Quantcast 2011 NBA Western Conference Playoffs: Round One - Dallas vs Portland

 

2011 NBA Playoff Preview – Western Conference First Round

(6) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (3) Dallas Mavericks

 

Something has to give in this first round playoff matchup between the Dallas Mavericks and the Portland Trailblazers.

Despite winning at least 50 games in each of the last 11 seasons, the Mavericks have been dismissed in the first round a surprising four times. Fortunes have not been any better for the Blazers, who haven’t reached the second round in the last decade. In what should be a hotly contested postseason matchup, one of these teams will live to play another round. The other will be shouldered with yet another offseason dominated by disappointment and misery.

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The 2010-2011 campaign began brightly for the Mavs. After an impressive victory over top-tier rival Oklahoma City on December 27, Dallas found itself with a 24-5 record. Superstar Dirk Nowitzki was having a tremendous season. Caron Butler, Jason Terry, Tyson Chandler, and Jason Kidd were playing at a high level. It seemed as if this might be the year the Mavericks returned to the top of the Western Conference and gained the high seeding conducive to a deep playoff run and, perhaps, an ever-elusive world championship. The first day of 2011 changed that perception, however. Butler suffered a season-ending knee injury and the Mavs were forced to play without a key contributor. Surprisingly, Dallas won 17 out of 18 games during a post-Butler stretch in the second half of the season. However, a four-game losing streak in the final days of the season has most experts counting the Mavericks out of a big playoff push.

For the Portland Trail Blazers, this season has been a tale of two halves. During the first part of the season, Portland struggled mightily in the quest for consistency despite a talented roster. In mid-January the Blazers were just 20-20. Something clicked during the second half of the campaign, as the Blazers streaked to a 28-14 finish and a respectable 48-win total. Forward LaMarcus Aldridge put together the best year of his career, scoring 21 points a game, grabbing eight rebounds, and shooting 50 percent from the field. Key acquisitions, both in the offseason and at the trade deadline, have put the Blazers in position to cause trouble in this series. Wesley Matthews, signed as a free agent from Utah during the summer, brought an intense determination to Rip City. The addition of Gerald Wallace was the biggest contribution. Wallace is yet another high-end talent for head coach Nate McMillan to use. To top it off, All-Star Brandon Roy should be near full strength come playoff time after recovering from a knee injury. Suffice it to say, things are looking up for Portland at the right time.

 

 

The two teams split the season series. Not surprisingly, the Mavericks won the two games before the All-Star break while the Blazers were victorious the two games after the league’s February part. Every game was competitive; neither team won by more than eight points. The Mavericks have the best player in the form of Nowitizki and will be aided by past playoff successes (though not complete ones, of course). The real question mark lies with the Blazers, who have had a tremendously talented group for the past five years but have been unable to grab success in the postseason, often due to injuries that still do include big man Greg Oden.

Who will move take advantage of the opportunity placed on the table? The Blazers have openly said they wanted the Mavericks. Dallas will just have to give Portland what it wanted. We’ll see who has the last laugh in a series that has already witnessed a few shots fired across the bow.

 

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By: Matt Zemek
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer


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