Playoff Teams Preview, cont.
Everyone’s favorite darkhorse. They have been unbelievable down the stretch and been especially dominant at home. The city is back, embracing them again and the L is taking notice. Even without much of a contribution from Oden, this team is definitely on the rise. ESPN’s John Hollinger actually believes this team has a legit shot at taking out the Lakers in the second round. I don’t see that–although I do think they have a real psychological advantage at home having beat LA there 8 straight times.
It all starts with Brandon Roy, one of the L’s real 4th quarter killers. The kid just doesn’t see pressurel he’s so cool that it rubs off on everyone else. The next step for this team is to get the big fella to start developing. Once that happens, they’ll contend for a title. Right now, they will be happy to win a series.
This team doesn’t matchup well with Houston. We saw in Game 1, Houston has a speed advantage in the backcourt and a size advantage up front with Yao Ming. They only way Portland wins this series is to get it back home for a game 7.
+10 wins from last year
KEYS: Johnson- 21.4 ppg, 5.8 apg
which Josh Smith will show up?
One of the more exciting teams in the L, Atlanta is looking to make a splash for the second year in a row. They have the athletes to get the playoff crowd excited in ATL, but on the road, I’m guessing they struggle. Offensively, they are feast or famine; there is a lot of one on one, even though they lack the offensive skills to effectively score this way. Depth is a problem, but in the playoffs that isn’t as much of a need.
Josh Smith will make or break this team (as we saw in the first 2 against Miami). When he shows up focused and does what he does well (run, dunk, block shots), they are really dangerous. Without him, there are too many missed jump shots and not enough deterring around the rim.
I think this team is good enough to get to the second round, but I don’t think they will provide much of a problem against Cleveland. You can’t play one on one offensively against that defense and expect to score.
looking to finally get out of the first round
have lost TMac and Deke for the year
KEYS: Yao- 19.7 ppg, 55% FG
Battier, Artest- can they stop Roy?
Offensively, when they get the ball to Yao, they are tough. Defensively, Battier and Artest cause major problems for teams that rely on major wing players (Portland, LA, Denver). Aaron Brooks has shown he can run the point, but his decision-making isn’t always up to par; he is more of an explosive scorer than anything else. Even with the injuries, this team is deep and can bring in shooters, like Brent Barry, or athletic big men, like Carl Landry, off the bench.
While this team has some defensive capabilities against elite wing players, I don’t see them offensively being able to score consistently. Aaron Brooks will struggles at times, as will Ron Artest. They all play hard, but that only takes you so far. They miss the versatility and skill of McGrady. It should be a good series with Portland, but either team will get taken out in the next round by LA.