Portland Trail Blazers vs Dallas Mavericks Series Preview
Get ready Rip City, another year another foe. This year the Trail Blazers, who have overcome another year of hurdle due to injuries to Greg Oden and Brandon Roy; our Blazers are back in the playoffs. With 48 wins this season, they reach the 6th seed for the second straight time and the third straight year in the postseason. The Blazers were beaten to the ground by the Houston Rockets, and outgunned by the Phoenix Suns. This time they head down to Dallas to take on Dirk Nowitzki and the veteran Mavericks. This series preview will cover the matchups between each team, how their statistics match up and how both clubs will fare out in this seven game first round series. Dallas and Portland match up for the third time in the postseason, most recently in 2003, the Mavs would like to gain ground as they haven’t had good performances in the postseason (I’ll get to more of that later), while the Blazers are looking for their first series win since 2000.
Game 1 – April 16 / Dallas / 6:30pm / KGW/ESPN
Game 2 – April 19 / Dallas / 6:30pm / KGW/TNT
Game 3 – April 21 / Portland / 7:30pm / KGW/TNT
Game 4 – April 23 / Portland / 2:00pm / KGW/TNT
Game 5* – April 25 / Dallas / TBD / TBD
Game 6* – April 28 / Portland / TBD / TBD
Game 7* – April 23 / Dallas / TBD / TBD
* if necessary
Dallas and Portland split the season series 2-2, each winning on their home floor. The Mavs won by 5 and 3 points and the Blazers won at the Rose Garden by 3 and 8 points (but was a blowout throughout) so something tells me this series will not feature massacres like what the Suns did to us last year. The Mavs are known for collapsing during this time of the year, most notably in 2007, when they were the number one seed and losing in the first round to the Golden State Warriors, an eight seed. Last year as the two, they were brought to a halt in the first round again, by 7th seed San Antonio. It’ll be two different styles of play and the storyline of Dirk Nowitzki and LaMarcus Aldridge. Portland was able to figure out how to post up against Nowitzki by putting all their big men on him as soon as he touches the ball. Aldridge however has had a dynamite series this year going 35, 28 and 30 points. Over on ESPN, 11 “experts” agree that while this matchup is one of the most interesting out West, six of them have the Blazers to come out on top and provide the biggest upset. Everyone else believes it’s time that Nowitzki will make some noise and finally get some postseason success and end his slump. This series puts Portland’s size and depth against Dallas’s veteran experience and great shooting. Here’s team statistics for both clubs on how they will match up:
PPG – POR (96.3) DAL (100.2)
PA – POR (94.7) DAL (96.1)
RPG – POR (39.3) DAL (41.4)
AST – POR (21.2) DAL (23.8)
FG% – POR (.447) DAL (.475)
FT% – POR (.804) DAL (.777)
3P% – POR (.345) DAL (.365)
TO – POR (12.7) DAL (13.8)
STL – POR (8.1) DAL (6.8)
The Mavs contribute most of their points off of hot shooting from jump shots (lots of jump shots) and will only look at hitting from the perimeter. They rarely want to post up and run into the paint and will likely lose the points in paint matchup. Dallas will want to score when you’re getting back on defense. Looking back to their last game in Portland, the first 11 shots they made were all either jumpers or bombs from three. The Mavs are perfectly capable at shooting the three ball well and have the guys to do it; Jason Kidd, JJ Barea, Jason Terry and even Nowitzki if given the chance. Portland won the last two games playing their best style of game play, slow and scrappy, which the Mavs hate. Think of them as a much better and more knowledgeable Golden State squad. They run and gun hard and fast, the Blazers will need to stop that. Free throws aren’t surprising as the Blazers are one of the best at the line, something like hitting 90% of their shots in this month alone; we have the edge there. The Blazers can kill this Mavs team with stealing the ball and creating madness with turnovers. Portland is number one in the league at keeping a hold of the ball and the Mavs don’t. Portland is 4th at making the opponent give it up, the Mavs don’t. Portland is 4th in steals, the Mavs don’t steal. You get the picture. While Dallas will score, the Blazers on the defensive end can and will make the Mavs turn it over, a lot. Another interesting statistic not mentioned is while Dallas chucks the ball up; they give up tons of offensive boards. Hello, paging Marcus Camby! Portland will have no trouble feasting on the boards but it’s making sure they pay close attention on their own misses for second looks as they might be hard to come by, considering Portland is 29th in defensive rebounding and Dallas is 7th. Get those boards!
WHY THE BLAZERS COULD WIN
L-Train – it’s time for boarding. While we focus on Nowitzki you’re guaranteed they’ll be doing the same for Aldridge. His career year won’t stop in the regular season, he’s quicker, can go down low and out-power Nowitzki inside. Getting the Mavs big guys in foul trouble will be nice as well, Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood get those a lot, go for it.
Gerald Wallace – the Blazers did a fantastic job landing him at the trade deadline and is probably the most effective trade this season. His speed, hustle, energy, determination and overall athleticism is superior. Without Caron Butler in the Mavs lineup, Wallace can do what he does and run the floor, attack the rim and hit the open three from time to time. The more Wallace can get inside the paint and send it home the better. Fitting as well as Portland has had a better record since the trade than Dallas.
Big Men – We have the technology to defend Dirk and the bodies to double team. You’re looking at not only Aldridge but also Wallace, Nic Batum and Marcus Camby will each have turns defending and confusing Nowitzki on who’s coming next. Our overall size is one of the reasons why Dallas should be on upset alert.
WHY DALLAS COULD WIN
Record – we all know Dallas is the better team on record, ending the season with a 57-25 record, they also own the best road record in the entire league and can very well get a win at the Rose Garden.
Veteran leadership – You have guys on your roster that have seen and been in this situation plenty of times. Leadership of Jason Kidd (who’s seen the Finals twice), Nowitzki (ten consecutive times), Terry and even Shawn Marion with six postseason runs with the Suns.
Big D – Yeah, Dirk. He’s a ten time NBA All-Star and has one of the most awkward yet effective jump shots and leaner in the game. If it’s the fourth quarter and Dallas is down by single digits, its Nowitzki to the rescue and how many times have we seen that happen? Not only are his mobility, size, and shooting ability one of the best, but also he’s more than capable to fit in small forward, center and power forward.
SERIES PREDICTION – Given the Blazers can handle what Dallas has to offer and have the tools to combat; I like the matchups of our big men against Nowitzki. Get in his face, force them into giving the ball over and winning the rebounding battle both on defense and offense is key. Dallas has been the best road team during the season, but Portland play their most beautiful basketball when things get serious and at home. If Portland can get into the minds of the city of Dallas that another first round exit is on the way, things should get easier. Portland can win one of the first two in Dallas, and win at the buzzed up Rose Garden. Aldridge will continue to pour on the heat and “Crash” Wallace does what he does best: crash the floor. Our bench at it best can beat Dallas’s bench as well but won’t be a factor if they aren’t, so hope and pray that Brandon Roy and Rudy Fernandez come out strong and swinging. I’m not worried about Batum, but we can’t have inconsistent nights from Roy or Fernandez, Roy had one of his best games his season against the Mavs going for 21 points and hitting key shots late in the game. Oh and least we forget Andre Miller’s 52 points last year at the American Airlines Arena. Winning in Dallas is possible, their mental toughness will be tested, get one done this weekend and come home to finish this out. BLAZERS in 6.
photos courtesy of nba.com/blazers
statistics courtesy of espn.com, and blazersedge.com