DALLAS -- The Trail Blazers have become LaMarcus Aldridge’s team this season, and the Seagoville product has lit it up for 27.8 points per game in four meetings with the Mavericks this season.
But Aldridge isn’t the Mavs’ biggest matchup concern for the first round. That would be the Trail Blazers’ big, bad backcourt off the bench.
The Mavs rely on a couple of munchkins as their reserve guards: J.J. Barea, who is at least two inches shy of his listed height of 6 feet, and 6-2 Jason Terry. Portland brings a couple of monster guards off the bench: 6-6 Brandon Roy and 6-6 Rudy Fernandez.
Those mismatches were the key in Portland’s recent rout of the Mavs in the Rose Garden. The Blazers went to their big guards on the block over and over again during a 38-point second quarter. Barea had a 10-point flurry during a span of a few minutes during that frame, but it wasn’t nearly enough to make up for the defensive problems Portland presented.
How can Dallas do a better job of dealing with that size disparity?
“I don’t know,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “They’re big. They usually post us right away when our guards come in. We’ll probably switch some coverages there, too, but our little guys have got to play big. They’ve got to battle and they just can’t give ground down there.”
It helps that rough, tough DeShawn Stevenson will be a starter, because Roddy Beaubois vs. 6-6 Wes Matthews was another massive mismatch that wasn’t in the Mavs’ favor. And Corey Brewer, the high-energy 6-9 swingman, could have a significant role in this series as a long-armed defender against Roy and/or Fernandez.
But Barea and Terry were big reasons (figuratively speaking, at least) the Mavs won 57 games and earned a No. 3 seed this season. They’re going to play a lot of minutes against Portland.
“They have to be aggressive,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We’re going to have to have help ready in situations where they need help. And we have a defensive system that covers weaknesses and enhances strengths, as do all the teams that are in the playoffs. Sticking to that is going to be really important.
“But those guys have been two of our more effective players all year and they’re very important to us. Their level of aggression being high is key.”
Barea and Terry certainly aren’t known for their defensive prowess even against smaller guards, other than Barea’s uncanny ability to draw offensive fouls. So it comes as no surprise that Terry’s focus was on trying to exploit the matchups when the Mavs have the ball.
“You’ve got to use your speed and quickness and not allow their bigger, stronger guards to be a factor,” Terry said. “They move well, they’re strong, they like to grab and hold, so if you use your strength and quickness, you can take that out of play. We’ll do a lot of things movement-wise to kind of free ourselves up.”
OK, what about the other end of the floor?
“We’ve got to fight them and work them,” Terry said. “It’s going to be a challenge, but all of us are up for the challenge.”