RUSSELL WESTBROOK VS. RAMON SESSIONS
ANALYSIS: Westbrook is a big reason why Derek Fisher is in Oklahoma City and Sessions is the new starter in L.A. When L.A. had Fisher, the Lakers struggled to keep up with speedy point guards like Westbrook. But not even a younger, more athletic Sessions can slow down Westbrook. The Lakers, at some point, will have to put Kobe Bryant on Westbrook, and that will make the game's most lethal scorer have to spend a great deal of energy on defense.
THABO SEFOLOSHA VS. KOBE BRYANT
ANALYSIS: In the three regular season meetings, the Thunder made Bryant take 75 shots to score 73 points. If the Thunder can replicate that effort in the postseason, this will be a short series. Sefolosha will have a lot to do with that. His defense on Bryant from the start could shape the outcome of every game this series. But you don't really think we're about to bet against Bryant, do you?
KEVIN DURANT VS. METTA WORLD PEACE
ANALYSIS: Durant's introduction to playoff basketball was a rather disturbing one thanks to the man who back in 2010 was simply known as Ron Artest. In that six-game series, Durant averaged 25 points but shot just 35 percent from the field and a mere 28.6 percent from downtown. This time around, Durant is expected to fare much better. Since that 2010 encounter, Durant has grown into a more complete offensive player. He's won two additional scoring titles and used four additional playoff series to cut his teeth on some of the league's most dominant defenders.
SERGE IBAKA VS. PAU GASOL
ANALYSIS: The gap has quickly narrowed between Gasol and Ibaka. No longer is Gasol an unstoppable force against the Thunder. That's because of Ibaka. With the emergence of Ibaka as a top Defensive Player of the Year candidate, the Thunder now has someone who can counter Gasol's skills with length, athleticism, rebounding and shot-blocking. Gasol still has the experience advantage, and that could be the key in this matchup.
KENDRICK PERKINS VS. ANDREW BYNUM
ANALYSIS: How healthy is Perk? That's the question we all want to know. And it's potentially the one factor that could determine the outcome of this series. If Perk is fully healed from a strained right hip muscle, he's the best defender anyone has for Bynum. If not, things could get ugly. Then again, which Bynum will show up? That's another pressing question. Ask any Lakers fan about how hot and cold Bynum can be. If the Lakers get anything close to a hot Bynum, the Thunder could be in for a long series on the low block.
ANALYSIS: The Thunder has Derek Fisher, James Harden, Daequan Cook, Nick Collison and Nazr Mohammed. The Lakers have Steve Blake, Jordan Hill and not much else. It's really not even a debate. You could throw in Matt Barnes, Troy Murphy and, perhaps, Devin Ebanks for the Lakers. But none of those three are game-changers. Barnes and Ebanks can supply stretches of solid perimeter defense, and Murphy can knock down 3s. But no one on the Lakers can match the impact of Harden.
SCOTT BROOKS VS. MIKE BROWN
ANALYSIS: Brown has more experience. He owns a 46-32 playoff record and has an NBA Finals appearance under his belt. Brown has coached 51 more playoff games than Brooks. That gives Brown an advantage. But neither is known for being a master of Xs and Os. Brooks, however, is more likely to make in-game adjustments and deploy different lineups so that his team has the best chance at success.