There must be a million ways to lose in the West

Wow. Just a couple weeks ago, it was sort of a gimme that the Portland Trail Blazers would be playing either the Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs or possilby the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

After a pair of stirring runs by the Spurs and Clippers, the opponent could be Memphis or Houston, with the Blazers having played their way out of homecourt edge in the series.

This is what makes the Western Conference one of the best conferences in any pro sport in the world. Not only are there so many quality teams - two teams with winning records will miss the playoffs entirely, but so many of the playoff teams are closely matched that even their playoff seeds are up in the air until the final three days of the season.

Sports books in Las Vegas must be loving this because there's two odds-on favorites - Golden State and San Antonio, but so many upset potentials.

NBA executives have to be loving how the playoffs are shaping up, too, with a pair of season upstarts: Golden State in the West, and Atlanta in the East, possibly lining up against the stars of their conferences: the NBA champion Spurs against Lebron James' Cleveland in the conference finals.

But, that's anything but a gimme in the West.