10 Bold Predictions for the Lakers-Thunder 2nd-Round Series
Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Kevin Durant all headline the most enticing series of the 2012 NBA Playoffs, giving analysts of the game no choice but to talk about their expectations.
Talk about an abundance of star-studded talent.
In what has been the best matchup of the regular season in the West, the Los Angeles Lakers will hope their championship pedigree pushes them forward. Meanwhile, the Oklahoma City Thunder are red-hot this postseason, fresh off of a four-game series sweep.
Will the Black Mamba make a mockery of the Thunder defense? Is Durant due for a big scoring night? Or perhaps the Thunder have yet to get the best of the Lakers dynamic duo in the frontcourt.
These are the 10 bold predictions heading into this Lakers-Thunder second-round matchup.
Steve Blake Puts Up More Assists Than Russell Westbrook in Game 1
All Russell Westbrook bashing aside, Steve Blake will outperform Westbrook in the assist department in spite of playing significantly less minutes per game this postseason.
Truthfully, Westbrook is a great passer when he wants to be. Yet the fact of the matter is that it's clear Westbrook is looked upon by the coaching staff to score the basketball. Make no mistake about that.
Even still, Westbrook needs to put up more assists than Blake each time he takes the floor. Yet in Game 1, Blake will get that upper hand.
Durant Drops 50-Plus
No love from the NBA for MVP honors for the three-time scoring champion? No problem.
In fact, this will be just the fuel Durant needs to go off in the first two games in Oklahoma City.
He has scored at least 24 points in each game this postseason, including 31 points in the Game 3 blowout on 11-for-15 shooting.
This season, Durant scored over 50 just once in what was a win over the Denver Nuggets. A more significant moment will give Durant the urgency he needs to put up 50 points in at least one game this series.
Lakers Win out at Home
Justin Timberlake and the rest of the celebrities filling up the Staples Center throughout this series will be in for a show.
These Lakers will undoubtedly take care of business at home.
Just how dominant is L.A. in their home arena? They were a whopping 26-7 at home during the regular season and lost just once there in the seven-game series against the Nuggets.
No worries, Timberlake. Your Lakers won't let you down.
Ibaka Has a Block Party; 8 in One Game
Against a longer Mavericks team, Ibaka was still able to dominate, boasting 13 blocks in the four-game series sweep.
L.A. will get all that and more when the guards come into the paint. Expect Serge "Iblocka" to send runner down the lane flying in this one.
Rest assured, an eight-block game is awaiting this defensive phenom.
Ramon Sessions Lights It Up from Distance
After a solid first four games, Ramon Sessions was outright horrid in the final three games to close out the Nuggets.
Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum are facing constant double teams, leaving Steve Blake and Sessions wide open along the three-point line. They will continue to get these looks, as the Thunder know they don't want those two players getting the chance to beat them.
Sessions was just 9-for-29 from the field and 1-for-8 from three-point range, giving him all the fuel necessary to start the fire in this series.
Kobe Bryant Misses a Game
The Black Mamba not taking the court? Could it be?
Last series, we began to see signs of Kobe Bryant become ill, as this could well carry over into this next series.
Don't be surprised if it continues to get the best of him in this next series, as it is clear he is not at 100 percent.
Westbrook Will Be MVP for Thunder in Game 1
Kevin Durant may have been second in the running behind LeBron James for the NBA's 2012 MVP honors, yet Westbrook undoubtedly has the better first game scoring the rock.
This season, Westbrook has put up his best numbers against Los Angeles. In three games against the Lakers, Westbrook averages 23 points and seven assists per game.
There is no question that offensively, this is the player that can take over this game. The Lakers have a significantly smaller player in Sessions matching up with him, as he will be able to take full advantage of this battle.
Andrew Bynum Goes Off, 20-Plus Points and 10-Plus Rebounds Each Game
The Lakers can now breathe a sigh of relief, as finally, Bynum is putting up the numbers we all knew he could.
Bynum is coming into his own at the time these Lakers need it most.
Despite his low-blow to the Nuggets when the series was at 3-1, it is also true that this is a young player who is still learning how to conduct himself off the floor.
In Game 7, when the team needed him most, Bynum posted a whopping 16 points and 18 rebounds. He was able to dominate the inside and keep Kenneth Faried and Javale McGee far from the glass.
He will do just the same against a smaller Thunder team, dominating Perkins on the inside.
Harden Outplays World Peace
World Peace may be bring veteran talent to the table, but he is no match for Harden in this contest.
It may be a prediction that comes to the surprise of many, including the Thunder, yet Harden is a promising offensive talent that seems to have knack for hitting both Durant and Westbrook in their sweet spots.
This will play a major role in this series, as he is essentially the "point guard" of this team, the guy distributing the rock.
Lakers Take out Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder may be the better team this season, but the one thing they don't have is championship experience.
The Lakers are as promising in this regard as any team in the championship hunt in 2012, as Bryant himself has won five of them.
This is a team that has been to the finals three times in the last four seasons, facing the Celtics twice and the Magic once. Bryant helped lead the Lakers to two titles in that stretch, splitting the matchups against the Celtics and taking down a Dwight Howard-led Magic with ease.
At the end of the day, it's this championship and playoff experience that lifts the Black Mamba and his Lakers over the Thunder.