"The Fast Break" is a weekly NBA notebook column that features interviews, insight, international news and more. New every Thursday on NBA.com/fastbreak.

Secuacus, N.J. – It would be an entirely correct assessment to claim that this week’s column is late to the party. I can actually already here the grumbling tone in your voice as you ask, “The NBA playoffs started last weekend and now he posts his predictions?”

Yes, six days into the postseason I am ready to reveal who I believe will win, lose and take home the championship trophy. Before you call my selections skewed based on each series already being two games in, let me add that despite Game 1 success by Memphis and New Orleans, they’re not moving on in my book.

What we’ve seen so far in these 2011 NBA Playoffs is the most exciting basketball of the season. Isn’t that what we were hoping for anyway? Outside of Miami’s 94-73 thumping of Philadelphia on Monday and Oklahoma City’s win over Denver Wednesday night, the games have mostly been decided by a few points in the final minute. This is keeping us in our seats to the final buzzer, and that’s a good – no, a great – thing.

Here are my playoff predictions:

First Round:

San Antonio over Memphis: Not having Manu Ginobili on the floor for Game One hinted that we might see this series pushed to the max, but now I’m confident that with his return the Spurs’ experience will help them advance.

Los Angeles over New Orleans: Maybe – and that’s a big maybe -- if David West (left knee) was on the floor the Hornets could have propelled the 1-0 series lead into something against a Lakers team that had lost five of seven coming in. Now with the series tied 1-1, New Orleans will look to rely on home-court advantage to give them an edge but the Lakers may ultimately wind up being too much to handle.

Dallas over Portland: Dallas is 2-2 against Portland this season, not including Sunday’s Game 1 win. They’ll rack up another two to close out this matchup in five.

Oklahoma City over Denver: Both of these teams deserve to advance; they’ve just played so well this season. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are too good of scorers to be sent packing in the first round for a second straight season.

Chicago over Indiana: Chicago is the best team in the East, and although they haven’t played like it thus far, they’ll go far in the postseason.

Miami over Philadelphia: LeBron James led the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals with little support in 2006-07. A first-round exit with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh by his side is not in the cards.

Boston over New York: I’m left to wonder if this series would turn out differently if the Carmelo Anthony trade never went down. Then again, New York might have been a higher seed then too.

Atlanta over Orlando: If Dwight Howard scores 46 points and the Magic still lose, they have very little shot at winning this series.

Conference Semifinals:

Oklahoma City over San Antonio: Oklahoma City has youth, size and talent on their side. San Antonio was great all season, but their injuries scare me.

Los Angeles over Dallas: Kobe versus Dirk is as good as it gets. Kobe’s averaged 24.6 points against Dallas in his career. He’ll reach at least 30 three twice in this best-of-seven meeting.

Chicago over Atlanta: Chicago had the best in-conference record among all 30 NBA teams. They’ll pick up a few more wins to add to that record after this series.

Miami over Boston: This is as tough to call as they come, especially without knowing if Shaquille O’Neal will be in the middle for Boston by then. If the Celtics don’t have a big body in the paint, Miami’s Big Three will chew them up inside.

Conference Finals:

Lakers over Oklahoma City: There’s no reason to think the Lakers won’t make a fourth straight trip to the Finals. Durant and Westbrook will make them work for it though.

Chicago over Miami: The Bulls and expected-MVP Derrick Rose have one more magical series in them. This one will take a major toll on them heading into the Finals though.

Finals:

Lakers over Chicago: Bryant will get Phil Jackson his 12th, and perhaps final, trophy. Age is the primary factor working against them moving forward, which is why Chicago is primed to take over at the top one year later.

Foreign Intelligence


The Spurs were more than happy to get Manu Ginobili (Argentina) back on Wednesday. The two-time All-Star, who missed Game 1 against Memphis with an elbow strain, led the Spurs to victory with 17 points and four rebounds…Houston Rockets guard Luis Scola (Argentina) underwent successful knee surgery on Monday. Scola suffered the injury in late-February and is expected to be ready for training camp…Blazers forward Patrick Mills (Australia) dropped a career-high 23 points against the Golden State Warriors last Wednesday. Mills’ five rebounds were also a personal best…Nene’s (Brazil) 22 points for the Nuggets on Sunday was almost seven points more than his season average against the Thunder…Thunder center Serge Ibaka (Congo) swatted away four Nuggets shots in Game 1 and is averaging 3.1 blocks in April…Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford (Dominican Republic) briefly left Tuesday’s game with a knee bruise, but returned and is expected to be fine for Game 3…The Knicks started Ronny Turiaf (France) at center in both first-round games against Boston. Turiaf finished with nine points, four blocks and five rebounds in Game 1 and six points and three rebounds in Game 2…Mavs forward Dirk Nowizki has averaged 31 points and eight rebounds in his team’s first two playoff wins over the Blazers…New Orleans coach Monty Williams wrote Marco Belinelli’s (Italy) name into the starting lineup at the guard spot in Game 1 and 2 against Los Angeles. Belinelli, who had 69 starts during the regular season, finished with 10 points in the initial meeting…Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari (Italy) scored 18 points in the first postseason appearance of his three-year career…Cavs forward Samardo Samuels (Jamaica) underwent right wrist surgery and center Semih Erden (Turkey) had left shoulder surgery last Friday. Both surgeries are said to have gone successful…The NBA Sixth Man Award was handed out to Lamar Odom on Tuesday. Marcin Gortat (Poland) received two second place and five third place votes to finish ninth…Doc Rivers deactivated Carlos Arroyo (Puerto Rico) for Boston’s Game 1 matchup…Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (Spain) outperformed his brother, Pau, in their respective Game 1s. Marc had 24 points and nine rebounds, while Pau posted eight and six. In their Game 2s, Marc had 12 points, 17 rebounds compared to Pau's eight and five.

Fire & Ice


Fire:
Dwight Howard: The 6-foot-11 center grabbed Defensive Player of the Year honors with his dominating play inside. Howard led the league with 66 double-doubles -- six of them were good for 20 points, 20 rebounds – and ranked second in rebounds (14.1 rpg) and fourth in blocks (2.38 bpg). He’ll be in the MVP conversation, too.

Peja Stojakovic: Dallas coach Rick Carlisle only had Stojakovic for 25 games this season. The 33-year-old saved his best performance for the playoffs, downing 5-of-10 3-pointers in the Mavericks’ 101-89 win over the Blazers on Tuesday. Two of his threes came during a crucial 10-4 run in the fourth quarter.

Jamal Crawford: The 31-year-old has been having a heck of a playoffs thus far. The Hawks guard put up 23 points in his team’s first game against Orlando, then 25 in Game 2. That puts him 10th among all players in playoff scoring. Crawford and LaMarcus Aldridge (25.5 ppg) are the only two names on the list who were not All-Stars this season.

Ice:
Jared Jeffries: No NBA player should ever pass up a two-foot jumper in the waning minute of a critical playoff game. Jeffries did, citing that he thought Kevin Garnett was going to block him and instead turned the ball over. That all but sealed the Knicks’ Game 2 loss.

Brandon Roy: He played just under eight minutes, but Roy still managed to go 0-for-1 from the field and 0-for-2 from the free throw line in Game 2 against Dallas. In Game 1 he scored just two points on 1-for-7 shooting. We all know Roy can be one of the best in the game. Portland needs him to play like such if they have any chance of moving on.

New York Knicks Injuries: Had Chauncey Billips suited up and Amar’e Stoudemire played more than 18 minutes, the Knicks had a great shot at stealing one in Game 2 in Boston. Stoudemire (back spasms) is expected back when the Knicks take the floor at The Garden Friday, however Billups’ (knee) outlook is not as good. (Sorry Knicks fans for the double icing.)

NBA StatsCube Cruncher


9- The most field goals without a miss in the playoffs among active players. This was accomplished by Yao Ming in 2009. On Sunday, the Celtics’ Jermaine O’Neal shot 6-for-6. (StatsCube Index)

Video Peak


Twitter Talk


”You asked for it, you got it. The updated Stacey King (@sky21king) soundboard is here: http://bit.ly/igCdIL (View)
The Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) on April 15 introducing a fun, addicting new feature on their website.

“Single CRAZIEST day of my life. Hit the winning shot in the game and welcomed Baby Battier to the world. Thank the good Lord!!!!!!” (View)
Shane Battier (@shanebattier) on April 17.

“The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame elected @realgranthill33 to its Board of Governors for a three-year term today.” (View)
The Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) on April 19. Hill is the first active player to be named to the board.
For the latest NBA updates throughout season, you can follow Scott on Twitter (@ScottStanchak).