L.A. Lakers: One Reason Lake Show Can Defeat Each Western Conference Playoff Foe
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When competing for the title of representing the Western Conference in the NBA Finals, each prospective playoff team has a notable weakness when going up against the men in purple and gold.
Let's take a look at seven teams with notable issues in a hypothetical matchup against the Lakers in postseason play.
(*The teams mentioned in this piece are based on the standings of March 21st.)
Houston Rockets: A Lack of Easy Baskets
Underrated point guard Kyle Lowry
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While the victory was impressive for Houston, the Rockets would struggle in a playoff series against Los Angeles.
Houston is a team that relies heavily upon perimeter play. Outside of Kyle Lowry and occasionally Goran Dragic, they also lack a player who can consistently slash to the basket and create off of the bounce.
Naturally, a solid post player would help to alleviate pressure from Lowry, Dragic and Kevin Martin from the perimeter. The Rockets simply don't have that type of option.
Luis Scola is much more of a jump shooter. He'll score somewhat inside, but that isn't his forte, nor is he extremely comfortable down on the block.
Starting center Samuel Dalembert is strictly a defensive option and doesn't provide much in terms of scoring.
First-round pick Marcus Morris hasn't really gotten a chance to play, and second-year forward Patrick Patterson is high on potential, but still green in terms of experience.
Without anyone to get Houston easy points in the paint, they're forced to score with much more frequency from the outside.
In a possible series against the Lakers, Los Angeles will look to crowd the perimeter and force Houston to play to the Lakers' strength: their inside game.
Aside from Houston's lack of inside scoring is their distorted home/away record. At home, the Rockets are a sparkling 17-6. On the road, they're an anemic 8-16.
With Houston surely set to play as a road team in the playoffs (assuming they make it), it will be tough for them to advance.
Denver Nuggets: Lack of a Superstar
The dynamic Al Harrington
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The team from the "Mile High City" is a cohesive unit chock full of talent.
The problem is, there's no great player on the Nuggets roster—just a collection of good players.
In a league built upon star power, Denver simply doesn't employ that one individual that strikes fear in the heart of the opposition.
A question persists: Who will take the shot in crunch time for the Nuggets? It's almost impossible to pinpoint one player that will knowingly step up and win the game for Denver.
Not exactly a vote of confidence for his teammates, is it?
The Lakers are loaded with star power. Not only do they have perennial All-Stars in Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, but they also have burgeoning center Andrew Bynum.
That type of ammunition would propel the Lakers past Denver in a playoff setting.
Memphis Grizzlies: The Inconsistency of a Young Team
Forward Rudy Gay
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A healthy Memphis squad could prove to be one of the biggest challengers for the Lakers in this upcoming playoff season.
Healthy is the operative word here.
Injury concerns with star power forward Zach Randolph will always persist for the Grizzlies. He just recently made his way back into the lineup for the stretch run to the playoffs.
The Grizzlies do have a great chemistry with the young squad, so it will be fascinating to see how an ever-present Randolph will mesh with the team.
Remember, Memphis' upset of the top seed San Antonio Spurs last year in the playoffs came without All-Star forward Rudy Gay.
With Randolph joining Gay in the lineup, the dynamics of the team could change somewhat.
A problem with such a young team is consistency, or the lack thereof. One night, Memphis looks like absolute world beaters. The next night, they'll look lousy.
It's truly the nature of the beast when dealing with a relatively young squad.
In addition, the team lacks sufficient frontcourt depth. With Randolph's injury history, ample coverage needs to come from the second unit.
Outside of Marc Gasol and Marreese Speights, Memphis doesn't really have anyone (sorry, Dante Cunningham). When attempting to play the Lakers with their massive size advantage, big man depth is needed.
Memphis simply doesn't have it.
Another fact: Memphis is shooting 31.9 percent as a team from three-point land. That's the fourth-worst percentage in the NBA.
Dallas Mavericks: A Lack of Physicality in the Post
Forward Dirk Nowitzki
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Boy, Dallas sure does miss Tyson Chandler patrolling the paint.
He singlehandedly changed the defensive dynamics of the team in last year's championship run.
There's no doubt that Dallas is still a solid defensive team. They're sixth in the NBA in points allowed with 92.7 points a game, but they're still not on the same level as last year's squad.
Chandler not only played with an infectious energy, but he displayed a toughness and moxie that was invaluable for the team.
Outside of Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas doesn't have the requisite parts in the paint to make a strong playoff run.
The likes of Brendan Haywood, Ian Mahinmi and Brandan Wright won't scare anyone, and the acquisition Lamar Odom (ironically from the Lakers) has been a complete bust.
With the dynamic duo of Gasol and Bynum in purple and gold, Dallas just doesn't have the horses in the paint to match up with both All-Stars.
Los Angeles Clippers: A Lack of Playoff Experience
Dynamic guard CP3
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The Clippers franchise has only made the playoffs seven times. Conversely, the Lakers have made over 50 appearances in postseason play.
In terms of the current rosters of both teams, there's absolutely no comparison as to who has more experience.
Both Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan have never played in postseason play. In totality, the members of the Clippers have played in 371 playoff contests.
Bryant has played in 208 playoff games alone.
Chauncey Billups has the most playoff experience of any player on the team, yet he's out with a season-ending injury.
Inevitably, the younger, upstart Clippers squad will be put in unfamiliar situations. Outside of Kenyon Martin, the team has little experience in a situation such as facing a quality opponent in a seven-game series.
The veteran Lakers squad will not be surprised by anything. With Bryant at the helm, a level of confidence and leadership will reign.
Not only does the core of the team have a championship pedigree, but they've been battle-tested in countless playoff series. The members of the Lakers roster have played in 598 postseason clashes.
San Antonio Spurs: The Possible Aftermath of the Condensed Season
TP didn't do anything!
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Parker has been sensational and is the main reason for the Spurs' success so far in the season.
With the Spurs, health is always key. The brittle Manu Ginobili is always seemingly hurt, and Parker himself has played through a myriad of physical ailments.
Undoubtedly, the condensed season should be a cause of concern for the Spurs.
While the front office has done a great job in surrounding the big three of Ginobili, Parker and Tim Duncan with younger players (James Anderson, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, DeJuan Blair), the core of the team is still old.
A reliance upon a core that's both older and injury prone is a dicey proposition—especially when in the midst of a condensed season.
As we saw last year, the Spurs had a fabulous regular season...before bowing out in the first round to the eighth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies. The team expelled so much energy in the regular season that they ran out of gas as the playoffs came.
Will a similar story be told this year as well?
Oklahoma City Thunder: The Selfishness of Russell Westbrook
Former UCLA star Russell Westbrook
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The biggest unequivocal threat to the Lakers in the Western Conference is the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The upstart Thunder are an absolute joy to watch via their college-like atmosphere at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
In addition, the tandem of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook make up arguably the most explosive twosome in the game today.
Despite that, they have some problems that could prevent an NBA Finals appearance.
Russell Westbrook, understand something: This is Kevin Durant's team. Not yours.
In this equation, you're Robin. Not Batman. Your over-exuberance in crunch time leads to turnovers and stagnant offensive play.
Westbrook is a wonderful talent with immense upside and skill. However, his propensity to dominate the ball and take a high volume of shots is incredibly detrimental to the team.
Many times late in games, the explosive Westbrook will look to take the game over. He often takes wild, contested shots while Durant floats around the perimeter, completely uninvolved.
In order for OKC to make it to the finals, Westbrook needs to play second fiddle to Durant. With his ego, I'm not sure he's capable of doing so.
Against the Lakers, it's imperative that he facilitates the ball more effectively then he's currently doing. On pick-and-roll situations, the Lakers will look to smother him with their immense length.
When pressured, Westbrook often makes ill-advised passes which inevitably lead to turnovers. Also, the Lakers finally have a quick, athletic player who can guard Westbrook in Ramon Sessions.
With Sessions in the fold, Westbrook won't live in the lane and kill the Lakers like he's done in the past.