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Thursday, April 17
Breaking down West's first-round matchups
By Dr. Jack Ramsay
Special to ESPN.com
Editor's note: Dr. Jack Ramsay, whose Hall of Fame head coaching resume includes making the playoffs in 16 of his 20 seasons and winning an NBA title with Portland in 1977, breaks down the playoff matchups for ESPN.com. Throughout the 2003 postseason, Dr. Jack will analyze each series all the way through to the NBA Finals.
Season series: Suns, 3-1.
Keys for Suns: Although Tim Duncan will score, the Suns must force him to involve others on offense and hold their own on the boards.
Keys for Spurs: The Spurs must keep the faster Suns from a quick-paced attack and contain Stephon Marbury and Shawn Marion. They also need Tony Parker to create (without turnovers) shots for teammates Stephen Jackson, Emanuel Ginobili, Bruce Bowen and Malik Rose, who must shoot a good percentage like 45 percent.
X-Factor: The production of the bench players -- Rose, Ginobili, Speedy Claxton, Steve Smith and Kevin Willis for San Antonio; Joe Johnson, Bo Outlaw and Casey Jacobsen for the Suns.
The pick: Spurs in six games.
Season series: Kings, 3-1.
Keys for Jazz: Utah must control tempo by keeping Mike Bibby from initiating the break and containing Chris Webber inside and Peja Stojakovic on the perimeter. The Jazz need to keep the Kings under 100 points.
Keys for Kings: The Kings need to focus on solid team defense against the well-executed Jazz offense. No easy hoops on "Stockton-to-Malone" plays.
X-Factor: Psychological mindsets. There's the everything-to-gain-and-nothing-to-lose attitude of the Jazz and the complacency of the Kings looking past Utah to an anticipated matchup with Dallas.
The pick: Kings in five games.
Season series: Tied 2-2.
Keys for Trail Blazers: The Blazers must find gaps in the Mavs' match-up zone for good shots inside with Rasheed Wallace, Dale Davis, Zachary Randolph and Arvydas Sabonis and from the edges with Derek Anderson, Wallace, Bonzi Wells and Damon Stoudamire.
Keys for Mavericks: The Mavs need to maintain their high-powered, up-tempo attack featuring their Big Three of Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash and Michael Finley.
X-Factor: The ability of Portland's Scottie Pippen and Dallas' Finley to make major contributions to their teams.
The pick: Mavericks in six games.
Season series: Tied 2-2.
Keys for Lakers: The Lakers must get into rhythm on offense against the combination of Wolves defenses, and Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant must get scoring help from others, like Derek Fisher, Rick Fox, Robert Horry and Devean George.
Keys for Timberwolves: Minnesota needs to keep Kobe and Shaq from dominating and must have others -- like Wally Szczerbiak, Troy Hudson, Joe Smith, Radoslav Nesterovic, Anthony Peeler -- to step up to help Kevin Garnett execute his complete game.
X-Factor: The availability of Minnesota's Rod Strickland and the effect of seven-game series on Shaq's right big toe.
The pick: Lakers in six games.