Big Z's return helps Cavs pull away

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Last week we took a sneak peak at the East's first-round matchups. This week, we go across the country to preview the Western Conference playoffs based on Monday's standings:

No. 1 Lakers vs. No. 8 Portland: Not an ideal matchup for L.A., which finally snapped a nine-game losing streak in Portland last month. But it's hard to see how the Marcus Camby and Juwan Howard center rotation will be able to hold up against the Lakers' superior size. Brandon Roy steals two games. The Lakers take four. Take the Lakers in six.

No. 2 Dallas vs. No. 7 Oklahoma City: The old Mavs own two wins over the Thunder. The new, post-trade Mavs lost by 13 points in Caron Butler's and Brendan Haywood's first game. Dallas' edge in playoff experience is a big factor, but so is OKC's superstar just itching to break out. Take the Thunder in 7.

No. 3 Denver vs. No. 6 San Antonio: Health (Tony Parker in San Antonio, George Karl and Kenyon Martin in Denver) is an enormous unknown right now. The Nuggets have a dynamic offense and no D while the Spurs have a steady offense and playoff-tested defense. For now, take the Spurs in 7.

No. 4 Utah vs. No. 5 Phoenix: Phoenix's offense is explosive but you can't sleep on Utah's D. With point guards a wash, it could come down to who plays better small ball: Mehmet Okur and Carlos Boozer, or Channing Frye and Amar'e Stoudmire? Take Utah in 6.

(All stats and records are through March 28.)

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