DONUT 1: TV TIME I've got Mavs TV on FS Southwest with Emily Jones (online from 7 to 7:30 and then of course tipoff is at 8:30 on TXA21. All day long, the DB.com staff will keep you filled in (our man Mark Followill has a special Mavs-Blazers 'Followill's 5 Keys' just up here) and right here, DB.com's Coach Fain helps us get all X'y-and-O'y. ...
DONUT 2: THE TALE OF THE TAPE The Dallas Mavericks boast the league's 8th rated offense and defense when adjusted for pace. They allow opponents an average of 96 points per game while scoring just over 100 themselves (good for a +4.2 differential, if you care about that sort of thing). Dallas also rated right in the middle of the pack (18th) in terms of pace (basically possessions per game). Dallas finished with a record of 57-25 while playing the 8th most difficult schedule in the league. They were also tied with Miami for best road record, while Portland finished below .500 on the road.
Portland comes into the playoffs with a top ten offensive rating and the 14th best defensive rating. The Blazers score just over 96 points a night while giving up just under 95 (+1.5 differential). They are dead last in terms of pace, playing about 88 possessions a game, compared to Dallas' 91. The Blazers managed a record of 48-34 while playing the 12th hardest schedule.
Of the four games the teams played this year only one was played at Portland's preferred pace. Both teams defended their home-court in the season series, with the Mavericks taking the first two matchups in Dallas, and Portland winning twice in the Rose Garden.
DONUT 3: THE BIG MATCHUPS The Mavs and Blazers each boast one of the NBA's premiere power forwards in Dirk Nowitzki and Lamarcus Aldridge. Dirk comes into this series having averaged 23 points on 52% shooting and 7 boards a game. Aldridge brings similar totals of 22 points on 50% shooting and nearly 9 rebounds per contest. It is, however, unlikely that the two will be asked to defend one another for long stretches of games. Expect Dallas to challenge Aldridge primarily with Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood, while Portland tries to counter Nowitzki with a combination of veteran center Marcus Camby and athletic forwards like Gerald Wallace and Nicolas Batum.
The center position will be key for the Mavericks. One of the biggest questions heading into this series is can the tandem of Chandler and Haywood keep Aldridge in the low 20's without the help of constant double teams? If the can accomplish that it will allow the rest of the Maverick defenders to hound the Blazers' three point shooters.
DONUT 4: SO, TY, FIRE ‘EM UP!
DONUT 5: THE SMALL MATCHUP The biggest matchup concern for the Mavs is Portland's "small" lineup. When Camby comes out of the game he is usually replaced by Batum, Brandon Roy, or Rudy Fernandez. Aldridge then slides over to the center spot and Wallace occupies the vacated power forward position. Portland can effectively do this without losing very much in terms of rebounding because Wallace, at only 6'8, pulls down a remarkable 7.6 rebounds a game. Coach Nate McMillan will also allow him to cover Nowitzki on the defensive end. The question the Mavericks and Coach Carlisle must ask themselves is; "can we afford to have Dirk guarding Wallace on the other end?" If the answer to that question is no expect to see a lot of zone defense from the Mavs when Wallace is playing the power forward spot.
The other great concern for Dallas is the size and strength of the Blazers' guards, of whom Andre Miller is the smallest at 6'4. Jason Kidd plays bigger than his size at 6'4, but can the smaller Mavs, like the 6'2 Terry and the 5'? Barea, compete with the likes of Brandon Roy, Wes Matthews, and Rudy Fernandez? The apparent ascension of DeShawn Stevenson into the starting lineup should help to mitigate this Blazers' advantage and the recent run of impressive play from the 6'9 Corey Brewer could lead to him chasing around Roy or Fernandez for a few minutes.
DONUT 6: THE STRATEGY So how can Dallas overcome the short-comings (and shortness) to handle their first-round business? Expect to see quite a bit of zone defense when Terry and/or Barea or on the floor to make up for the size disadvantage. We should also look at how Rick Carlisle intends to defend Portland's most potent offensive player, LaMarcus Aldridge. Will he adopt the Spurs' model for defending Dirk? Or will he force the relatively inexperienced playoff performer to be patient and pass out of double teams?
How will Portland defend Nowitzki and the Mavericks? I fully expect them to adopt the Popavich model. That means lots of single coverage and soft doubles for Dirk, but constant pressure and attention on Jason Terry and Jason Kidd.
DONUT 7: THE X-FACTORS For Portland it's Brandon Roy. Can the injury riddled player find a few games of his former dominance, or will he continue to be just an average bench player?
The Mavs, on the other hand, need Shawn Marion to step up his game. He needs to out-duel fellow freak athlete Gerald Wallace for the Mavericks to have success.
DONUT 8: STAYING CONNECTED So you need to get into the game? And you want to do so in the most affordable way possible? I got your hookup.
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DONUT 9: QUESTIONS TO BE ANSWERED As the series unfolds there are a few key elements to look for:
*How will Jason Terry respond to his recent struggles as well as his reputation as a playoff under-achiever?
*How will Coach Carlisle deploy his bench? Will Barea continue to play 15-20 minutes a game? If Beaubois is healthy how is he being used? Can Peja be a net positive against an extremely athletic Blazers team? Will Brewer see some spot minutes behind Marion or Stevenson in an effort to counteract Portland's size in the back-court?
*Can Chandler and Haywood effectively single cover LaMarcus Aldridge?
*How much will we see the Dallas zone, and how effective will it be in a playoff setting?
*Can the Mavericks remain competitive on the glass?
*Can Marion continue his recent surge?
If the Mavs are able to use the zone defense effectively against Portland's small lineup, are able to compete on the backboards, and are able to single-cover Aldridge while chasing Matthews, Roy, and Fernandez off of open threes I believe they will have a very good chance to win, even if they struggle to make shots.
If Portland is able to ground the Jet, make a high percentage of their three-point shots, get a couple of good games from Roy, and dominate on the glass then we may be looking at another quick exit from our "Boys in Blue."
Check back with DB.com after Game 2 when Coach Fain will add to our traditional "Coach ‘Em Up" format and look at some of the adjustments that have been, and need to be made before our Mavs head for the Rose Garden.
DONUT 10: 'COACH 'EM UP!' What are the "Coach ‘Em Up''s for Premium Mavs fans? Here's a sample ... I've opened it up for a free Sneak Peek: Roddy B's Low BBIQ – A Film Study.
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DONUT 11: 'IT'S YOUR MONEY' Anyway, it's your money. It's more than a possibility that you are right, too, if you are putting that money on the underdog; that's horseracing! But ... you will be ignoring two factoids:
*Portland will have to suddenly mature into a great road team. During the regular season the Blazers were 18-23. As a matter of comparison, know that Dallas was 28-13.
*So, Portland in seven, eh? That means the (maybe forgetful) picker sees the Blazers coming back to Dallas for a G7, on the road, against one of basketball's most experienced teams, and pulls an upset while being a 5-point 'dog.
That's a bet. But it doesn't seem like a very smart one.
DONUT 12: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Fish, Bacsik, Followill and The 75-Member Staff handles your DB.com Mavs Playoff Podcast. It's easy listening.
POd Cast 4-14 by dbmavs
Don't think I'm being unappreciative of the talents of Dallas-area native LaMarcus Aldridge. I enjoy his development immensely. Love the fact that last time I checked, he owned a house in Las Colinas that features an elevator. And of course, the storyline regarding his mother (who is battling cancer and wouldn't have been able to travel to games outside of Dallas) is touching.
I love LA. I just love The UberMan more. I've got Mavs in 7.