Because what else do we have to do today other than debate playoff matchups!!!
Dave gave a pretty good overview of our potential matchups on the main page post, but I think our matchups go beyond some of the things he mentioned. So i wanted to explore the potential matchups a little further and give the BEdge community a chance to sounds off on it as well. The 3 are listed in no particular order
The common thinking on the Jazz has been that they would be our worst/nightmare matchup in the playoffs, largely because we lost all 4 of our regular season matchups with them. While that train of thought has some truth to it, I don't totally buy that regular season success directly translates to playoff success. But going along those lines, one advantage I think that does provide them is that they know us VERY well. They are in our division and play us as much as anyone else in the league - so they have a pretty good feel for our team, style of play and personnel.
The main problem with Utah is that their strengths are in the 2 areas we struggle most at nullifying - point guard
play and inside toughness. We are great at guarding wing scorers with Batum and Webster out there, but the Jazz get most of their punch from Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer/Paul Millsap, and we're not especially good at containing PGs, or slowing down good low post scorers. Williams is amazing and has been playing great since the All-Star break. While Andre is strong enough to stay with him physically, he's going to get dusted a more than few times by Williams' speed. Boozer got banged up the other night but will likely be back and ready for the playoffs, and he and Millsap bring the same Blazer-kryptonite to the table - physical hustle and pursuit inside and on the boards (Millsap had 24 rebounds after Boozer got hurt last night). LMA or Camby will get pushed around by the two of them, and Boozer is a legit low-post scoring threat.
Utah's wings - Wes Matthews, CJ Miles, Kyle Korver, Andre Kirilenko - are all solid players, but none of them are going to kill you. If I'm the Blazers and we catch this matchup, I'd do everything I could eliminate their post scoring (double teams, etc.) and while Williams will still get you, I think we could live with that. If we keep Boozer and Millsap from killing us, we can probably hang with them - but this is the team we match up worst with for sure
The first thing most people think of with the Suns is their fast-paced style of play, and how it supposedly doesn't translate to playoff basketball (IMO they would have won that Spurs series a couple years ago if Amare hadn't got suspended). I would have disagreed with that assumption with their current team - until it was recently announced that Robin Lopez will be out for the 1st round due to a bulging disk in his back. He might not be one of their main cogs, but he was the 1 guy that gave them some physicality, toughness, and defense in the post. Without him, they are left with Amare Stoudemire and Channing Frye inside. As Blazer fans we all know Channing's game, and Amare, as good as he is offensively, isn't a very good defender or a physical rebounder. Portland has 2 bigs that matchup very well with them, as LMA and Camby are both very good at stepping out to defend, and have the length and agility to stay with them.
Steve Nash is amazing, and much like with Deron Williams, will probably torch us somewhat. And he'll get Amare some dunks off the pick-n-roll. But where we would need to really stop Phoenix is on the perimeter. Barbosa, Hill, Richardson, Dudley, Dragic - they can all hit the 3 (their bench was 11-15 from 3 last night!) and run and fill lanes in transition. We need to slow down the perimeter attack if we want to beat them - and we are pretty well equipped to do that. In fact, I think Rudy and Jerryd are best suited to a series with Phoenix's tempo, and especially with BRoy ailing would have a great series. If we could cut down on their outside shooting proficiency and eliminate as many easy buckets as possible - I don't think Nash and Stoudemire can do enough damage to beat us in a 7 game series.
The main thing in this matchup would be tempo - we would have to make sure we don't fall into the Suns' style of play. We are a slow-paced, efficient team, and they are an uptempo volume-shooting squad. The team that gets the game to its desired pace would probably be the victor - especially since we'd probably struggle to score at their pace if Roy isn't effective.
3) DallasThe Mavs start and end with Dirk. If Dirk doesn't have a good game/series, they're probably not going to win it. They have some other players that are capable of contributing, but Dirk is their only "get my shot whenever I want to and if it's falling you have no chance at stopping me" player. We have had success against the Mavs this season (3-1), largely because we defend Dirk so well. Nic Batum does a great job with his length of disrupting him, and LMA and Camby are both so long that when they run the high pick-and-roll for Dirk, they are able to get up and contest him. And one more name to throw out there - Dante Cunningham. With his size/speed/agility combination, I think he's really well suited to guard Dirk, and would be a nice option there to spell Batum or whoever else is guarding him.
Jason Kidd is still really effective, and at this stage in his career miraculously started hitting 3s, but he is more of a setup guy than anything and isn't going to kill you. While he is as big and strong as Andre, Andre can still post him up and has a quickness advantage on him. The same goes for Jason Terry and JJ Barrea, as long as you don't give them easy, wide-open looks from 3 they're not going to torch you. And Rudy, Jerryd, and Andre have done a great job of chasing them off screens and staying with them on the perimeter. Their perimeter guy that can score in bulk is Caron Butler, and he's made even more dangerous by the fact that Batum is usually guarding Dirk. While he lit up Brandon Roy last month for 25 points, I think Martell Webster would be much more effective against him (Martell has the size and the strength to stay with him) - and we would probably have him on Butler for most of that series (unless we guard Dirk with a big, and Batum is on Butler).
Dallas' other two threats are largely negated in a series against Portland. Shawn Marion's biggest contribution in a series against us would be to guard Brandon Roy - but as Brandon will likely not be the focal point of our offense (he may be - but at this point you have to think that his effectiveness will be limited), he doesn't hold as much value. He will run the floor and get some easy buckets from Kidd - but not a major threat. The other guy is Brenden Haywood, and while he's a solid center, Marcus Camby routinely eats him up, and I don't think he'd have a big impact on the series.
So - surprise, surprise - it's all about us slowing down Dirk against Dallas - who knew?!
I'm sure I missed some things - but I'm sure you all will fill those in in the comments. What do you think?