RUSSELL WESTBROOK VS. TONY PARKER
ANALYSIS: Mike Conley? Check. Chris Paul? Check. Parker? Been there done that. Westbrook already has eliminated two of the game’s elite point guards in this playoff run, and this rematch of the 2012 Western Conference Finals brings another opportunity for him to again show up a premier playmaker in Parker on the postseason stage. If he is again successful, Westbrook will continue his unstoppable march toward best-point-guard-in-the-league status. The last time these two squared off on this stage, Parker was clearly the better player. This time, Westbrook is playing the best ball of his career and Parker enters the series nursing a hamstring injury.
THABO SEFOLOSHA VS. DANNY GREEN
ANALYSIS: Green is a marksman who has shot at least 41 percent from 3-point range in each of the past three seasons. He doesn’t do much else offensively outside of long-range shooting, but he is an emerging defender who at times can downright disrupt a team’s offense. Sefolosha is supposed to be the same type of player. But he’s been streaky to say the least as a shooter, and his defense has been spotty all season. The Thunder will need both to be on point to have a chance to come out of this series.
KEVIN DURANT VS. KAWHI LEONARD
ANALYSIS: Durant hasn’t had his best postseason, and now Leonard looms as a pest who’s had some success against Durant in the past. Leonard has a history of using his length and athleticism to force Durant into being a volume scorer who must shoot from farther out. Leonard’s defense also has led to Durant turning it over at a higher rate against San Antonio. So this should be a quality matchup, perhaps better than most would anticipate. Leonard had a career year and is showing steady improvement throughout this postseason. But Durant was the MVP for a reason.
NICK COLLISON VS. TIAGO SPLITTER
ANALYSIS: We’re assuming Collison gets the start here for the injured Serge Ibaka. Thunder coach Scott Brooks has several options for this spot, including playing small and moving Durant to power forward. But Collison’s experience is likely to give him the edge. Don’t rule out Perry Jones III, though. He started the one game Ibaka missed in the regular season, and in addition to offering more versatility his presence in the starting lineup could allow the Thunder to keep its bench rotation intact. No matter which direction the Thunder goes in, the replacement should be able to handle Splitter. This position in this series is all about what the Thunder loses on defense by not having Ibaka available.
KENDRICK PERKINS VS. TIM DUNCAN
ANALYSIS: Duncan is proving he isn’t done yet, averaging 16.8 points, 8.9 rebounds, two assists and 1.8 blocks per 36 minutes this postseason. He’s shot 53 percent in the playoffs, up from 49 percent in the regular season. Perkins, on the other hand, has had arguably his best postseason in a Thunder uniform. He’s scoring more efficiently, rebounding more consistently and turning it over at a lower rate. Of course, he’s supplied some excellent defense as well. And if he can do the same against Duncan, Perkins can go a long way in limiting one of San Antonio’s numerous weapons.