7. PERIMETER BENCH
ANALYSIS: For the Thunder, it's Martin, Derek Fisher and DeAndre Liggins. For the Grizzlies, it's Bayless, Quincy Pondexter and Keyon Dooling. It's a matchup that has the potential to swing momentum in each game. Neither side needs to be sensational, nor is it likely that either will be. Both benches ranked in the bottom third in scoring in the regular season. But there is ample skill and versatility on both sides to make a consistent impact. Thanks to Fisher, though, the Thunder just happens to have the experience advantage. Fisher's ability to raise his level of play in the postseason also tips the scale in favor of Oklahoma City.
8. INTERIOR BENCH
NICK COLLISON/HASHEEM THABEET VS. DARRELL ARTHUR/ED DAVIS
ANALYSIS: Arthur can be a handful with his athleticism, rebounding and shooting if the Thunder isn't careful. Davis is considerably less dangerous and barely played in his first playoff series against the Clippers. Thabeet, after playing only five minutes against the Rockets in his playoff debut, could be relied on much more in this series. But Collison is the key. He single-handedly gives the Thunder the advantage in this matchup for his ability to defend Zach Randolph. In fact, there might not be a better defender in the league against Randolph. After averaging just 15 minutes in the series with the Rockets, Collison might need to average nearly double that for the Thunder to have its best chance at stopping the Grizzlies' inside attack.
SCOTT BROOKS VS. LIONEL HOLLINS
ANALYSIS: Brooks has won twice as many playoff games — 28 to Hollins' 14 — and so on the surface it's hard to argue against what the Thunder coach has done. He's been at the helm for every second of Oklahoma City's success. Brooks has made the most of one of the league's most talented rosters, which in and of itself is difficult to do. He's helped develop All-Stars, a Sixth Man Award winner and the league's leading shot-blocker, all while keeping his players motivated to consistently perform at a high level. But these are the playoffs, where coaches rise and chess matches ensue. And Brooks is more motivator than tactician. Compare the coaches' playbooks, strategies, systems, in-game adjustment abilities and overall command of their respective teams and Hollins comes out on top.
10. HOME COURT
CHESAPEAKE ENERGY ARENA VS. FEDEX FORUM
ANALYSIS: Both buildings are among the toughest in basketball. Both seat just north of 18,000, and they both can get extremely hostile and extremely loud. The Thunder went 34-7 at home this season. The Grizzlies finished 32-9. And both teams have won plenty at the other's place. It's almost too close to call. But the Thunder wins by a hair. In the 25 meetings between the two teams, including the 2011 playoffs, Oklahoma City has held serve at home and gotten the better of the Grizzlies on the road. In the regular season, the Thunder has gone 5-4 against the Grizzlies both inside “The Peake” and inside the “Grind House.” OKC also is 3-1 at home against Memphis in the playoffs and 1-2 in the playoffs against the Grizzlies inside the FedExForum.
ANALYSIS: The Thunder has been dealt a huge blow with the season-ending knee injury to Russell Westbrook. OKC also got a scare from eighth-seeded Houston in the first round. Memphis, meanwhile, just dusted off the Los Angeles Clippers by winning four straight after trailing 2-0.
ANALYSIS: Only six of the Thunder's nine regular rotation players have a wealth of playoff experience. Westbrook going down dealt a blow, and Reggie Jackson and Kevin Martin are still postseason pups. Memphis, on the other hand, added Tayshaun Prince's championship experience in midseason and picked up sage guard Keyon Dooling (54 career playoff games) late in the season. But the Thunder still has Derek Fisher. His 235 career playoff games tend to tip the experience scale in the Thunder's favors against most opponents. For example, subtract Fisher and the Thunder's projected nine rotation players would bring 352 total games of playoff experience, 44 fewer than what Memphis' top nine own.
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