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Mavs vs. Blazers: An interesting challenge

After an easy win on Saturday over the Bobcats, Dallas welcomes an intriguing young Portland team that will go as far as their rookie PG can take them.


Both the Mavs and the Blazers have gotten off to 2-1 starts to the season behind strong performances from their new PG's.

Darren Collison, taking command of the offense with Dirk out, has averaged 17 points, 7 assists and 3 rebounds on 61% shooting. Damian Lillard, Portland's No. 6 overall pick out of Weber State, has averaged 21 points, 9 assists and 4 rebounds on 47% shooting.

Since both teams surround their PG's with players more comfortable finishing rather than creating their own shot, each plays with the ball in his hands a lot, making their contributions invaluable offensively.

The difference, right now at least, is that Lillard has an elite 6'11+ big man he can throw the ball inside to in Dallas native LaMarcus Aldridge, who has quietly become an All-NBA player on both sides of the ball.

Rick Carlisle will have an interesting dilemma when it comes to matching up with Aldridge. Neither of his two nominal starters -- Elton Brand (too short) and Brandan Wright (too skinny) -- can match up with the Blazers star, though I suspect Wright will get the defensive assignment, as Aldridge would prefer to just shoot over the top of the shorter Brand rather than establishing deep post position against the longer Wright.

One wrinkle both coaches may turn to is turning loose his long-limbed defensive specialist at the 3 -- Shawn Marion for Dallas, Nic Batum for Portland -- on the other team's PG and daring the other perimeter players to create offense.

Aldridge gives the Blazers the edge in the starting line-up, but where the Mavs may have an advantage, especially at home, is from their bench play. Portland only got 6 points from their bench in their win against the Rockets on Saturday, while the Mavs can turn to guys like Vince Carter and Chris Kaman for reserve points.

However, both veterans are better off spotting up off the ball, which is why the health of backup PG Rodrigue Beaubois, who didn't play on Saturday after turning his ankle in practice, could be huge. If the talented young Frenchman can't play, the Mavs will need Dominique Jones to play as well as he did against the Bobcats, where he dished out 6 assists in 16 minutes and consistently got into the lane and made plays for his fellow reserves.

The game, scheduled for 7:30 Central Time, will be televised on Fox Sports Southwest.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.