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The Oklahoma City-Denver matchups

By John Rohde, Staff Writer, jrohde@opubco.com Published: April 15, 2011

* Analysis: The pupil vs. his mentor. Brooks knows Karl's mind games, both on the court and how he handles media. Nuggets are making their seventh straight playoff appearance under Karl, but have failed to get past the first round five times. Karl has 1,036 career wins, 74 postseason wins and four straight 50-win seasons. Brooks has two straight 50s, 127 career wins and is 2-4 in the playoffs.

* Edge: Nuggets

BENCH FRONTCOURT

Nick Collison and Nazr Mohammed vs. Al Harrington and Chris Andersen

* Analysis: If the NBA had some sort of basketball IQ test, Collison and Mohammed would be neck-and-neck for class valedictorian. Their smarts are exceeded only by their unselfishness. Harrington is not shy about shooting. Andersen would average 16.4 points, 14.4 rebounds, 3.8 blocked shots and 1.5 steals if he played 48 minutes. Collison (knees) and Andersen (ankle) are battling injuries.

Edge: Thunder

BENCH BACKCOURT

James Harden and Eric Maynor vs. Raymond Felton and Wilson Chandler

* Analysis: Based on his impressive transition from Charlotte to New York at the outset of this season, Felton probably should have been an All-Star selection by the coaches. He is shooting 45.9 percent from 3-point range with Nuggets. Chandler will attempt to defend Durant. Harden has sizzled since the trade with Boston. Maynor continues to impress with his career 3.11 assist/turnover ratio.

* Edge: Nuggets

WILDCARD

Daequan Cook vs. J.R. Smith

* Analysis: Since the All-Star break, Cook has shot 45.0 percent from 3-point range. Amazingly, he has attempted just 27 two-point shots compared to 154 3-point attempts. Meanwhile, Smith has a much more well-rounded game. While watching Cook bomb in 3-pointers can be a thing of beauty, the ridiculously gifted Smith takes over a game in more ways than shooting beyond the arc.

Edge: Nuggets

HOMECOURT

Oklahoma City Arena vs. Pepsi Center

* Analysis: Thunder fans went bonkers in last year's playoff series against the Lakers. Altitude is a factor in Denver, but long TV timeouts will help negate that for the visitors. Thunder players will spend four days in town, allowing them to become better acclimated to the rarified air. OKC went 30-11 at home and Denver went 33-8, but the Thunder gets one more home game in this series.

* Edge: Thunder

INTANGIBLES

Thunder vs. Nuggets

* Analysis: Oklahoma forever will be a college football state, but the Thunder has built an NBA presence far more quickly than anyone possibly could have imagined, and that has brought global exposure. Denver and its fans have pretty much been there and done that, but OKC still marvels at this experience. This playoff series is a matter of pride for Oklahoma City and an entire state.

* Edge: Thunder

MASCOT

Rumble vs. Rocky

* Analysis: Remember during the Thunder's first season, when it seemed to take forever for the Thunder to reveal its mascot? We were all wondering, ‘Why the wait? What's the big deal? It's only a mascot. We all know it's the guy who was Squatch for the Seattle SuperSonics, so bring him out already. Come on, kids are waiting.' Does anyone out there not think Rumble was worth the wait?

* Edge: Thunder


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