Question of the day: What is the most likely upset in the first round of the NBA playoffs? [Updated]
Writers from around Tribune Co. weigh in on the topic. Check back throughout the day for more responses, and feel free to leave a comment of your own.
Ira Winderman, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
The Mavericks were a Kobe Bryant fourth-quarter three-pointer away from moving up to No. 2 in the West and into a first-round series against the injury-depleted Hornets.
Instead, there is a No. 3-No. 6 series against the Blazers, and trouble ahead.
It is a series that offers mirror images across the board, from aging-but-savvy play-making point guards (the Mavericks' Jason Kidd, the Blazers' Andre Miller) to outside shooting power forwards (the Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki, the Blazers' LaMarcus Aldridge) to versatile hybrid forwards (the Mavericks' Shawn Marion, the Blazers' Gerald Wallace) to defensive-minded, rebounding centers (the Mavericks' Tyson Chandler, the Blazers' Marcus Camby).
There is a reason teams wanted to avoid Portland in the first round. In this case, the Mavericks drew the short straw. For all of the Blazers' injury woes (Greg Oden, Brandon Roy), this could be the moment that the Mavericks rue their own fate with Caron Butler.
The Blazers well could become someone's second-round nightmare as well.
[Updated at 9:38 a.m.
K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune
One of the best things about the NBA playoffs, particularly after moving to a best-of-seven format in the first round, is that the better team almost always wins. Upsets rarely happen. That said, don't be surprised to see Portland knock off Dallas in the first round.
The teams split their season series, with the Trail Blazers narrowly losing both road games. The trade deadline acquisition of Gerald Wallace has energized the Trail Blazers, whose Wesley Matthews should draw some Most Improved Player votes. Andre Miller is as crafty as they come at point guard and will take Jason Kidd into the low post at times to try to wear him out defensively.
LaMarcus Aldridge is having a breakthrough season, and a healthy Marcus Camby gives Portland the length it needs to match-up against Tyson Chandler. Nobody can guard Dirk Nowitzki, one of the league's match-up nightmares. But the Trail Blazers are tough mentally thanks to Coach Nate McMillan, and the Rose Garden remains one of the league's tougher arenas in which to play.]
[Updated at 12:36 p.m.
Lisa Dillman, Los Angeles Times
Just gives me a warm feeling to know we are all in agreement across the wide-ranging Tribune family, all offering the Mavericks-Trail Blazers as the series with the best upset potential.
(And, really, it is nothing at all against Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban. If he had his way, newspaper reporters would be among the only media in the locker room. But that's a topic for another day.)
The Mavericks finished the season on four-game winning streak, but that is somewhat deceptive, considering three were against non-playoff teams. Before that, they dropped four straight, losing to the Lakers, Golden State, Portland and Denver.
It all starts and finishes with the Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki, who will certainly see plenty of the length and intelligence of Nicolas Batum, who has been a student of all things Nowitzki.
The most tantalizing insight about Nowitzki's state came from the Clippers' Chris Kaman, who said in early April that his friend and German Olympic teammate was struggling with his knee.
Now Kaman is no doctor ... but how that knee holds up against the likes of Batum and the game-planning of Portland coach Nate McMillan will be the No. 1 key to the series.]
[Updated at 2:10 p.m.
Zach McCann, Orlando Sentinel
Despite a series of injuries throughout the year, the Dallas Mavericks rolled to a 57-25 record and the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference.
It's too bad, however, that they drew the one team that will give them problems.
The Portland Trail Blazers split the season series with the Mavericks and went 2-1 against Dallas when Dirk Nowitzki was in the lineup.
Nowitzki, the Mavericks' power forward and primary scorer, makes his living by shooting over smaller defenders and being quicker than larger ones. But against Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge, he doesn't have the size or speed advantage.
Nowitzki averages 20.7 points per game against the Trail Blazers for his career, his lowest against any team in the NBA. It's hard to believe the length of Aldridge doesn't have a little bit of an effect on him.
And that's part of the reason the Blazers will upset the Mavericks.]
Photo: Dallas Mavericks shooting guard Jason Terry guards New Orleans Hornets shooting guard Willie Green. Credit: Jerome Miron / US Presswire