1. The return of Roy Hibbert is upon us in the second round
Remember how bad Roy Hibbert played in the first six games of the Hawks-Pacers series? We were talking about whether a guy who just made the All-Star Game should even be starting, let alone playing in playoff games in the same season. In Game 7, he showed some impact with 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 blocked shots but his reputation and image have been sullied. Fear not though, Roy Hibbert defenders! This series has the makings of restoring the perception that he matters.
Against the Washington Wizards this season, Hibbert was an incredible force who took away the Wizards' ability to get shots at the rim and allowed the perimeter defense to shine. In three games and 91 minutes against the Wizards this season, the Pacers gave up only 75.1 points per 100 possessions when Hibbert was on the floor and protecting the paint. In the two wins Indiana had against Washington, they gave up a grand total of 139 points. The stats may not be there for him in this series, but the impact could.
The Oklahoma City Thunder used to be able to unleash a reserve guard with an incredible handle and ability to make shots. He'd come in to terrorize second units and then prove to the starters he was sacrificing his own personal stats to come off the bench, even though he was clearly good enough to start. The Los Angeles Clippers have had a similar weapon against the Thunder this season.
Jamal Crawford danced all over the Oklahoma City Thunder this year in his three games against them, averaging 24.7 points per game and shooting 55.1 percent from the field, 45.5 percent from downtown. He was huge in one victory over the Thunder scoring 36 points in the process. Crawford can shine in the James Harden role that the Thunder used to employ on their opponents because the Clippers put him to use in similar ways. He handles the ball quite a bit, creates some for others, and manages to make big shots for his team when they need him.
The first part of this makes sense. Serge Ibaka will be the primary defend on Blake Griffin. He's equally as athletic vertically and his length could really give Griffin problems if he's able to stay solid on defense and not bite on a lot of fakes. He also made 65.9 percent of his shots against the Clippers this year, averaging 16.3 points in four games.
The Kendrick Perkins part is a bit baffling but the numbers are there from their in-season match-up and I'm not quite sure why. The Thunder were plus-15.3 points per 100 possessions better in the 42 minutes Perkins spent on the court this season. We expect DeAndre Jordan to just jump over him, but what if he's just too big of an obstacle and it baffles Jordan like Buster Bluth in Arrested Development?