5 Matchups That Matter

With the help of an NBA scout, SI's Jack McCallum broke down individual battles that will be pivotal in the first round
April 30, 2006

1
TONY PARKER, San Antonio vs. MIKE BIBBY, Sacramento

Bibby was not theonly defender Parker ran around and through en route to 25 points in the Spurs'122--88 Game 1 rout, but the Kings need him to do a better job of forcingParker to take outside jumpers instead of letting him sashay into the paint,where Parker's teammates (Tim Duncan especially) are adept at screening outdefenders looking to stop penetration. Even on his best day, though, Bibbycould not shut down Parker, so he must try to wear him out on offense.

Scout: "Bibbyis one of the best in the league at coming off screens--and running his maninto them--and getting points off Sacramento's secondary break. Parker is onlyan average defender, and he can be exploited."

2
DIRK NOWITZKI, Dallas vs. SHANE BATTIER, Memphis

With his length,exquisite touch and ability to create space to get off his shot, Nowitzki isvirtually unguardable. But Battier, who never quits, has the foot speed andtenacity to contest Nowitzki's shot. Sometimes.

Scout: "Idon't want to even think of how tough Dirk'd be if they posted him up and hedeveloped a bunch of moves around the basket."

3
CARMELO ANTHONY, Denver vs. CUTTINO MOBLEY and QUINTON ROSS, L.A. Clippers

Mobley is anunderrated defender (he's quick), and Ross is tough and tenacious. The Clipsused both of them on Anthony in their 89--87 Game 1 victory--he scored 25points but missed all eight fourth-quarter shots. Anthony is a provencrunch-time performer, but he's still prone to making bad decisions whenpressured.

Scout: "TheClips would probably prefer having Ross on Carmelo, but they can't do that allthe time since he's such a nonfactor on offense. Anthony has to learn thatthere's a difference between being unafraid and passing it out when youabsolutely have to."

4
KOBE BRYANT, L.A. Lakers vs. RAJA BELL, Phoenix

After a passiveGame 1 (Bryant took only 10 shots through the first three periods in L.A.'s107--102 loss), there is virtually no chance Bryant doesn't come out firing inthe rest of the series. No one checks Bryant one-on-one; the Suns' plan is tosimply have Bell play Bryant aggressively and make him shoot outside.

Scout: "Bell'san underrated offensive player, and he can wear Kobe out a little at that end.Kobe's a good defender, but he'll give up a little bit if someone runshim."

5
VINCE CARTER, New Jersey vs. STEPHEN JACKSON, Indiana

This looks like amismatch, but it's the Pacers forward, not the high-flying, free-firing Carter,who played a key role in a Finals ('03, with the Spurs). Carter had 31 pointsin Game 1 but took 33 shots, while Jackson had 18 on 8-for-15 shooting.

Scout:"Jackson can get spacey, but he's a terrific competitor. New Jersey needsCarter to score, but when he's forcing everything and other players feeluninvolved, they're very vulnerable."

PHOTOLISA BLUMENFELD/GETTY IMAGES BELL'STOLL - In helping hold Kobe to 22, Bell got a hand from, of all people,Kobe.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)