The 2013 NBA playoffs have reached the stage of the elite, as just four teams remain in the pursuit of championship gold. As the conference finals take shape, however, it's not a matter of which teams have better players.
It's all about the matchup.
For that reason, we'd be remiss to ignore the value of positional battles as the hunt for the NBA title continues. Not only can one-on-one matchups help dictate the pace of a series, but ultimately, they can determine the result.
This year is no different.
Certain teams are stronger on paper but have holes that could ultimately doom them if the opposition plays as well as expected. Other squads are evenly matched, but a battle of stars will be the determining factor.
One way or another, positional battles will decide this one.
Eastern Conference Finals: Chris Bosh vs. Roy Hibbert
Everyone wants to see Most Improved Player of the Year Paul George take on MVP LeBron James. The truth of the matter is, this series is going to be decided down low.
It all comes down to whether or not Roy Hibbert can overpower the finesse of Chris Bosh.
During the postseason, Hibbert is averaging 14.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 2.5 blocks per game. Most recently, Hibbert went for 21 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks in the Pacers' series-clinching win over the New York Knicks.
At 7'2" and 280 pounds, Hibbert is too much for Bosh to handle from a physical perspective.
With that being said, Bosh is an eight-time All-Star for a reason, as his mid-range game helps to draw opponents out. Defensively, Bosh uses his length to limit low-post scoring opportunities and is still capable of exploding for rebounds.
The question isn't just if Bosh can handle Hibbert's power; rather, it's if Hibbert can step out to defend Bosh.
The key statistics here are Hibbert's 9.6 rebounds per game and Bosh's 46.7 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Bosh can work Hibbert out with his shooting, thus opening the door for Miami to crash the boards, but there's an issue.
The Heat were 28th in offensive rebounding during the regular season.
When Bosh is defending Hibbert, however, it's all about power and low-post prowess. Not only can Hibbert take over the game, but he can control the pace and limit Miami's transition scoring opportunities.
The question is, will the Pacers capitalize on their advantage, or will they fall into their usual isolation ways?
Western Conference Finals: Tim Duncan vs. Zach Randolph
The Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs have countless positional battles worth noting. Whether it's Mike Conley and Tony Parker clashing at the point or Tony Allen and Manu Ginobili going at it along the perimeter, there's no shortage of intrigue.
The key battle here, however, comes between Tim Duncan and Zach Randolph.
During Game 1, Duncan was dominant defensively, holding Z-Bo to two points on 1-of-8 shooting from the field. Even as Duncan shot 3-of-9 from the field, defense is the key here for San Antonio.
If Randolph isn't scoring, the Grizzlies are close to helpless offensively.
With that being said, Duncan's offensive production is of similar importance, as Memphis' perimeter defense can shut down San Antonio's three-ball. If Randolph gets going and Duncan can't convert offensively, the Spurs will struggle to get past Memphis.
One way or another, it comes down to this clash.
Prior to Game 1, Randolph had been averaging 19.7 points and 9.3 rebounds on 51.2 percent shooting from the floor. Duncan, meanwhile, has gone for 18.7 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks on 45.7 percent shooting from the floor.
Numbers aside, Duncan is a significantly better defender. The question is, can he step up offensively to counter Z-Bo's punishing attack?