No. 1 San Antonio Spurs (60-22)

vs. No. 8 Phoenix Suns (44-38)

Season Series: Suns, 3-1.

Why San Antonio Can Win: The emergence of point guard Tony Parker has opened up the Spurs' offense. But make no mistake about it, Tim Duncan is still the focal point. In four games against Phoenix he averaged 29.8 points and 14.5 rebounds.

Why Phoenix Can Win: The trio of point guard Stephon Marbury and forwards Shawn Marion and rookie Amare Stoudemire provided Suns opponents plenty of matchup problems. But Marbury's play will be most important for the Suns.

Difference-makers: Parker and Marbury. Marbury shot 54 percent against the Spurs, including 12 for 14 on March 4. Parker, who turns 21 on May 17, shot 3 for 12 and 3 for 18 in their first two meetings this season.


Today: at San Antonio, 5:30 (ESPN)

Monday: at San Antonio, 8 (TNT)

Friday: at Phoenix, 10 (NBATV)

April 27: at Phoenix, 10:30 (TNT)

x-April 29: at San Antonio, TBA

x-May 1: at Phoenix, TBA

x-May 3: at San Antonio, TBA

No. 2 Sacramento Kings (59-23)

vs. No. 7 Utah Jazz (47-35)

Season Series: Kings, 3-1.

Why Sacramento Can Win: The Kings have been waiting for the postseason to begin since losing Game 7 of last year's Western Conference finals. Chris Webber and Mike Bibby helped the Kings to a 7-1 record this month, with their only loss to the Lakers.

Why Utah Can Win: This series could mark the last time John Stockton and Karl Malone play together with the Jazz. But they may need to show the same passion displayed in their lone victory over the Kings, when Coach Jerry Sloan shoved a referee.

Difference-makers: Andrei Kirilenko and Peja Stojakovic. Everyone assumes that Stojakovic is the best European player in this series, but the Jazz's Russian reserve's knack for making things happen is unmatched.


Saturday: at Sacramento, 10:30 (TNT)

Monday: at Sacramento, 10:30 (TNT)

April 26: at Utah, 10 (ESPN)

April 28: at Utah, 10:30 (TNT)

x-April 30: at Sacramento, TBA

x-May 2: at Utah, TBA

x-May 4: at Sacramento, TBA

No. 3 Dallas Mavericks (60-22)

vs. No. 6 Portland Trail Blazers (50-32)

Season Series: Tied 2-2.

Why Dallas Can Win: Because the Mavericks are not playing the Lakers. The best thing that happened this week for Dallas was Los Angeles moving ahead of Portland and avoiding a first-round matchup. A healthy Michael Finley (19.3 points, 5.8 rebounds) could spell doom for Rip City.

Why Portland Can Win: Scottie Pippen is back from an injury, and with him in the lineup running the point effectively, the Blazers can compete with anyone. Now if only Rasheed Wallace can avoid drawing technical fouls and the rest of the team can stay out of trouble.

Difference-makers: Dirk Nowitzki and Wallace. They faced each other three times during the regular season, each getting the better of the matchup once and playing to a standstill the other time.


Today: at Dallas, 8 (TNT)

Wednesday: at Dallas, 9:30 (TNT)

Friday: at Portland, 10:30 (ESPN)

April 27: at Portland, 8 (TNT)

x-April 30: at Dallas, TBA

x-May 2: at Portland, TBA

x-May 4: at Dallas, TBA

No. 4 Minnesota Timberwolves (51-31) vs. No. 5 L.A. Lakers (50-32)

Season Series: Tied 2-2.

Why Minnesota Can Win: The Timberwolves have never won a first-round series, and now that they have secured home-court advantage for the first time they get the red-hot Lakers. Kevin Garnett (23 points, 13 rebounds) will have to continue his extraordinary season or else.

Why Los Angeles Can Win: Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal. Are there really any other reasons? The Lakers are 24-7 since Feb. 18 and have won 11 of their last 13 games entering the postseason. During that stretch either Bryant or O'Neal has been the leading scorer in all but one game.

Difference-makers: Troy Hudson and Robert Horry. Hudson has had a career season (14.2 points, 5.7 assists) and provided help in Minnesota's back court. Horry has provided plenty of crucial three-point baskets in the playoffs.


Sunday: at Minnesota, 3:30 (ABC)

Tuesday: at Minnesota, 9:30 (TNT)

Thursday: at Los Angeles, 11 (TNT)

April 27: at Los Angeles, 3 (ABC)

x-April 29: at Minnesota, TBA

x-May 1: at Los Angeles, TBA

x-May 3: at Minnesota, TBA