Breaking Down Best Matchups of Second-Round 2013 NBA Playoff Series
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As the grind of a seven-game playoff series develops, so do the spotlighted battles that exist between opponents.
The first round featured the superstar showdown between Carmelo Anthony versus Paul Pierce and the matchup battle between Blake Griffin and Zach Randolph, among many others.
In the second round, a refreshed lineup of mano-a-mano battles are taking shape.
Sometimes it's the matchup of two guys guarding one another, and sometimes it's just a fight for who can claim the spotlight and the victory.
Either way, the individual wars will decide the outcomes of the second round.
Joakim Noah vs. Chris Bosh, Bulls-Heat
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As far as centers go, Chris Bosh and Joakim Noah are two of the best in the game.
And they couldn't be more opposite.
Noah is a throwback to the hard-nosed, defensive interior centers who once intimidated guards from entering the paint. The Chicago Bulls center is highly emotional, and his offensive game is without style.
Meanwhile, Bosh is a hybrid of post and wing, fitting his game within the Miami Heat's unique offensive system. Bosh isn't a physical defender, and he doesn't post big rebounding numbers.
Chris Bosh on Joakim Noah: "I'm tired of talking about Joakim.''— Chris Tomasson (@christomasson) May 7, 2013
The first faceoff went to Noah, who tallied 13 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in Chicago's Game 1 victory. Chris Bosh scored just nine points on 3-of-10 shooting and added six rebounds and one assist.
Tony Allen vs. Kevin Martin, Grizzlies-Thunder
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Many consider Tony Allen to be one of the best perimeter defenders in the league.
Put the Memphis Grizzlies shooting guard among that group; he doesn't lack confidence.
At just 6'4", Allen wants a shot against the 6'11" Oklahoma City Thunder superstar.
"Don’t be surprised with anything. We might try anything," Allen told the Commercial Appeal. "Don’t be surprised if I’m able to lock up with him.”
But the true matchup that can make the defensive difference for the Grizzlies is Allen against Thunder bench-scorer Kevin Martin.
While the Grizzlies may not have an answer for Durant, the loss of Russell Westbrook for Oklahoma City means the Thunder are seeking a second option. In Game 1 of the series, that was Martin and his 25 points on 8-of-14 shooting.
If Allen can lock up Martin, that's going to be his best way to shut down Durant and the Thunder:
I don't agree with Hollins' strategy this game. Kevin Martin should be defended by Tony Allen at all times. Just take him out of the series.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) May 5, 2013
Stephen Curry vs. Tony Parker, Warriors-Spurs
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Tony Parker isn't ready to pass the torch just yet.
The 30-year-old San Antonio Spurs point guard, decorated with three championships and an NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award, is just five years older than Golden State's up-and-comer, Stephen Curry.
In the double-overtime Game 1, Curry lit up for 44 points on 18-of-35 shooting to lead all scorers, in addition to 11 assists. Parker led the Spurs with 28 points on 11-of-26 shooting and eight assists.
Steph Curry vs. Tony Parker might be the best matchup of these playoffs.— chris palmer (@ESPNChrisPalmer) May 6, 2013
Each being the most talented player on their respective teams, the two elite point guards are likely too good offensively, and not enough defensively, to guard one another.
The length of San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard should be Gregg Popovich's adjustment to stopping the hot-shooting Curry, while Golden State will likely place the bigger Klay Thompson, their best perimeter defender, on Parker.
Paul George vs. Carmelo Anthony, Pacers-Knicks
The New York Knicks will only go as far as their scoring champion takes them.
But if Carmelo Anthony continues to shoot poorly this postseason, it may be less an effect of his going cold than the defense he's been facing.
Anthony shot just 38.1 percent against the Boston Celtics, and his poor shooting manifested into an uglier offense for the Knicks as he began taking bad shots in isolation. This was a side effect of playing against Boston, one of the top perimeter-defending teams.
Now, Anthony battles one of the league's best perimeter defenders, Paul George. If Anthony doesn't shoot well, it might be more of a credit to George and the rest of Indiana's defense than it is a knock on Anthony:
5 for 24. That’s what Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith shot from the field yesterday when Paul George was guarding them. #GettingDefensive— ESPN (@espn) May 6, 2013
But in Game 2, Anthony finally caught fire with 22 second-half points. Anthony finished with 32 points on 13-of-26 shooting on Tuesday.
George finished 8-of-16 for 20 points, but had seven turnovers.
Marc Gasol vs. Serge Ibaka, Grizzlies-Thunder
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Kevin Durant is the star of the Western Conference Semifinals matchup between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies—no doubt about that.
But this series will be decided in the middle.
Durant's going to get his points, but the production of Serge Ibaka will be a necessary boost for the Thunder. Marc Gasol, this year's Defensive Player of the Year, is tasked with controlling his production.
Ibaka has the versatile scoring ability to step out from mid-range and knock down jumpers, and he may be forced to, due of Gasol's ability to clog the lane.
Ibaka, the league's top shot-blocker at 3.0 per game in the regular season, will also be responsible for controlling the paint against both Gasol and Zach Randolph.
Jimmy Butler vs. LeBron James, Bulls-Heat
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If LeBron James is going to be on the floor, so is Jimmy Butler.
The Bulls' second-year forward, at a lengthy 6'7", has played 48 minutes in three consecutive playoff games, and he's the best matchup for Chicago to stop James.
Chicago's best counterpoint to the league's Most Valuable Player, Butler is able to use his length and flourishing motor to stand up to James:
Jimmy Butler doing a heck of a job against LeBron. Imagine if Kirk Hinrich was there to again torment Wade.— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) May 7, 2013
If James is the symbol of NBA hype, the modest attitude of Butler may fall on the other end of that spectrum.
Bulls teammate Taj Gibson told the New York Times:
Jimmy’s talented. A lot of people don’t understand that. He just goes out there and does his job. Doesn’t talk back. Just grits it out, and he’s flourishing in his role. He’s getting more minutes and building more confidence, and people are going to know who Jimmy Butler is soon.
Mark Jackson vs. Gregg Popovich, Warriors-Spurs
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There was some chatter after the San Antonio Spurs' steal of Game 1 against the Golden State Warriors that Gregg Popovich may have out-coached second-year coach Mark Jackson.
With a 16-point lead with less than four minutes left, Jackson's team could not hang onto the victory.
But if it's the case that Popovich is the better coach, than what happened the first three-and-a-half quarters? It's not as if Jackson is working with superior talent.
Either way, the adjustments between these two from game-to-game may be the difference in what could be a close series.
It's all-time-great veteran coach versus one of the league's top young coaches.