I am struck during this series between Portland and Dallas by the numerous similarities, position by position, from top to bottom, between the two teams. I can't be the only one who's noticed while watching the two aging, yet still crucial, point guards, the veteran athletic forwards, the seven-foot don't-call-them-center forwards serving as centers of the offense. But I have yet to see (not that I've been looking) these teams compared side-by-side, one-by-one (here is Dave's matchup preview). So here's my attempt, in one draft because I will otherwise be late for work, at impressing in your mind, gentle reader, the bizarre alignment of the stars which is NBA Playoff basketball.
Paul Allen vs. Mark Cuban: Billionaire Bonanza!
The similarities start suspiciously at the top. Both Paul Allen and Mark Cuban are exceedingly rich, even by standards of NBA owners. But, more than being rich, they are also fanatical about basketball. They spend exorbitant amounts not only in terms of player salary but in making the players feel welcome. If I recall correctly (and since is this written on the fly, much of this piece may be wildly false) Allen was one of the first sports owners to buy his team a private jet instead of flying commercial. And the practice facilities! The second (and third) professional teams (Cuban is desperate to own the Cubs)! Add to this that both are not ony owners, but rabid fans, although they show it in radically different ways.
Key Stats according to Wikipedia:
Paul Allen Net Worth: $13.1 Billion (I've heard as high as $40 B)
Mark Cuban Net Worth: $2.1 Billion
Both these guys have a deserved reputation for longevity. Miller unfortunately had his consecutive games streak broken by league suspension, but he's long been known as an 82-gamer. Kidd has been part of so many great teams that his first teammates are long gone (Jimmy Jackson and Jamal Mashburn, where art thou?). Miller provides the steady veteran leadership and lobs the Blazers desperately need. And Kidd has proven himself to be not only relevant, but crucial to his team's success, providing unexpected scoring in games one and two. His proeduction has tailed off, however, while Miller's has been almost laughably steady. Both have a questionable history from outside, both have lost a step, both are major keys to their team's success. Andre was key to the Blazer's 1st half in Game 4; he seems to bear a greater burden for the Blazer's success, but this matchup still seems to be a pretty even performance all things considered.
Miller: 16.5 PPG, 5.5 APG, 3.8 RPG, .5 SPG, 2.25 TO PG
Kidd: 14.8 PPG, 4.8 APG, 5 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 1.75 TO PG,
Advantage: DEAD HEAT
Matthews, as Jazz and Blazers fans know, was passed over twice by every NBA team in the 2009 NBA draft. A year later, he was guaranteed 34 million of Paul Allen's dollars for five years of basketball. Stevenson was considered the least important player in the trade that brought Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood from the Wizards. Instead, he provided crucial play last year and starts these playoffs in place of scorer Jason Terry (albeit for tactical purposes). Both are about the same size, athletic, renowned for their physicality. Matthews perhaps has the offensive edge, if only in terms of potential. He also had a great game 3.
Matthews: 12.8 PPG, 30.5 min PG
Stevenson: 3.5 PPG, 13 min PG
Both of these guys have years of insane scoring behind them and are reputed to be tough defenders. Yet they both occupy complimentary positions on their respective teams, teritiary options at best. So far, by my inexperienced eyes, both have battled one another to a standstill, each defensively capable of neutralizing the other. Wallace, expected to be a key factor, has yet to dominate, while Marion--having the capability to light up--has deferred to his teammates. Marion continues to be a factor when on the court, but the Blazers rely on Wallace being out there much longer.
Wallace: 10.8 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 3.3 APG ~ 40 min PG
Marion: 8.3 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2 APG, 1 BPG ~31 min PG
Advantage: MUTUAL ASSURED DESTRUCTION
TheMarcus Aldridge vs. Dirk Nowitzki: Battle of the Seven-Foot Scoring Machines
One is from another land, and the other is Dirk Nowitzki. Seriously, if so many consider Texas to be its own country, why should LaMarcus have had to play a year in Austin? Oh well. Nowitzki's scoring prowess is legend, and his length and ability peg him as the go-to option for Dallas. Aldridge's game has attracted notice from writers as obscure as Sports Guy Bill Simmons, yet because of Nate's game plan, his is merely an important part of the fourth-quarter game plan. His importance in this matchup is thus at least to an extent hampered by the coach's team vision. Dirk may never lose this matchup, but Aldridge appears to be narrowing the gap with his overall game.
Aldridge: 22.3 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.5 APG, 2 BPG 1.5SPG ~43 min PG
Nowitzki: 26.5 PPG, 7 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.5 BPG < 40 min PG
Camby--fresh off yet another injury-plagued season--is yet again providing exactly what he came to provide: excellent pivot defense, rebounding, veteran savvy. His surprise understudy had an active, inspiring effort in a close game 3. Chandler and Haywood have provided moments, but neither as yet have put their stamp to any game this series. Chandler has drawn his share of fouls and Blazer fans have snickered behind their hands when Haywood has stepped to the line. Those two have played Camby to a draw so far, but if Johnson can build upon his game 3 performance (if Nate grants him the time) this matchup could tilt in the Blazer's favor.
Blazers Pivots: 3.8 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 2 BPG, 3.5 fouls PG
Mavs Pivots: 7 PPG, 13 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 6.75 fouls PG
Brandon Roy vs. Jason Terry: The Seattle Connection
It's another battle between two guys with two first names (Jarrett Jack? Martell Webster?), but these two are the first of three with a local connection. Roy allegedly idoloized/is-great-friends-with Terry, who is also from Seattle. Terry is a sixth-man extraordinaire, placed on the bench to provide scoring punch. Roy is a former all-star with glass knees, and looks like he's found his mojo on a team he used to lead. Like Matthews, he, too, had an excellent game 3, and the trend continued spectacularly in game 4. No question he has earned the court time in succeeding games. This momentum probably gives him a slight advantage over Terry's production.
Roy: 10.5 PPG in 20 ("Coach put me in 'n I was nasty!") min
Terry: 15.5 PPG in 33 min
What could have been a showdown between hot young prospects from France has become muddled. Batum, much heralded for his length, his athelticism, his defense, his potential, has been matched and raised by a free-agent has-been from Serbia. The Blazers as a defensive unit often succeed at neutralizing or at least containing three or four facets of the opposition, but that typically comes at the cost of opening the door for some (relative) unknown (perhaps this happens with all teams). Such was Stojakovic in game 2. That one performance statistically neutralized three steadily less productive games from Batum, who is pretty much invisible. One can argue in his defense that Carlisle is running Peja off of screens, actually using him.
Batum: 9 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 1.5 APG in 27.5 min
Peja: 10.5 PPG, 2.5 RPG in 23 min
Advantage: (maddeningly) Mavericks
Rudy Fernandez vs. Jose Juan Barea: Do We Belong in the NBA (Part 29)?
These two major players with Spanish roots have somewhat different arcs. Barea functions as a change-of-pace replacement whose primary function is to play off Terry on the second unit. He provides offensive spark and pays for it with getting posted up on the brutally other end. Fernandez is a streaky shooter whose ability to contribute and fit in fluctuates with the team's needs as perceived by McMillan. His role this series has been minimized by Barea's speed, his inability to capitalize othe other end, and probably as much or more by Roy's, uh, needs. Barea's role on the Mavericks is more stable, whereas Fernandez's talents seem to need to exact a fit to be fully effective on the Blazers.
Rudy: 9 pts, 9 rebs in 56 total minutes
JJ: 20 pts, 10 ass in 76 total minutes
TrailBlazers vs. Mavericks: The Old, Old West vs. the Merely Old West
Finally--this post is so long the SBnation word processor is literally spelling out one letter per second--consider the very mascots of these two teams. Both are symbols of the west, back when states were only territories and the Northwest was somewhere around the Great Lakes. The name Trailblazer denotes (ironically) either an outdated sport-utility vehicle or one who stakes the path where others sheepishly follow. A maverick, on the other hand, denotes either a lost calf or someone who defies conention and strikes out in an original direction. Both mean pretty much the same thing in modern colloquial English, but the first is somewhat formal and archaic, outdated and a little fuddy-duddy, whereas the other is pasted on the helmet of Tom Cruise in Top Gun.
Portland's much-vaunted depth has been neutralized by the Mavericks' veteran playooff expeirience and ability to excecute in the fourth quarter. Many commentators thought this series was too close to call, and it took an unbelievable performance by Roy to prove them right. At 2-2, the closeness of many of these matchups makes prediction a seemingly impossible task.