don’t be shocked if there is an upset in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

The top four teams — the Spurs, Lakers, Mavericks and Thunder — are all a notch above the teams below them. But the teams below them are hot. They each create some matchup problems and have been exploiting them  well of late. They have been defending. There will be no easy outs.

Mark Medina at the Los Angeles Times Lakers blog was able to pry anonymous answers out of four Lakers players about who they want to avoid come the first round.

The answers: Portland and Memphis.

Portland because the Rose Garden has long been a place the Lakers have struggled to win. And even with Los Angeles 3-0 against Portland this season the Lakers are wary. Portland has some real talent at the forward spots with Gerald Wallace and LaMarcus Aldridge, they have Brandon Roy and Marcus Camby, too. They are dangerous.

Memphis, however, scares more than just the Lakers. People with one of the other top teams in the West have told me Memphis is the team they most want to avoid in the first round. Even without Rudy Gay.

Memphis brings to the table one of the best and biggest front lines in basketball with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. They have a good wing defender in Shane Battier, they have a solid point guard in Mike Conley.

All top four teams in the West can beat the Grizzlies, but it’s about getting it over with quickly. Not having to play extra games and take on an extra physical beating in the process. Memphis is going to make it hard on some team (it may well be the Spurs, who will need Tim Duncan back and healthy for that series).

Denver also is playing well, but without a star they don’t seem to strike fear into the top teams like Memphis and Portland do.

Since David West went down, the Hornets are the team the contenders should most want to face. Chris Paul is Chris Paul, but without West New Orleans isn’t the same threat.

As of today, the match ups would be Spur/Grizzlies, Lakers/Hornets, Mavericks/Blazers and Thunder/Nuggets in the West. However, with only one game separating 6-8 in the standings and Denver just 2.5 games ahead of that, things could shift dramatically.

  1. loungefly74 - Mar 31, 2011 at 2:09 PM

    Please Lakers…get the Hornets in the 1st round!

  2. musilly - Mar 31, 2011 at 3:01 PM

    This has been such a good season of basketball and the playoffs will only be better.

    Portland and Memphis can throw Wallace and Tony Allen respectively on Kobe–and he’d have a heck of a time trying to score efficiently against them.

    In the East, I think New York and Philly can really make it tough and interesting on whatever high seed that they play.

    • thestudiokida - Mar 31, 2011 at 4:42 PM

      It HAS been a great year of basketball. It’s a shame that some teams will enter the playoffs without star players (David West, Rudy Gay) but sometimes are getting stronger as the year goes on.

      The Portland Trailblazers could do some serious damage with LaMarcus Aldridge\Gerald Wallace playing so well and Camby\Brandon Roy back from injury. I live in Charlotte and used to be a Bobcats fan but now that we gave away Gerald Wallace I’m pulling for the Trailblazers.

  3. ibejeph - Mar 31, 2011 at 3:13 PM

    I don’t know why, maybe it is the fat face or the rolly polly body but I’ve always felt partial to Zach Randolph. The Lakers are my team but I would like to see Z-Bo have a good series.

  4. SmackSaw - Mar 31, 2011 at 4:09 PM

    You’re trying to build a little interest, Kurt? I get it.

  5. omniusprime - Apr 1, 2011 at 10:15 AM

    Portland has only beaten the Lakers in the regular season the past few years when the Lakers don’t get interested in playing them. Portland just doesn’t have the healthy players to win in the playoffs against the Lakers. Memphis also has beaten the Lakers only in the regular season and have no chance against the Repeat World Champion Lakers. Either series will be over quickly, 5 games max, as the Lakers will get focused to Threepeat this June.

    • fouldwimmerlaik - Apr 2, 2011 at 7:48 AM

      I share your confidence with the Lakers but I wouldn’t put these teams lightly. Over confidence and lack of respect for these lower seeded teams can be the downfall of the higher seeds.

      Afterall, for the past decades, especially during the 90’s, there are a number of upsets in the playoff’s.

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