It took the full seven games and four overtime periods, but the Oklahoma City Thunder were able to roll past the Memphis Grizzlies in their first round matchup.
The Western Conference playoff picture looks extremely tough with 3 out of the 4 first round series going to Game 7 (and the Portland vs Houston series took six games and a bit of brilliance from Damian Lillard to avoid a seventh game!) and it doesn’t appear that it will get any easier.
The Los Angeles Clippers had to fight hard to dispose of the plucky Golden State Warriors to set up this matchup against the Thunder. The two teams are no strangers to each other having faced off four times during the regular season and each time there has been some “extra feeling” in the meetings.
The stage is set for an exciting and interesting matchup.
Through the regular season, the Thunder and the Clippers split their matchups, with each side winning 2 games. It just goes to show how well these two sides match up against each other and that we can expect to see another tight series made up of intense and close battles each game.
Two star point guards will be going head to head as Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul will each try to outduel the other and put their team in the best position to win and advance. The same goes for the superstar forwards Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin. While these two will not be directly opposed to each other, their influence on the contests will be equally important.
Another common theme between the two sides, is the depth each roster contains.
The Thunder play Nick Collison, Steven Adams, Derek Fisher and Reggie Jackson off the bench and time will tell if Caron Butler or Thabo Sefolosha will be with the first or second unit. Jeremy Lamb who was not utilized during the Memphis series can also play and Brooks might be able to find a suitable matchup and rotation for him in this series.
For the Clippers, they have a very deep bench with a great deal of experience. The roster has been put together from starters to bench to coaching staff with the idea of a title in mind. They have the 6th man of the year Jamal Crawford and also have Danny Granger and Glen “Big Baby” Davis who they acquired throughout the season. Along with Ryan Hollins, Hedo Turkoglu, Jared Dudley and Darren Collison, the Clippers can really throw a number of different looks at you, and no doubt we will see a variety of lineups throughout the series.
So the big question is – can the Thunder mix it with the Clippers and beat them in a best of seven series?
The Thunder do match up quite well with the Clippers and while the length and athleticism of the big front court can sometimes pose a problem for OKC when Kendrick Perkins is on the floor, we have seen coach Scott Brooks turn to the rookie from New Zealand Steven Adams at key times which could help in this area.
Kevin Durant struggled for much of the Memphis series to be as efficient as he was during the regular season, and while he came up big and pushed the Thunder through, it was a struggle. The Clippers don’t pose the same defensive problem individually or as a team that the Grizzlies did, but they do have a number of defenders like Matt Barnes and Jared Dudley who would love nothing more than to limit the influence of the NBA’s scoring champion.
When the Thunder looked down and out and their backs were against the wall, they seemed to find that little extra something. Durant fired, Westbrook clicked, the bench dug deep and Scott Brooks made the correct adjustments. In this second round series, the Thunder are going to need to do all that again – and more – to send the Clippers home and make it to the Western Conference Finals.
There is no doubt the Thunder can beat the Clippers, the only question is will they?
Tags: Oklahoma City Thunder