After a long wait, the Lakers have finally gotten their head out of the sand and defeated the inferior Denver Nuggets. It's hard to take credit away from what the Nuggets did, but everybody knows that when both teams are playing at their best, the Lakers are a better team. And, as everybody knows, the Lakers have witnessed the return of Metta World Peace, who was suspended 7 games for hitting James Harden with a semi-intentional elbow. Adding insult to injury is that World Peace was stone cold towards Harden after the fact, saying that he didn't shake the hands of backups.
Meanwhile, the Thunder absolutely stormed through a quick four game series with the Mavericks. And by stormed, I don't mean cruised. Three of the four contests were highly contested, with Games 1 and 4 looking like certain losses during low points in the fourth. But the Thunder prevailed, and are now ready to take on the only team whom they've faced in the playoffs and never beaten: The Los Angeles Lakers.
|Andrew Bynum||Kendrick Perkins|
|18.7 Pts, 11.8 Reb, 1.4 Ast, 1.9 Blk||5.1 Pts, 6.6 Reb, 1.2 Ast, 1.1 Blk|
|Pau Gasol||Serge Ibaka|
|"Pow, Kung Pow"||"IBlocka"|
|17.4 Pts, 10.4 Rebs, 3.7 Ast, 1.4 Blk||9.1 Pts, 7.5 Reb, 3.7 Blk, 54% FG%|
|Metta World Peace||Kevin Durant|
|7.7 Pts, 3.4 Reb, 2.2 Ast, 1.1 Stl||28.0 Pts, 8.0 Reb, 3.5 Ast, 1.2 Stl|
|Kobe Bryant||Thabo Sefolosha|
|27.9 Pts, 5.4 Reb, 4.6 Ast, 1.2 Stl||4.8 Pts, 3.0 Reb, 0.9 Stl, 47% 3PT|
|Ramon Sessions||Russell Westbrook|
|12.7 Pts, 3.8 Rebs, 6.2 Ast, 48.6 3PT%||23.6 Pts, 4.6 Reb, 5.5 Ast, 1.7 Stl|
|Jordan Hill||Nick Collison, Nazr Mohammed|
|"Waka Flocka"||"Los", "ODB"|
|4.7 Pts, 4.4 Reb||
NC: 4.5 Pts, 4.5 Reb, 1.3 Ast.
NM: 2.7 Pts, 2.7 Reb
|Devin Ebanks, Matt Barnes||James Harden, Daequan Cook|
|"ATM, Kobe Stopper"||"Jimbo Slice", "Dynamic"|
DE: 4.0 Pts, 2.3 Reb.
MB: 7.8 Pts, 5.5 Reb, 2.0 Ast.
JH: 16.8 Pts, 4.1 Reb 3.7 Ast.
DC: 5.5 Pts, 2.1 Reb.
The Lowdown: James Harden is the clear champion of this group, as he's easily the best scorer, distributor, clutch player, and has a revenge factor for him. Barnes and Cook are pretty much three point specialists, while Devin Ebanks doesn't do much at all, really.
|Steve Blake||Derek Fisher|
|5.2 Pts, 1.6 Reb, 3.3 Ast||5.6 Pts, 1.9 Reb, 2.7 Ast, 92% FT|
The Lowdown: It's threes vs. threes! Fisher and Blake have probably seen a lot of time playing against each other on the practice floor, both don't do much but shoot threes, and both are well past their primes. But Fisher has come alive for the Thunder recently, with a newfound ability to get mid-range jumpers and generate off-ball movement.
Advantage: Thunder. If Fisher plays like he did against the Mavericks, this series is over.
Bottom of the Bench
|Troy Murphy, Christian Eyenga, Andrew Goudelock, Josh McRoberts||Royal Ivey, Reggie Jackson, Lazar Hayward, Cole Aldrich|
|"Horse," "Skyenga," "Mini-Mamba," "McBob"||"Cheese", "Better Basketball", "Zar Zar Binks", "Cole Sore"|
The Lowdown: The only dudes you might see out of these players are Eyenga and Ivey, the earlier for size and the latter for defense. The rest of the guys won't see action unless there's garbage time or an injury.
Advantage: Thunder. The Lakers bottom of the barrel is really the bottom of the barrel. Only Troy Murphy has seen real minutes on another team, and I have doubts about whether the rest of the guys will be in the league in three years.
|Mike Brown||Scott Brooks|
|"All Day, Every Day"||"Scotty"|
Reg. Season: 476-313
1 Eastern Conference Championship
|Reg. Season: 174-125
The Lowdown: Mike Brown has been a great replacement for Phil Jackson, who left last season in disgrace as the Lakers pouted their way out of the playoffs. He's effectively overseen some peripheral roster movement, been willing to bench players when the time calls for it, and not destroyed the formula of success. However, he has had some trouble managing egos. Scott Brooks is what you already know him to be. A somewhat hands-off coach who makes good game-to-game changes, but doesn't call plays very well in-game.
Advantage: Push. Both coaches have their advantages and flaws.
Keys to Winning the Series:
1. Keep a fourth X-Factor in the scoring loop. The Thunder survived an offensively-heavy fdirst round by recognizing the hot hand in their lineup, whether it be Serge Ibaka, Derek Fisher, or even Kendrick Perkins. As long as they can get semi-consistent production out of someone not named Westbrook, Durant, or Harden, they'll be right as rain 99% of the time.
2. Get Gasol and/or Bynum into foul trouble. I'll say it again: Their only backup is Jordan Hill. When you take these guys out of the game, you destroy the very foundation of the Lakers. I say this not only because they account for a good amount of scoring, but also because they pretty much drive the teams efficiency with their rebounds and do an excellent job of clogging the lane.
3. Keep an eye on Metta World Peace. As much as I hate to say it, Kevin Durant is probably the Thunder's greatest defensive weakness, at least from a strictly matchup perspective. World Peace will take full advantage of this, especially when stealing a corner three or running the break. If the Thunder let him go off for too many points, they could quickly find themselves in a deep hole.
4. Close out the fourth quarter. Preferrably with Harden in the lineup. We all remember what happened late this season and in years past when the Thunder have had the Lakers on the brink. The Lakers are an experienced team and know what it takes to win a game. The Thunder's failed late offensive production hasn't been a problem as of late, especially with the Beard on patrol. But the problem still remains in the back of everyone's mind.
5. Don't get caught up in the drama. This series has a lot of emotional questions surrounding it. How serious is Andrew Bynum? Will World Peace be able to handle the inevitable boos? How will Derek Fisher perform against his old team? The key to overcoming these problems is ignoring them, which the Thunder are excellent at. But certain players, like Westbrook and Perkins, can get caught up in their emotions and trigger a technical that might cost the Thunder the game.
Game 1: Monday, May 14th, 8:30 CDT, OKC, TNT
Game 2: Wednesday, May 16th, 8:30 CDT, OKC, TNT
Game 3: Friday, May 18th, 9:30 CDT, LAL, ESPN
Game 4: Saturday, May 19th, 9:30 CDT, LAL, TNT
Game 5: Monday, May 21st, OKC, TNT
Game 6: Wednesday, May 23rd, LAL, TBA
Game 7, Sunday, May 27th, OKC, TNT, TBA
The Thunder win in 5 games. The Lakers are a team of four players right now. Sure, you could say that the Thunder are a team of three, but everybody else on the team has a specific role to fill, and the Thunder have players in the perfect position to stop the best of what the Lakers have to offer. Some of the Laker players don't do much more than fill space, and if one of their pillars fails to hold, things get disastrous. The Lakers will probably pull out a win on the Thunder when they forget out to play in the fourth, but still, I'm confident about the Thunder winning this series.
How do you think the series will go? Vote in the poll, post a comment!