Grizzlies guard Tony Allen is fouled on a driving layup by Thunder guard… (Mark Weber / Associated…)
2. LAKERS VS. 3 DALLAS
Season series: Lakers, 2-1.
Key stat: The Lakers are 10-4 against the Mavericks over four seasons, 6-1 in Staples Center, 4-3 in Dallas.
Even without injured Caron Butler, this is the Mavericks' best team since their 2006 finalists, with 7-1 Tyson Chandler joining veterans Dirk Nowitzki, 32, Jason Kidd, 38, Jason Terry, 33 and Shawn Marion, 32.
They're as big as the Lakers and much deeper but essentially jump shooters who defend.
Prediction: The Lakers have the killer No. 1 option, inside game and multiple shot blockers ... assuming they show up.
4. OKLAHOMA CITY VS. 8. MEMPHIS
Season series: Memphis, 3-1.
Key stat: Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol dominated the Spurs, averaging 35 points and 21 rebounds over six games.
I want my MVP vote back, with Randolph, the 20-10 machine on his fourth team, now the NBA's most underrated player.
Last season's willowy Thunder wouldn't have had a chance, but now it has Kendrick Perkins and a grown-up Serge Ibaka.
Until now the Thunder was the West comer. Now, even with Rudy Gay out and O.J. Mayo on his way out, the ferociously defending Grizzlies make it two.
Prediction: OKC, only because it has home-court edge.
1. CHICAGO VS. 5. ATLANTA
Season series: Chicago, 2-1.
Key stat: The Bulls finished 18 games ahead of the Hawks.
Even if Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer weren't struggling, the Bulls would soon be playing teams that make Derrick Rose's teammates beat them.
The Pacers couldn't and they were enough trouble.
The Hawks aren't known for executing defensive schemes — but Coach Larry Drew just let Dwight Howard score, shut down his three-point shooters and upset Orlando.
Prediction: If Drew figures it out, this matchup gift will turn out harder than it looks too.
2. MIAMI VS. 3. BOSTON
Season series: Boston, 3-1.
Key stat: Miami started 9-8 but finished 49-16. Boston started 23-4, finished 33-22.
Boston blew out Miami twice in the season's first 15 days, but these aren't those Celtics or that Heat.
The key is Rajon Rondo, who makes the game easy for Paul Pierce and Ray Allen — or did before he got hurt, went into a funk and/or saw opponents sag, making him shoot over them.
Prediction: The Knicks failed miserably to contain Rondo, but Miami has just the team to do it. If it does, it wins.