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Portland could be playoff problem

4/4/2011

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Nothing is settled, but the Mavs walked out of the Rose Garden on Sunday night knowing that they could return soon.

It’d take a massive meltdown for the Mavs to fall from third to fourth in the West. The Trail Blazers sit in the sixth spot, a game ahead of the Hornets and Grizzlies.

“There’s a good chance we’ll see them in the playoffs,” big man Brendan Haywood said. “They’re probably going to be pretty confident with that matchup.”

There is indeed talk in this town that the Trail Blazers would prefer a first-round matchup with the Mavs. It was the primary topic of conversation on the Trail Blazers’ television broadcast postgame show.

Portland has earned the right to be confident against the Mavs by defeating Dallas twice in the last 20 days.

“They’re a tough team,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “They’ve got a lot of weapons. We feel like we’ve got a lot of weapons, too. If this series does happen, it’ll be a great series.”

Added Jason Kidd: “They’re going to give anybody trouble, no matter who plays them. If we play them, we’re going to have our hands full.”

Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge averaged 27.8 points in the 2-2 series this season, but Dallas’ biggest problem with Portland is the size disparity of the backcourts. The Blazers’ big guards can bully the Mavs’ munchkins. There isn’t a player in the Portland rotation that Jason Terry, J.J. Barea or Rodrigue Beaubois can consistently guard one-on-one.

Wesley Matthews, Andre Miller, Nicolas Batum and Rudy Fernandez all took advantage of those mismatches Sunday evening. That quartet combined for 52 points on 16-of-31 shooting. Brandon Roy, even with his bad knees, poses a major threat to the Mavs.

“When they come in with bigger guards against our smaller guards, it puts some pressure on us defensively,” Kidd said. “We’ve got to be able to put pressure on them on the offensive end. That’s something that, if we do play them, we’ll have to look at.”