Picking NBA Finalists no easy task. For once.

BY foxsports • April 15, 2011

A few NBA thoughts for your Friday evening:

* I have never had such a hard time predicting the NBA playoffs. Never. And I am old and have been doing this forever.

* I know fans always pick their own teams to win, either via blind faith or unrelenting passion. But even the most die-hard fans can hardly say their team is a shoe-in for the Finals. That includes fans of the Celtics, Bulls, Spurs, Lakers or Heat.

* As I said on a Wyoming radio show the other day (yes, there’s sports talk in Wyoming), I am picking the Spurs and the Celtics to reach the Finals -- but am doing so with absolutely zero confidence.

* That said, I’d be lacking confidence regardless of which teams I picked.

* As for underdogs, I could see the Trail Blazers and Thunder winning in the second round (over the Lakers and Spurs, respectively) and meeting in the Western Conference finals. I doubt it, but hey, it could happen.

* Of course, the Thunder have to get past the Nuggets in the first round first. And that is no sure thing, man.

* Also, the Blazers would have to upset the Mavericks.

* Honestly, I can see any of these teams emerging from the West: Lakers, Spurs, Thunder, Mavericks, Trail Blazers and Nuggets. (Sorry, Hornets and Grizzlies.)

* I can see any of these teams emerging from the East: Bulls, Heat, Celtics and yes, Magic. The Knicks are the longest of long shots, but probably have better odds than the flighty Hawks. I love the Sixers and Pacers, but forget it. No chance. Not yet.

* Basically, what I’m getting at is, for the first time in forever, the NBA playoffs are a lot like the NCAA tournament. Yeah, there are the obvious favorites -- but those favorites are far from clear. That’s a far cry from most NBA seasons, when you can sit and wait until June, when either the No. 1 or 2 seed from each conference is playing in the Finals.

* It’s also a lot different than the beginning of the year, when everyone said the Lakers would rule the West, and the Heat would do the same in the East. Instead, we could be looking at something like the Bulls vs. Thunder, or Celtics vs. Nuggets. And most of us would be OK with any of it.

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