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NBA Atlanta Hawks

NBA Playoff Series Preview – #3 Dallas Mavericks vs. #6 Portland Trail Blazers

With the Portland Trail Blazers drawing the Dallas Mavericks in the first round, it’s time to make observations about the upcoming 1st round series between the two teams, one which many believe could go either way.

Listed below is the schedule for the upcoming games:

Game 1 – Saturday, April 16 @ 9:30 PM in Dallas

Game 2 – Tuesday, April 19 @ 9:30 PM in Dallas

Game 3 – Thursday, April 21 @ 10:30 PM in Portland

Game 4 – Saturday, April 23 @ 5:00 PM in Portland

Game 5* – Monday, April 25 in Dallas

Game 6* – Thursday, April 28 in Portland

Game 7* – Saturday, April 30 in Dallas

*if necessary

As Dallas possesses a higher seed, they hold home court advantage.

Previous Meetings:

December 15, 2010 – Dallas 103, Portland 98 (in Dallas)

January 4, 2011 – Dallas 84, Portland 81 (in Dallas)

March 15, 2011 – Portland 104, Dallas 101 (in Portland)

April 3, 2011 – Portland 104, Dallas 96 (in Portland)

While Dallas might have the extra game in the Lone Star State, these two teams weren’t separated by many points in any of their four meetings. The average margin of victory? A measly 5 points per contest. That isn’t much of a gap at all, and is indicative of how close this series could potentially be.

Both teams possess great near 7-foot power forwards, with LaMarcus Aldridge leading the charge for Portland while Dirk Nowitzki counters for Dallas. This will certainly be an offensive battle worth watching.  Aldridge has really come into his own this year, scoring numerous key buckets, ripping down several rebounds and serving as a vocal leader with Brandon Roy’s well-documented injury struggles threatening to end his career. Nowitzki has functioned as a superstar for years, being selected to multiple All-Star teams for his ability to stretch the floor with his great height and 3-point shooting range, as well as his terrific execution in crunch time. If you were to compare the two big men:

LaMarcus Aldridge: 39.6 minutes, 21.8 points, 50.0% FG, 17.4% 3FG, 79.1% FT, 8.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.2 blocks, 1.9 turnovers

Dirk Nowitzki: 34.3 minutes, 23.0 points, 51.7% FG, 39.3% 3FG, 89.2% FT, 7.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.6 blocks, 1.9 turnovers

Looking at the numbers, Aldridge makes more of an impact inside the paint, pulling down more rebounds, blocking more shots and collecting more steals. Nowitzki is markedly better offensively, however, scoring more points and shooting better in all three categories. Also keep in mind, though that Nowitzki has played more than 5 minutes less on average than Aldridge, who ended up seeing the second most minutes in the NBA this season, second only to Monta Ellis. Dirk possesses the advantage of being fresher and a better offensive touch, but Aldridge commands the paint more than he ever did in his career prior to this season, and has improved dramatically on defense. The battle could go either way, but whoever comes out on top will gain a significant edge in the series.

Aside from both Dirk and LaMarcus, Portland and Dallas both have their own collections of solid talent to compliment their stars. Listed below are the depth charts for each team:

Portland Trail Blazers:

Starting 5 – LaMarcus Aldridge, Gerald Wallace, Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews, Andre Miller

Rotation Players – Brandon Roy, Marcus Camby, Rudy Fernandez, Patrick Mills

Bench – Earl Barron, Armon Johnson, Chris Johnson, Luke Babbitt, Jarron Collins

Dallas Mavericks:

Starting 5 – Tyson Chandler, Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Rodrigue Beaubois, Jason Kidd

Rotation Players – Jason Terry, Brendan Haywood, DeShawn Stevenson, JJ Barea

Bench – Peja Stojakovic, Corey Brewer, Brian Cardinal, Ian Mahinmi

In terms of overall team depth, the advantage goes to the Mavericks. They have more shooters to call upon, and can rely on their bench to provide suitable cover for their starting five more often than the Trail Blazers can. However, the Trail Blazers hold the upper hand in terms of the starting five, as Andre Miller still possesses a degree of speed and quickness over Jason Kidd, despite both point guards’ advanced age;  Wesley Matthews is a lockdown defender and key late-game scorer, while Rodrigue Beaubois has missed most of the season due to injury, and is currently battling another; Nicolas Batum and Shawn Marion have both had their ups and downs this season, and both have similar play styles as energetic frontcourt players that can get hot and bury several shots. Gerald Wallace may not be as impactful offensively as Dirk Nowitzki is, but there are never enough superlatives to describe his effort on the other side of the ball. Tyson Chandler lacks the offensive game and polish that Aldridge does, but has experienced a career revival in Dallas, altering whatever shots come in the paint.

The series should be a fun one, that’s for sure. The Mavericks’ high-flying offense versus Portland’s suffocating defense promises to be a clash of two completely different sub-cultures of basketball philosophy. It’s usually defensive masterpieces that win games in the playoffs, and this Trail Blazers team is far more capable in my opinion of being capable of pulling one of these off. Sure, Dallas may have some good defenders in Chandler  and Marion, but Portland possesses an absolute plethora of monsters on that end such as Batum, Matthews, Wallace, Camby, and Fernandez. Also taking into account that Dallas tends to lapse too many times on the defensive end, and are prone to giving up huge scoring runs at times, Portland has the offensive weaponry to hammer on the cracks. It will be a long, drawn out series, but in the end, I believe the Trail Blazers will come out on top here.

Prediction: Trail Blazers in 7.