ANALYSIS: For the Thunder, it’s Jackson, Derek Fisher and Thabo Sefolosha. For the Clippers, it’s Crawford, Darren Collison and not much else. Jared Dudley has fallen out of the Clippers’ rotation, and rightfully so after a hugely disappointing season. And Danny Granger provides little to nothing, making the Clippers reliant on two perimeter players on the bench. One of those, Crawford, can potentially be neutralized if Sefolosha is used in the second unit and assigned to Crawford for 15 minutes a game. It’s a strategy Brooks must strongly consider to limit the league’s Sixth Man of the Year. If he embraces it, and Sefolosha has success in his new role, the Thunder’s wings have a huge advantage.
ANALYSIS: Steven Adams played 21 minutes through the first five games of the Grizzlies series. He then helped change the series — in more ways than one — by playing 45 minutes in the last two games. His effectiveness as a rebounder, roller, shot-blocker and hustler threw the Grizzlies a wrench they simply weren’t ready for. It’s not unreasonable to think he could have a similar impact against the Clippers. But with Nick Collison also coming off the bench, the Thunder has ample ammo in reserve to help contend with Griffin and Jordan. The Clippers lean heavily at times on Glen Davis, who can change the game with his energy. Ryan Hollins has impacted a game or two in his career with his length and athleticism. But the Clippers ride their starters and aren’t relying on either to be impact players.
SCOTT BROOKS VS. DOC RIVERS
ANALYSIS: Brooks made a monumental decision (by his standards) in Game 6 when he altered his starting lineup and brought more balance to the first string. It’s the type of management many have wanted to see from Brooks for years but the type he’s been hesitant to embrace. Regardless of how long it took him, Brooks showed growth in the Grizzlies series. Still, Rivers has championship chops as a coach. He is equal to, if not better than, Brooks as a motivator and surpasses him as a game manager and shot-caller. Brooks has outfoxed better coaches than Rivers (see the 2012 Western Conference Finals). But this won’t be the series to stick to the status quo.
CHESAPEAKE ENERGY ARENA VS. STAPLES CENTER
ANALYSIS: Finally. Loud City meets Lob City. Both venues have their strengths. All jokes aside, the Clippers have had a long-established hardcore base that has only blossomed with their franchise rise. And we know all about the passion of Thunder fans. Both teams went 34-7 at home in the regular season and enjoyed 100 percent capacity this season. But Oklahoma City’s loyalty in the bad times — yes, there were some bad times — gives the advantage to the Thunder.
ANALYSIS: Both teams were pushed to Game 7s in the first round. Both teams lost on their home court and had at least one disheartening showing in the opening round. So neither is rolling right now. Besides, momentum might not be a factor at this stage of the season. If each game takes on its own personality, it certainly would be difficult for the previous series to factor heavily into the ensuing series from a team standpoint.
ANALYSIS: Any team with Derek Fisher is going to have an advantage in postseason experience. The Thunder’s reserve guard is now the all-time leader in 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. The Clippers’ top five most experienced playoff performers, in order, are Hedo Turkoglu, Glen Davis, Matt Barnes, J.J. Redick and Chris Paul.