Originally Published: Apr 17, 2010 3:16 PM CDT
Headed to LA this afternoon for what should be great fun covering OKCs first playoff series. If this team stays intact, this will not be the last playoff trip, but rather the norm. Count on the Thunder hosting Round 1 next season, as Kevin Durant is locked in to living on the plains as least that long.
Heres my Crystal Ball analysis of the series. I am picking the Lakers to win it in five games with OKC getting its lone win at the Ford Center next week. However, I am heartened the more I read national NBA people giving the Thunder a legit chance at pulling what I would consider a monumental upset.
OFFENSE EDGE: LA
The Thunder has been explosive at times down the stretch and K Durants explosiveness makes this offense hard to stop at times. But late it games it has a tendency to stand around looking confused. Kobes broken right index finger has slowed him and the questionable status of big man A Bynum have hindered the Lakers. Still, how do you not give the defending champions the edge? I cant.
DEFENSIVE EDGE: LA
The matchup between Kobe and T Sefalosha will be a beauty. The Swiss Blade is an underrated relative unknown but can be tough as nails against Kobe with his length, toughness and overall awareness. Aside from the fly-swatting back-up center S IbakaAKA as Air-Cong--the Thunder is nothing special and has faltered down the stretch. Phil Jackson puts his guys in the right spots and the size of the Lakers will prevents much good happening down low for OKC.
Normally, LA wins any bench match-up in a runaway. But injuries have evened this out and I lean to making this a push. If it is, it will make the series tougher for LA than it otherwise would have been.
Rookie J Harden will be tested under playoff pressure and must hit threes and play poised for OKC to have a chance at the upset. Back-up center Collison is fundamentally as solid as they come but simply gets overmatched by the size of the Lakers. The X-factor will be S Ibaka and its conceivable he could slow down P Gasol and the LA bigs. Health concerns for LA: L Walton hurting and rusty, Bynums Achilles strain, J Farmars strained hammy and now S Vujacic a little banged.
Phil Jackson is actually catching heat for the late-season swoon and his big salary with talk of whether hell be running the Lake Show much longer. Still, the Zen Master is just thatthe best coach in the history of the pro game. Hes already started playing the head games questioning how K Duant is getting superstar treatment and going to the line too much. Scotty Brooks should be the Coach of the Year. But come on. His inexperience against Zen makes this an easy LA edge.
The I word keeps popping up, but its the key to OKCs chances at pulling off what would be a monumental upset in Round 1. Inexperience, a late-season slide and LAs home court advantage keep OKC from having the edge. In the final analysis, the question for the Lakers is simple: can they simply flip the switch and turn it on? The return of OKC big man Kristic helps and the poor health of LA will help. But the I category sees LA win based primarily on the I (inexperience factor).
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