(SportsNetwork.com) - Two teams in the headlines will do battle in the Western Conference semifinals when the Oklahoma City Thunder host the Los Angeles Clippers in the series-opener Monday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
For the second-seeded Thunder, "Mr. Unreliable" became something of a rallying cry. The Oklahoman ran that headline describing Kevin Durant, who will probably be handed the league's MVP award before a home game during this series.
Durant responded with 36 and 33 points in the final two games against the Memphis Grizzlies, both double-digit victories for OKC in elimination games during the first round.
"He's one of the best players on the planet," Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said of his superstar. "He's going to continue to help us win games and move us forward, not only with his shot-making, but his playmaking."
Sadly, the Clippers' headlines were of a much more serious tone during the first round against Golden State.
Their owner, Donald Sterling, was caught on tape making racist comments. It affected the team in its Game 4 loss, then, before Game 5, NBA commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling for life and prompted the Board of Governors to force Sterling to sell the team.
Through this tumultuous time, the third-seeded Clippers hung on for a Game 7 win over the Warriors.
"I just wanted us to win the game," said Clippers coach Doc Rivers. "Not because of all of this stuff, but this team just needed this win. I thought our guys fought. The adversity, they went through it. It drained them and they found enough energy to find a way to win the game."
Each team features two superstars.
For the Thunder, Durant averaged 29.9 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.6 blocks against the Grizz. Granted, Durant shot 44 percent and 32 percent from 3-point range, which are low numbers by his standards.
Russell Westbrook averaged 25.6 points in the Grizzlies series, but he took 23 shot attempts a game, which was the same number as Durant. Westbrook shot 38 percent from the field and committed 4.9 turnovers per game.
For LA, Chris Paul is the leader and scored 22 points and handed out 14 assists in the Game 7 victory. Blake Griffin blossomed into a well-rounded offensive machine.
And special mention to Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan, who averaged 12.1 points, 15.1 rebounds and 4.0 blocks against the Warriors.
During the season, the two squads were evenly matched. The Thunder have won five of the last seven meetings, but the two sides split four games this season and each team managed a win on the road.
The Thunder were eliminated in this round last season by the Grizzlies when Westbrook got hurt in the first round against the Houston Rockets.
The Clippers have never advanced past the second round in franchise history.
Game 2 will be Wednesday night in OKC.