First-round NBA playoff predictions

This is the time of year basketball fans get excited to see the best athletes in the world in the spotlight.

You see the best of the best, with mobility and agility. Let's think about the ballerina acts when you see LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and company. They are phenomenal, and at playoff time, they reach for their best.

Let's break down the first round of the playoffs:


(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (8) Chicago Bulls

It will be bye-bye Chicago. I know Derrick Rose has been playing well as coach Vinny Del Negro's team sneaked into the postseason. The reward is facing Cleveland. LeBron James is well-rested and the return of Shaquille O'Neal will help. The addition of Antawn Jamison may put the Cavaliers over the top in the East. Pick: Cavs in five

(3) Atlanta Hawks vs. (6) Milwaukee Bucks

Joe Johnson has developed into a superstar for the Hawks. The Bucks will miss injured center Andrew Bogut.
Pick: Hawks in six

(4) Boston Celtics vs. (5) Miami Heat
The Celtics have not been the same this season. Still, coach Doc Rivers has Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce looking to make another big run. Is this the last time we will see Wade in that Heat uniform? Time will tell. Pick: Celtics in six

(2) Orlando Magic vs. Charlotte Bobcats
Coach Larry Brown is back in the postseason. Charlotte makes it to the playoffs for the first time, but it will be a short stay against Dwight Howard and company. Howard is a rebounding machine. Pick: Magic in five


L.A. Lakers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Durant has been sensational, but the Thunder do not have enough to win this series. Kobe Bryant and company can turn it on.
Pick: Lakers in five

(4) Denver Nuggets vs. (5) Utah Jazz
This should be a real donnybrook. Both teams won 53 games during the regular season. The Nuggets will play their hearts out for ailing coach George Karl, who is batting cancer. Inspiration and motivation in a dramatic series. Chauncey Billups, Carmelo Anthony and company will not let Karl down. This series goes to the wire. Pick: Nuggets in seven

(3) Phoenix Suns vs. (6) Portland Trail Blazers
Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire and company will come through in a tough series. The loss of Brandon Roy is a serious blow for Portland, though the Blazers will not go down without a fight. Pick: Suns in seven

(2) Dallas Mavericks vs. (7) San Antonio Spurs
Owner Mark Cuban's team is ready for this challenge. Dirk Nowitzki has had an MVP-type year. Tim Duncan's Spurs always seem to rise come playoff time, but the Mavs have been helped by the trade which added Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood. Pick: Mavericks in six

It should be a great playoff season. Commissioner David Stern's players will put on quite a show, baby!