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Finally, a competitive matchup in the West!
In many ways, these teams are mirror images of each other.
Both rely on athleticism and defense. Both have had high expectations in recent years, and both have come up short—this is especially true of Dallas.
It also seems that the strengths of these teams will offset each other. With Lamarcus Aldridge having revamped his game, the Blazers possess the more potent low-post presence—usually a harbinger of playoff success.
But the Mavericks have Dirk Nowitzki, who is the only transcendent player in this series, the only sure-fire Hall of Famer. That counts for a lot.
A player as great as Dirk can carry a team a long way, and facing a team that is unproven in the postseason, it is not unrealistic to expect Dirk to lift the Mavs past the Blazers by himself.
Although Aldridge is no Nowitzki, his supporting cast is considerably better.
Andre Miller has been more productive than Jason Kidd in 2011. The Blazers also augmented their roster by adding Gerald Wallace midseason, giving the team an added boost athletically and on defense.
They also have the ageless one, Marcus Camby, patrolling the paint. Anyone who has followed Camby’s career knows that he is always a shot-blocking presence.
This series is a tough one to call. The Blazers get the edge athletically, on the boards, and in overall depth of roster.
The Mavs have an advantage in that they have been here before, and have one of the game’s most dangerous weapons at their disposal in Nowitzki, who happens to also be one of the NBA’s best crunch-time scorers.
I am giving the edge to the Blazers. They will not only be able to outrebound the Mavs, but are stout enough defensively to slow down the parts of their offense not named Dirk.
The wildcard in this series, and in the Blazers playoff hopes in general, is Brandon Roy.
Roy by all accounts has another two years max of NBA production left in his knees. If he is healthy enough to play, and realistically contribute, he could put this roster over the top.
If he is not, the Blazers will struggle to compete. I still think that they can eek their way past the Mavs, but anything past the first round will be near-impossible without Roy.
Prediction: Blazers in seven