First of all, I don't have cable, which means that the only NBA games I get to watch on TV are occasional ABC games of the week featuring the Lakers v. whoever. In an act of protest, I will be making my predictions as if this were the 1997-1998 NBA season.
Lakers over Nuggets (5)
While the Lakers won 61 games this year, finishing only a game behind Utah for best record in the West, the Nuggets scratched out a mere 11 wins. Given Denver's dreadful .134 winning percentage, it's somewhat hard to see how they even reached the playoffs. I'll assume that a young Bobby Jackson will manage to lead Denver to a win at home, but really this should be all Lakers.
Hornets over Mavericks (6)
Granted, the Hornets were in Charlotte, not New Orleans, and in the Eastern, not Western, Conference. But they won 51 games! Also I think Bobby Phills was still alive. As such, I pick them over a typically poor (for the '90s) Dallas team.
Spurs over Suns (6)
Interestingly, these teams tied at 56 wins apiece. But I think Rookie of the Year Tim Duncan will lead his scrappy squad past Sixth Man of the Year Danny Manning's Suns.
Jazz over Rockets (5)
Stockton-Malone isn't done yet; Houston is a mediocre .500 team.
West, Round 2
Lakers over Jazz (7)
Shaq is simply too dominant in the middle over, um, whichever crappy center du jour Utah has in there accumulating fouls. (Greg Ostertag?)
Spurs over Hornets (6)
Even the hot hand of Glen Rice won't be enough to overcome the deadly Duncan/Robinson combo.
Lakers over Spurs (7)
A classic matchup in the middle, but Shaq in his prime is too much for the still-green Duncan and over-the-hill Robinson to counter.
Celtics over Hawks (5)
Yes, Atlanta won 50 games, and yes, Boston won a mere 36. Normally I would go with Atlanta, especially given the monster defensive duo of Blaylock/Mutombo. But come on, it's the Hawks! They ALWAYS lose in the first round, if they even make it that far. A young Ron Mercer puts Boston on his back and carries them into the second round.
Pistons over 76ers (4)
Neither team even won 40 games; why are they even in the playoffs? Only in the East ...
Magic over Raptors (5)
The Magic were a solid .500 team; the Raptors won 16 games. Marcus Camby can't block his team to more than a home win against the far-superior Magic.
Wizards over Cavs (7)
This is an interesting matchup. Washington won 42 games, while Cleveland won 47. But Rod Strickland had one of the finest seasons of his underrated career, leading the league in assists, and Juwan Howard and Chris Webber were erratic but often dominant in the frontcourt. Cleveland got amazing performances out of its rookies: astonishingly, four Cavs made the first or second All-Rookie Team. (Granted, one of them was Cedric Henderson, but still!) I see the Wizards gutting out a first round win for coach, um, Bickerstaff?
Celtics over Wizards (6)
Ron Mercer is lighting up these playoffs!
Pistons over Magic (6)
Even Lil Penny cannot save this Orlando team, still reeling from the loss of Shaq. Grant Hill carries the Pistons to victory; Detroit fans smile at the thought of all the playoff wins he'll be leading the team to over the next decade or so.
Celtics over Pistons (7)
Lakers over Celtics (7)
Del Harris leads his ragtag squad to the title, despite clutch game 3 and 6 performances from Antoine Walker.
MVP: Shaq, I guess.