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Deron Williams
A close-up look at the matchups in the Western Conference Finals


Deron Williams: Utah's second-year playmaker has been as good as any point guard in the NBA at times this postseason — like in the Jazz's Game 1 win over Golden State when he scored 31 points with eight assists. But Deron Williams has also seen some growing pains during the playoffs. He got into early foul trouble trying to guard Baron Davis in several games and was just 1-for-11 shooting in the Game 5 clincher against the Warriors. Overall, Williams has been outstanding all season long and played at an All-Star level — even if he was snubbed when the actual All-Star Team was announced.

Tony Parker: San Antonio's Tony Parker was, deservedly, an All-Star this season. He averaged 18.6 points on 52-percent shooting from the field — an extremely high percentage for a guard — during the regular season. He penetrates and can score on layups or pass the ball back out to an open jump shooter. In the postseason he's averaged 19.6 points and 6.2 assists. The suave Frenchman is also the envy of many men because he's engaged to "Desperate Housewives" star Eva Longoria.


Derek Fisher: has loads of playoff experience, having helped the Lakers to three NBA championships. But he is coming off perhaps the most memorable playoff series of his life — having to deal with the cancer surgery of his young daughter while helping the Jazz advance past his former Golden State teammates. Fisher came right off a plane to sink a huge 3-pointer in Utah's overtime win in Game 2 and then was clutch in the fourth quarters of both Game 4 and Game 5 victories. Fisher may not be Utah's best player, but he certainly has already become the team's inspirational leader in just his first season as a Jazzman.

Bruce Bowen: has been the ultimate team player for the Spurs since 2001 and was a major contributor to NBA title runs in both 2003 and 2005. He is a hard-nosed defender that has been on the NBA's All-Defensive first team four times — including this year — and second team three times. His tenacity of defense has led to him being called a "dirty" player by some during the Phoenix series. He can also shoot, having led the NBA in 3-point percentage during the 2002-03 season. He's made 45 percent of his shots beyond the arc during the playoffs this year.


Andrei Kirilenko: Reduced to tears after struggling in limited minutes after Game 1 in the Houston series, Andrei Kirilenko has come back with a vengeance to become the Jazz's do-everything man once again. He blocks shots, grabs rebounds, dishes out assists, makes steals and even scores on mid-range jumpers now and then. He scored 21 points — on 8-of-12 shooting — in Utah's Game 5 clincher against the Warriors with 15 rebounds. While the former All-Star seemed to have lacked confidence for most of the season, he has been at his best in recent playoff run.

Michael Finley: was the longtime face of the Dallas Mavericks who has morphed into an outstanding role player for the Spurs. Finley is still a scorer — he's averaged 14.5 points during the playoffs — but he's not the focal point on his team offensively like he'd been for years in Dallas. Finley actually came off the bench for most of the regular season for the Spurs, but he's been in the starting lineup for all 11 games during the postseason. He's been deadly from 3-point range in the playoffs, making a team-high 34 in 11 games for an average of better than three per game, while shooting .459 from beyond the arc.


Carlos Boozer: This, of course, is the marquee matchup of the series. Utah's Carlos Boozer, a first-time All-Star this season, averaged 20.9 points and 11.7 rebounds per game during the regular season. Tim Duncan, a two-time MVP and nine-time All-Star, had similar numbers, averaging 20.0 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. Both have elevated those gaudy numbers even more in the playoffs and are again just about even. Boozer has averaged 24.4 points per playoff game and 12.3 rebounds. Duncan has playoff averages of 23.8 points and 12.3 boards.

Tim Duncan, a three-time NBA Finals MVP, has the huge advantage in playoff experience, of course. This is, after all, Boozer's first trip to the playoffs in his five years in the NBA. Duncan is also the better defensive player and shot blocker. He was named to the NBA's All-Defensive first team seventh time this season. But Boozer's rise to the upper echelon of NBA players can continue if he is able to hold his own in this series against one of the league's best, most consistent players.


Mehmet Okur: Utah's center and tallest player also happens to be the team's best outside shooter. He showed remarkable ability to make huge 3-point shots at key times for the Jazz prior to the All-Star break. That was one reason Mehmet Okur was named as an All-Star for the first time in his career. While Okur's success trailed off during the second half of the regular season, he still became the most prolific 3-point shooter in a single season in Jazz history, making 129. He's also a strong rebounder, averaging 9.1 in the playoffs. This is one position where Utah should have the clear advantage.

Fabricio Oberto, a 6-10 second-year player from Argentina, was a part-time starter both in the regular season and in the playoffs. He averaged just four points and four rebounds per game in 16 minutes per game, but made 63.6 percent of his shots in the first two rounds of the playoffs. He will split time with Francisco Elson, who has also been a part-time starter in both the regular season and the playoffs so far.


Matt Harpring, Paul Millsap, Gordan Giracek, Dee Brown: Utah has had the clear advantage in bench help against both the Rockets and the Warriors through the first two rounds of the playoffs. Harpring, Millsap and Giracek have combined to average 22.8 points per game in the playoffs with Harpring leading the way with a 10.4 average. Millsap and Harpring are strong rebounders as well, as the trio has averaged 11.7 boards per playoff game. Dee Brown was little used against the Rockets and missed two games due to a neck injury against the Warriors, but has played well as a fill-in point guard in five playoff games.

Manu Ginobili, Robert Horry, Francisco Elson, Brent Barry, Jacque Vaughn: Manu Ginobili, a former All-Star, can shoot from the outside and drive to the rim better than almost anyone in the NBA. He struggled a bit early in the series against the Suns, but was huge in the Game 5 and 6 victories. Robert Horry is a veteran of 220 playoffs games, having won NBA titles as a member of the Rockets, Lakers and Spurs. He's well-known for many late-game shots — mostly 3-pointers — over the years, which earned him the nickname "Big-shot Bob." This playoff season, however, he's better known for his flagrant foul on Phoenix's Steve Nash at the end of Game 4. Brent Barry can provide instant offense and ex-Jazz point guard Jacque Vaughn is a veteran backup who averages nine minutes per game.


Jerry Sloan:The respective coaches of the Jazz and the Spurs have a sincere mutual admiration going on. Greg Popovich's team's are the ones with the three NBA titles, but he's quick to praise Jerry Sloan for the way he prepares his team and gets the most out of the talent available to him. Sloan doesn't own any NBA titles, but his teams have won 86 playoff games and gotten to two NBA Finals. He's also a member of the NBA's exclusive 1,000-win coaching club. Sloan has been been the Jazz head coach for 19 years — the longest tenure in the league.

Gregg Popovich: Guess who is second? That's right. It's Popovich, who has coached the Spurs for 11 seasons. Popovich's teams have 84 playoff wins —two fewer than Sloan's total. But Pop's teams have only lost 50 playoff games compared to 85 postseason losses for Sloan. Both coaches instill discipline in their players, concentrate on defense and prefer half-court style games more than run-and-gun affairs. The result will likely make for hard-fought, low-scoring games with plenty of hard fouls.