Before waving away this one as a predictable collision of, perhaps, the league's top defenses, the really interesting component is how each team defends the three-point shot. The Cavs merely lead the league in three-point D, coughing up just 33.3 percent accuracy. This should be tested when the ball is possessed by the Celtics, who happen to lead the league in three-point accuracy (39.4). When Cleveland has the ball, the C's and their pack-line defense an efficient organism that chokes off dribble penetration without leaving shooters unattended must deal with the league's No. 2 team for three-point accuracy (39 percent). Boston, which ranks fourth in the NBA for three-point-percentage D (34.7), should be up to the task. The key for the Cs, of course, is rotating the bigs to the rim after dribble penetration by James, while the defensive perimeter players stay at home. Randy Hill
Laker bench mob vs. Blazer subs
With Lamar Odom returned to Jackson's second unit, the celebrated Bench Mob may have it easy until an imagined showdown with Portland. In recent days, the Blazer bench has offered Travis Outlaw, Rudy Fernandez, Sergio Rodriguez and Greg Oden. If the series doesn't measure up, the second quarter might be fun.
Ron Artest and Shane Battier vs. Kobe Bryant
With Yao Ming to battle the bigs and these two defensive aces to share the load against Bryant, many observers consider the Houston Rockets as the primary contender in the chase to knock off the Lakers. But in four games this season (all Laker victories), Kobe has managed 28 points per game on 53-percent shooting against Houston's fearsome tag-team.
Paul Pierce vs. LeBron James
They combined for 86 points while defending each other in Game 7 last year. That pretty much ends the sales pitch.
Mike Brown vs. Stan Van Gundy
Two guys expected to finish way up there in the Coach-of-the-Year sweepstakes might be required to match wits if Brown's Cavs and Van Gundy's Magic reach the Eastern finals. The aforementioned mettle of Cleveland's anti-three-pointer defense would be put to the test against Orlando, which is second in three-point attempts. We'll also see if Magic fans are accurate in believing their team's 2-1 mark against Cleveland this season has any playoff relevance.
Jerry Sloan vs. Phil Jackson
A battle between two sage coaches is close to a reality this weekend. Sloan seemingly has used the 1-4 high and Flex sets forever, but may ditch the pretense of balanced, equal-opportunity offense and just go with point guard Deron Williams on high screen-and-rolls. This would put the ball in the defensive court of Jackson, who often chooses to play soft against screen-roll to secure rebounding position. If the opposing point guard is trashing his defense enough to put a game in doubt, Phil may compromise and adjust. The potential chess match is well worth keeping both eyes on.
Dwyane Wade vs. Joe Johnson
We have a pretty good shot at seeing this match-up happen in the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Johnson, a long and agile defender at shooting guard, figures to be a good test for Wade, the NBA's top scorer. In three games with Johnson's Atlanta Hawks this season, Miami's star made more than half of his field-goal attempts, but was limited to 25 points per game, five below his average. In those three with the Heat, Joe averaged 21 points, but shot a chilly 41 percent from the field.
Tony Parker vs. Chris Paul
This would be a battle of two of the hardest-to-guard players on the planet. Parker is an absolute end-to-end blur whose (should be) illegal crossover typically leads him to the rim. Paul has more shake in his game than a freelance belly dancer, but would have to lift his New Orleans Hornets higher than they seem ready to rise for a series with San Antonio to occur.
Portland Trail Blazers vs. Utah Jazz
Although Utah would have to score a major first-round upset to run into the Blazers, it might be a hoot to see if either team could win a playoff game on the road. It may not happen in a best-of-14.
Derrick Rose vs. Mario Chalmers
OK, so their respective teams, the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat, would be required to be more successful in the postseason than expected to make such a rematch happen. Rematch? Yeah, a little more than a year ago, Chalmers bagged a three for Kansas that forced overtime and keyed the Jayhawks' NCAA title-game victory over Rose and the Memphis Tigers.