Point guard: Steve Blake vs. Aaron Brooks
Both play well within their systems, but neither are accounted on being the X-factor for their teams. Advantage: none.
Shooting guard: Brandon Roy vs. Ron Artest
It could also be Roy vs., Battier, but for the sake of argument we’ll keep it at Roy vs. Artest. We all know that Roy is a star, and if he continues to play like this, he will be one of the best players in Blazer history. A great ball-handler and he can score against anyone. But can Roy also do it against Artest? And if Artest takes a break, Houston will switch Battier on to him. Tiring. Besides being a great defender, Artest is now the main scoring option next to Yao Ming. Artest will still have some bad shooting nights, but is one of the few stars in this League playing at a high level on both ends of the court. However, I’m a big fan of Roy, and I believe that this match-up will bring out the best of him. Advantage: Blazers.
Small forward: Nicolas Batum vs. Shane Battier
Batum doesn’t play a whole lot of minutes before either Fernandez or Outlaw being subbed in, but the young guy can learn some tricks from the veteran. Advantage: Rockets.
Power forward: LaMarcus Aldridge vs. Luis Scola
Aldridge keeps getting better and better, and will have to bring it all out against Scola, a talented and physical player who just won’t give up. Aldridge has some inches over Scola, and is well-rounded offensively so I believe he’s able to deal with the constant pressure. Advantage: Blazers.
Center: Joel Przybilla vs. Yao Ming
There are only a handful of legitimate seven-foot centers in the NBA nowadays, and there are three of them in this series. Obviously Yao is by far the better player here, but at least Przybilla can make it Yao a little bit more difficult, being the long defensive player that he is. Advantage: Rockets.
Travis Outlaw and Rudy Fernandez often play starter minutes, and when Przybilla comes out, Greg Oden comes in. As a back-up point guard you can insert Sergio Rodriguez. Not much of a defender, but a superb passer. I hope to see Jerryd Bayless getting some playing time too. And if all of that doesn’t work, they even have Channing Frye at the end of the bench. There aren’t many teams who are this deep. Von Wafer won’t make Houston feel safer. Advantage: Blazers.
Coaching: Nate McMillan vs. Rick Adelman
Adelman has done a splendid job with the Rockets this season, but I’m even more impressed with what McMillan has done with the Blazers. They’re a loose bunch in the locker room, but these young guys are all business on the floor. They are confident and play at both ends of the floor, while sharing the ball on offense instead of padding up their own numbers. A joy to watch. Advantage: Blazers.
What I’d say:
Blazers in seven. The Rockets are strong defensively, but don’t have a ten-man roster like the Blazers do. I think Houston is one player away from being a serious contender, but it’s not that one player who’s injured right now.