RUSSELL WESTBROOK VS. TONY PARKER
ANALYSIS: Westbrook is clearly the better scorer. But Parker is smarter, craftier and more experienced. And with Parker possessing the ability to make his teammates better, San Antonio's role players become a much bigger threat. The Spurs might have to worry about Westbrook exploding for 30. But with Parker, the Thunder has to hope the Spurs' floor general doesn't go off for 25 points or more while also setting his teammates up for another 15 to 20 points.
THABO SEFOLOSHA VS. DANNY GREEN
ANALYSIS: Green is a shooter with range out to the 3-point line. If he gets hot, he could be a difference-maker, as we saw in Oklahoma City on March 16, when he erupted for 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting, going 5-of-7 from behind the arc. Sefolosha, though he's been more accurate this season, is a streakier shooter who is looked to more for defense. Sefolosha could have more value in this series if he switches over to Parker and slows the speedy Spurs point guard. But Green is also a capable defender who can make an impact on that end of the floor as well.
KEVIN DURANT VS. KAWHI LEONARD
ANALYSIS: In the regular season meetings, Leonard actually defended Durant admirably. It helped that the rookie could rely on the Spurs' team defense. Durant averaged just 22.7 points on 46.8 percent shooting in three games against the Spurs this season. We doubt those numbers will hold up over a seven-game series. Durant will get his. The key for the Spurs to have any shot in this matchup is for Leonard to make Durant work at the other end. Leonard is a 45.5 percent shooter from 3-point range in the playoffs, and sustained perimeter shooting accuracy by him is the only way this matchup will be close.
SERGE IBAKA VS. BORIS DIAW
ANALYSIS: This could the most interesting game within the game that we see throughout this series. Ibaka is the league's best shot-blocker. But Diaw is a big man with inside-outside skills who can suck Ibaka out to the 3-point line. Diaw's versatility can eliminate Ibaka's biggest strength and, thus, reduce the effectiveness of the Thunder's defense. The contrasting styles will go a long way in determining the winner of the series. Whichever player can establish his presence earliest and most often will give his team the advantage.
KENDRICK PERKINS VS. TIM DUNCAN
ANALYSIS: Duncan enjoyed a surprising renaissance this season, which has transferred into this postseason. He's averaging 17.6 points, nine rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.8 blocked shots while shooting 54 percent… in just 32 minutes per game. He'll be a handful for the Thunder, and Perkins will have to play him one-on-one much like he's done against most every other low-post scorer. The Thunder won't be able to double team Duncan because of the Spurs' stable of shooters lurking on the perimeter for a timely pass. The best the Thunder can hope for is Perkins making Duncan work to get his like Lakers center Andrew Bynum had to do in the previous series.
JAMES HARDEN VS. MANU GINOBILI
ANALYSIS: The similarities between these two super subs are obvious. Ginobili has the experience advantage, but Harden has the momentum. Ginobili enters this series averaging just 11.3 points on 40 percent shooting, including a 25.7-percent clip from 3-point range. The Thunder will need Ginobili to struggle with his shot for a little longer to be able to steal one of the first two games in San Antonio. If he gets rolling, however, the Thunder is in trouble.
ANALYSIS: For the Thunder, it's Harden, Derek Fisher and Daequan Cook. For the Spurs, it's Ginobili, Gary Neal and Stephen Jackson. Of that group, Jackson is the biggest wild card. He can heat up in a hurry and, if hot, could take over a game. But he's struggled so far this postseason, averaging just 5.6 points on 41.7 percent shooting in 19.6 minutes. Ginobili is generally charged with doing the heavy lifting off the bench, but with Neal and Jackson this season the Spurs have additional options that can make life difficult for opposing defenses. It'll take a team effort for the Thunder to keep up.
ANALYSIS: Nazr Mohammed and Nick Collison come off the bench for the Thunder. Tiago Splitter, Matt Bonner and, at times, DeJuan Blair form the Spurs' frontcourt second unit. OKC's reserves have great chemistry and are predominately defensive-minded with a tinge of scoring ability. San Antonio's second group is younger, more versatile and more athletic. But the key will be Bonner. His skills as a sharpshooter threaten to make the Spurs a matchup nightmare for the Thunder. None of the Thunder's big men want to nor can afford to camp around the perimeter covering Bonner. Therefore, his presence might force the Thunder to play small and put Durant on him to regain the edge. Keep a close eye on this game of cat and mouse.
SCOTT BROOKS VS. GREGG POPOVICH
ANALYSIS: Brooks is one of the best up-and-coming coaches in the league. But this one isn't close. Popovich is widely considered the best coach in the game, and he has the resume to prove it. He has four championships, a career record of 847-399, a .680 winning percentage, 116 career playoff wins and has successfully transformed his team to play a faster brand of ball. In just three playoff appearances, Brooks has gotten past more established coaches like George Karl, Rick Carlisle and Mike Brown. But this undoubtedly will be Brooks' toughest test yet.
CHESAPEAKE ENERGY ARENA VS. AT&T CENTER
ANALYSIS: The Thunder went 26-7 at home in the regular season and have a 5-0 mark in the postseason. The Spurs went 28-5 at home in the regular season and are 4-0 in the playoffs. San Antonio showed back in March, when it won by nine in OKC, that it could come into Chesapeake Energy Arena and win. The Thunder hasn't proven itself capable of doing the same in San Antonio. OKC's last win in San Antonio came on Nov. 14, 2009. That's a troubling reality for the Thunder considering the Spurs have home-court advantage and the Thunder must win at least one game, potentially a Game 7, on the Spurs' court.
ANALYSIS: After closing out the regular season just 8-7, the Thunder is now 8-1 in the playoffs. The Spurs are only slightly better at 8-0. The difference is San Antonio's winning streak. The Spurs ended the regular season with 10 straight wins, which means they've won 18 straight entering this series. Spurs players downplay the streak. But it's clear from watching the Spurs that the mounting wins have brought confidence and a belief that they can win each night no matter the situation. It's up to the Thunder to rock that belief as soon as possible.
ANALYSIS: San Antonio is no longer old. Time to stop labeling the Spurs as such. They've gotten younger by surrounding Parker, Ginobili and Duncan with young role players. Still, of San Antonio's big three, Parker and Ginobili are making their fifth appearance in the Western Conference Finals, while Duncan is playing in the conference final for the seventh time. Jackson and Bonner also have been to the NBA Finals for San Antonio, while Diaw got to the Western Conference Finals with Phoenix.