Two of the deepest teams in the NBA will square off in what could prove to be a very emotional series.
3. Dallas Mavericks vs. 6. Portland Trail Blazers
Essentially, this is the matchup that neither team really wants. Dallas has not beaten Portland since January when things weren’t exactly clicking for the Mavs. Dirk Nowitzki and Caron Butler were out with injuries and it was one of Dallas’ two wins in 11 games without the big German. The series was split with both teams winning at their respective homes by the Mavs winning the first two at the AAC and the Blazers finishing it up at the Rose Garden.
The last time the two met was in Portland on April 3 amidst another Maverick’s skid that seemed to define their second half of the season. Dallas appeared sluggish in what both teams knew but would not admit was priming for the post season. Both sat at their respective positions in the West at the time but told the media that they were not looking too far into the future.
Portland’s previous win over Dallas was March 15 after the Mavs hosted a loss to the Lakers. Suffice to say, the Blazers haven’t beaten Dallas in a game when the Mavs were heading full steam ahead.
LaMarcus Aldridge vs. Dirk Nowitzki
Aldridge has come out of his shell and made a strong case for most improved player this season. Additionally, he has shown that this is his team as Brandon Roy has settled into a lesser role coming off the bench. All this does is further increase the depth that Nate McMillan has to work with. Aldridge has the ability to score really well without a three-point shot at all. In fact, this native of Dallas has not shot a three all season. This is especially scary since he’s scored 30 points or more 12 times this season including 40 points against San Antonio on February 1.
Nowitzki is one of the greatest seven-foot shooters of all time. He can score from essentially everywhere on the court and has developed some better post moves this season. That is not why Portland should fear him. This face of an ailing franchise knows that the clock is ticking for both his career and team. It’s been nothing but disappointment for this All Star and he knows that it’s now or never for the Mavericks. They proved earlier this season that they can handle the best teams in the league but they slipped. His injury took the Mavs WAY off course and he knows that it’s going to be up to him to make a successful playoff run for Dallas.
It’s not what he can do to help the Mavs but rather what he can do to hurt them. All eyes will be on Jason Terry who has been experiencing a bit of frustration on the court as of late. This sixth man’s hot head could lead to technical fouls, expulsions and even suspensions if it gets out of control. We saw him punch Michael Finley in the 2006 playoffs and that didn’t help the Mavs out at all. It’s up to him to turn his frustration into a healthy aggression on the floor that wont lead to fists flying.
Andre Miller had the best game of his career on January 30, 2010 when he lit the Mavericks up with 52 points. In the first round of last year’s playoffs, he started the series off with a 31-point performance against the Suns. He can score and run the floor with ease. The veteran will be key in making sure all of the pieces in Portland fit. They have a vast array of players of all sizes to throw out on the court including Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby who are two of the most diverse big men in the league. If Andre has a good series, the Trail Blazers will be seeing the second round.
Portland will win the series in six games. Dallas will experience another first-round loss to a lesser seed and no one will be surprised. There are just too many role players on the Blazers for the Mavericks to handle. They have the luxury of utilizing Roy as a second option, Aldridge is too hot right now, Miller loves to light up the Mavs, Wesley Matthews is not getting talked about at all, Nicolas Batum can defend and Rudy Fernandez is a prick. Up front, Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood vs. Camby and Wallace will be a good matchup and possibly the best of the series but it wont be enough to sway either team in the right direction. It’s going to come down to the play of the backcourt. The Mavs have the spirit but the Blazers have the talent.