In their first playoff series, the Utah Jazz had enough success against Houston's 7-foot-6 Yao Ming that they were able to advance after seven games. They didn't stop Yao, but they got by.
Today at 1:30 p.m. MDT, Carlos Boozer, Paul Millsap and the Jazz inside players have another low-block presence to combat, and Tim Duncan is simply the best there is at that position right now.
Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals is at San Antonio's AT&T Center, with Game 2 Tuesday at 7 p.m. MDT.
Forgive Boozer his enthusiasm. He's young and in his first playoff season, and meeting up with Duncan at this late stage is a rush for him.
"It's going to be exciting for me. He's arguably one of the better power forwards that ever played in the NBA, and I'm looking forward to the challenge," he said after Utah's final home workout before boarding the flight to Texas.
"He's probably the best post-up player that we have in the game, and for me that's exciting. As a competitor you want challenges, and what better challenge for a power forward than to go up against Tim Duncan?"
Boozer is an emerging star in the NBA, putting together 25 points and a dozen boards nearly every playoff game while trying, at least in the first series, to defend much bigger opponents. Duncan is 6-foot-11, averaging close to the same numbers as Boozer, 6-9.
Because their numbers reflect each other, and both can use either hand offensively, someone suggested they might be similar. Boozer would have none of it. "I don't think I'm similar to him at all. I think we both try to do a good job of trying to be a dominant inside presence for our teams," he said.
But Duncan, "I think he's the best post-up player we have in the game, probably the best post-up player in the world. He has every move," said Boozer, who enjoys basketball and obviously has tremendous respect for the best man at his position.
"He's very poised. He never gets rattled. He can pass out of a double-team. If he's single-covered, he can face you up and shoot off the glass, get a layup, he can spin-move baseline, left hook, right hook, fadeaway. He can do whatever he wants down there."
The Jazz, Boozer and Millsap, with probably Memo Okur or Jarron Collins taking turns, too, on San Antonio's focal point, will try to beat Duncan to spots down low, and they think they can have some success pushing him off his perch.
"It takes a lot of hard work to do that," Millsap said, "but that's what it's going to take for us to get through the series, a lot of little things to prevent him from scoring, prevent him from getting off."
Said Boozer, "He's big. He's a strong guy, not like overly strong, but he's 7 feet, and 7-footers are hard to move. He's not like weight-room strong."
But Duncan is so versatile. "You can't really keep him (from scoring)," Boozer said. "You've just got to switch it up on him. He's a tough matchup for everybody, and we're going to try to do a good job on him as a team."
Boozer watched the Spurs' win Friday over Phoenix that ended that conference semifinal series, and he was animated in talking about today's opposing power forward.Comment on this story
"It's amazing. I'm going to tell you he's so skilled, and he has so many moves offensively, defensively I mean, he had nine blocks last night. That's amazing. He does a very good job anchoring their defense, but at the same time, he has every move on the block in the post."
Once the playoffs are done, Boozer will be keeping an eye on another couple of guys. He will add another set of twins to the Jazz family in about 12 weeks. Wife CeCe is expecting twin boys. Jarron Collins is twin to the New Jersey Nets' Jason Collins, and guard Derek Fisher has 11-month-old twins, a boy and a girl.Boozer knows it's going to be trouble around the house soon as he already has a young son. "I told my teammates I've got to take all the good stuff and put it in the closet and get out the stuff they can break, that way I'll feel comfortable. Everything's going to be Tupperware."