The 4 vs. 5 seed matchup will be competitive as usual. The Blazers had another great season despite several injuries. The Grizzlies continue to beat people playing an old school style of basketball. Their success in this playoff run may help determine whether or not Center Marc Gasol decides to leave in free agency. If the regular season is any indication the series wont be close as the Grizzlies swept all 4 games. However the playoffs are a different type of pressure and it should be the most competitive series in the West.
Point Guard- Damian Lillard vs. Michael Conley
Conley’s game has really evolved over recent seasons and he is a really good point guard. His outside shot has improved and he a pest on the defensive end. Lillard was initially snubbed for the All-Star team and the outcry from his teammates and the rest of the league shows how important he is to this team and how good of a player he is. He proved in last year’s playoffs that he is not afraid to take and make big shots.
Shooting Guard- Arron Afflalo vs. Courtney Lee
Afflalo was initially traded for to provide wing depth but after a season ending injury to starter Wesley Matthews he was pressed into the role of the starter and found himself with injuries towards the end of the season. His health is critical, as the Trailblazers have no depth at his position. Lee is a strong outside shooter but don’t be surprised if you see more minutes from veteran Vince Carter who showed in last season’s playoffs that he is still capable of making big shots.
Small Forward- Tony Allen vs. Nicholas Batum
Allen is a world-class defender and has improved his outside shot. Expect veteran Jeff Green to get a lot of small forward minutes as well. Batum is a good overall defender and spaces the floor with his shooting.
Power Forward- LaMarcus Aldridge vs. Zach Randolph
This is a matchup of two power forwards who both possess unique skill sets. Randolph is just as effective facing up as he is with his back to the basket. He plays under the rim and uses his body and brain much more than any athleticism. Aldridge is a dangerous shooter from 15 feet and can go through stretches where he is absolutely unstoppable. Randolph and Marc Gasol will need to do a good defensive job on him if they want to advance
CENTER- Robin Lopez vs. Marc Gasol
Lopez is strictly a defender and rim protector and is very good at both jobs. They will need his defense against the versatility that Gasol presents. With his ability to operate from the high post, Gasol is extremely difficult to defend.
Carter and Green are two impressive veterans to have coming off your bench as both have playoff experience. Injuries have destroyed Portland’s depth outside of impressive second year player C.J McColloum.