New Oklahoma City guard Derek Fisher dribbles during the first half of the… (Sue Ogrocki / Associated…)
The Thunder sped past the Lakers, and they couldn't keep up.
The Lakers' championship experience surpassed the Thunder, and Oklahoma City couldn't provide a rebuttal.
Two years after battling each other in a six-game first-round playoff series, both teams have acquired chess pieces that could set up an epic Western Conference finals contest.
In a deal with Cleveland, the Lakers acquired guard Ramon Sessions, whose speed, play-making and youth allow him to move like a knight across the board.
The Lakers viewed Derek Fisher as a pawn because of his age (37), inconsistent shooting and struggle in defending young guards. So they traded him to Houston.
After Fisher took a buyout, the Thunder secured his services. He has a limited role off the bench, but his leadership and playoff experience give Oklahoma City a bishop that could pay off at the end of games.
Who knows who will get checkmate in a potential Western Conference finals showdown?
The Lakers now don't have to worry as much about stopping Russell Westbrook, the Thunder's transition game and OKC's overwhelming athleticism. Sessions helps counter that. He reacts faster on defense and runs a pick-and-roll offense with relentless speed. He sets everyone up from Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum to Matt Barnes for open baskets.
And the Thunder will no longer wonder if their two past playoff appearances will give them another push against a team who's made three NBA Finals and won two championships in the last four years. Acquiring Kendrick Perkins last season helps offset that with his experience from Boston and his interior toughness.
But adding Fisher takes it to another level. For all his deficiencies, Fisher has showed he can come through at crucial playoff moments. He delivers well-timed speeches that keep a team's chemistry and focus intact. He takes charge and dives for loose balls. He makes clutch shots when his team needs them the most.
We'll first get to see how this all plays out next Thursday when the Thunder visit the Lakers at Staples Center, and then on April 22 in Oklahoma City. Those games may well foreshadow the Western Conference finals, and it's likely the new additions to both teams will play major roles in determining the outcome.
Which team should sign Derek Fisher?
Derek Fisher's absence leaves leadership void
Five things to take from Lakers' 107-104 loss to Rockets