By Jay Betsill
The Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers both survived their first round series with Game 7 victories on their respective home courts. Now they are set for what will likely be the most entertaining of the NBA’s second round series.
The Thunder advanced by the Memphis Grizzlies in a tough series that saw the Grizzlies Tony Allen do a lock-down job guarding Kevin Durant. While the Grizzlies play a grinding style that lends to slowing the pace down with the ball in point guard Mike Conley’s hands on offense and the tough, physical play on the defensive end, the Clippers are a wide open, up-tempo team. In the last two games of the series against Memphis, Durant came alive and averaged 34.5 points and shot 56 percent.
The Clippers, who led the NBA in scoring during the regular season with 107.9 points per game, outlasted the Golden State Warriors in the first round in spite of one of the ugliest controversies in NBA history involving owner Donald Sterling’s racial comments that got him banned from the NBA for life.
One thing is for certain when looking at this series: Durant and Blake Griffin will both get their points. The Clippers will likely run a combination of Matt Barnes and Glen Davis at Durant to try and get under his skin while Griffin will get to deal with Defensive Player of the Year candidate Serge Ibaka.
That being said, the key individual match up will be the battle of two of the game’s greatest points guards, the Clippers Chris Paul and the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook. They play with completely opposite styles as Paul is the classic distributor who makes those around him better while Westbrook has a shooting guard mentality that can be both good and bad for the team. Paul has been dealing with a sore right hamstring, not the best issue to have against the Thunder’s team speed. Westbrook has played limited minutes all season with a right knee injury that first occurred in last year’s postseason.
While the Clippers have the edge at the head coaching position with Doc Rivers and point guard with Paul, the Thunder have Durant and are not mentally exhausted from the fiasco the Clippers have dealt with for the past 10 days. Look for an entertaining series that ends with the Thunder winning in six and advancing to take on the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals.
5/5 Clippers vs Thunder 8:30 p.m.
5/7 Clippers vs Thunder 8:30 p.m.
5/9 Thunder vs Clippers 9:30 p.m.
5/11 Thunder vs Clippers 2:30 p.m.
5/13 Clippers vs Thunder TBA *If Necessary
5/15 Thunder vs Clippers TBA *If Necessary
5/18 Clippers vs Thunder TBA *If Necessary