This should be an outstanding matchup in the Western Conference Finals between two great basketball teams. The Jazz win basketball games because they’re an outstanding rebounding team. In 12 playoffs games so far this season the Jazz have outrebounded their opponents 46.5-38.5 so far this post-season. But, the Spurs are a good rebounding team too, so I’m forecasting a very physical series. Here’s a closer look at the matchups in this series:
POINT GUARD: Deron Williams has continued his fine play into the playoffs this season. In the Jazz 12 playoff games so far this season, Williams has averaged 16.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 8.9 assists and 1.17 steals per game. Williams is a pure point guard but he’s not shy about taking his shot. That will be important in this series. Tony Parker on the other hand is a shoot-first point guard. He has averaged 19.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 1.0 steals per game in the playoffs so far. He has a great in-between game from the top of the key to 10-12 feet from the basket. His game reminds me quite a bit of Joe Dumars. EDGE: EVEN
SHOOTING GUARD: This is a matchup of a couple of old timers and it should be fun to watch. Michael Finley just keeps rolling along. He’s no longer the high flying dunking machine of his earlier years as he’s much more content to fire from the outside. Finley has averaged 14.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game so far in the playoffs. He also has hit 45.9% from the three-point line. Derek Fisher has also played very well in the playoffs as he’s averaged 11.0 points, 1.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. Fisher also has shot well from three-point range as he’s hit 45.8% of them in the playoffs. EDGE: EVEN
SMALL FORWARD: This will be a battle of two of the best defensive players in the NBA. As long as Andrei Kirilenko isn’t crying like a little baby, the Jazz should have a advantage here. Kirilenko has averaged 9.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.67 blocks per game in the playoffs. Bruce Bowen is averaging 6.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.91 steals per game so far in the playoffs. He’s not only a defender as he is a good three-point shooter. EDGE: JAZZ
POWER FORWARD: This is the matchup that everyone will be watching. Tim Duncan vs. Carlos Boozer! Tim Duncan usually rises to the challenge when he’s against a star caliber player so look out in this series. Duncan has averaged 23.8 points, 12.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 3.55 blocks per game in the playoffs this season so far. Look for him to use his height advantage against Boozer as often as he can. Boozer is a tough guy that plays at 100% effort at all times. He is averaging 24.4 points, 12.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game in the playoffs so far. Look for Boozer to have another good series for the Jazz. EDGE: SLIGHT FOR THE SPURS
CENTER: This is an area where the Jazz have a huge advantage over the Spurs. Mehmet Okur is an outstanding offensive player that can extend his shooting range beyond the three-point line which cause matchup problems for the Jazz’ opponents. Okur has averaged 13.7 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game so far in the playoffs. Francisco Elson hasn’t done much for the Spurs thus far in the playoffs and that’s part of the reason why Fabricio Oberto has started the last couple of games. Look for the Spurs to let Elson have his starting job back for this series. He is only averaging 2.8 points and 3.6 rebounds so far in the playoffs. EDGE: HUGE FOR THE JAZZ
BENCH: The Jazz have only really played three players off of their bench and don’t look for that to change right now. Matt Harpring is the most important player off of the bench for the Jazz because he plays 100% at all times and it rubs off on his teammates. Harpring is averaging 27.0 minutes per game in the playoffs and he’s averaging 10.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. Gordan Giricek has started 2 games in the playoffs (due to Derek Fisher spending time with his little girl who we all should say a prayer for) and he’s come off of the bench in the other 10 games. Giricek is averaging 6.5 points and 2.1 rebounds per game in the playoffs. Paul Millsap is the muscle off of the bench for the Jazz. The rookie is averaging 5.9 points and 4.3 rebounds per game in only 14.5 minutes per night.
The Spurs have a very deep bench and they’re not shy about using it. Manu Ginobili is one of the best 6th men in the NBA as he brings energy to the whole team due to his style of reckless play. Ginobili is averaging 15.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.91 steals per game in the playoffs so far. The Spurs need him to regain his shooting touch as he’s only hitting 38% from the floor in the playoffs. Robert Horry was the real MVP of the last series as he hurt the Suns big-time due to the suspensions he drew to Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw for game #5 of the series with the Suns. He also is still a clutch player when the lights of the playoffs are burning brightly. Horry has averaged 6.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.44 blocks per game. Fabricio Oberto splits time in the middle with Elson and they do a passable job in the pivot. Oberto is averaging 4.0 points and 3.8 rebounds per game in the playoffs. Brent Barry and Jacque Vaughn are both averaging only 2.2 points per game in the playoffs so far. But Barry can hit the key three-pointer as he’s an outstanding shooter. EDGE: EVEN
PREDICTION: This should be an outstanding series, but I’m going with the Spurs in 7 due to their playoff experience and home court advantage.