REGGIE JACKSON VS. MIKE MILLER
ANALYSIS: No one can dispute Miller’s brilliance as a shooter, especially not the Thunder. But he’s one-dimensional. If that’s the one dimension you desperately need, great. But the all-around play that Jackson brings is much more impactful. Jackson scores, both off the dribble and as a spot-up shooter, creates plays for teammates and rebounds. His fingerprints have a chance to be all over every game in this series.
ANALYSIS: For the Thunder, it’s Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, Derek Fisher and Caron Butler. For the Grizzlies, it’s Tony Allen and Mike Miller. Allen provides stiff defense, and Miller gives the Grizzlies a much-needed shooter. But the combination of Jackson’s explosiveness, Fisher’s shooting and Butler’s versatility should give the Thunder a sizeable advantage in the second unit.
ANALYSIS: If Nick Collison is the Thunder’s X-factor against Memphis because of his low-post defense, Steven Adams could be the team’s secret weapon of sorts. The rookie center was a pleasant surprise all season. He showed no fear against any opponent and proved to be a quick learner. If at any point Kendrick Perkins or Serge Ibaka are in foul trouble, Adams could help the Thunder steal minutes by tag-teaming with Collison to provide quality production off the bench. Ed Davis, Kosta Koufos and James Johnson aren’t big contributors for the Grizzlies, but their length and athleticism can pose problems.
SCOTT BROOKS VS. DAVE JOERGER
ANALYSIS: With just three more wins this postseason, Brooks will have more playoff wins than San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich through their first six seasons. Joerger’s next playoff win will be his first. If he again guides the Thunder to the NBA Finals this year, Brooks will move past Al Attles, Larry Bird, Bryon Scott, Doug Moe, Bill Russell, Bill Sharman, Cotton Fitzsimmons, Del Harris and Mike Dunleavy among others on the all-time list of playoff victories by coaches.
CHESAPEAKE ENERGY ARENA VS. FEDEX FORUM
ANALYSIS: The Peake vs. The Grind House. Fans are louder in OKC. But they get rowdier in Memphis. The Thunder gets more unconditional support. The Grizzlies generate crowds mostly for big games and big events. The Thunder went 34-7 at home this year. The Grizzlies went 27-14 at home this year.
ANALYSIS: Based off the second half of the regular season, these are two teams headed in opposite directions. Memphis started the season 15-19 but finished 35-13. The Thunder was 43-12 before the All-Star break but went 16-11 after. And it’s not just that the Thunder was losing. It’s how OKC was losing. Since the All-Star break, the Thunder’s defense allowed 104.4 points per game on 44.8 percent shooting. Memphis enters the postseason having won five straight. The Thunder has dropped four of its past eight.
ANALYSIS: Any team with Derek Fisher is going to have an advantage in postseason experience. The Thunder’s reserve guard is just five games shy of moving past Robert Horry on the all-time list of career playoff games. But the Thunder is no longer reliant on Fisher’s playoff mettle. Caron Butler’s addition gives the Thunder another veteran with six years of postseason experience that came with four different teams. Kendrick Perkins also has championship experience. And now, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are seasoned postseason players.