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NBA Playoff Predictions 2012: Thunder Will Take Lakers in 6 Games

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 17:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder has the ball knocked away by Kobe Bryant #24 and Lamar Odom #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center on January 17, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Ryan PhillipsContributor IIIMay 14, 2012

The Los Angeles Lakers held off the pesky Denver Nuggets to win their opening round series in seven games, but they won't be so lucky against the Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder are coming off a dominant sweep of the Dallas Mavericks and the team is simply too young, too quick and too deep for the Lakers to handle. 

The series kicks off Monday night in Oklahoma City, and the Thunder have had nine days off to rest following their thrashing of the Mavericks. Meanwhile, the Lakers looked exhausted by the end of their series with the Nuggets, and they only had one day to recover.

Even if both teams were well-rested, the Thunder have too many weapons for a thin Lakers team to handle. Kobe Bryant's brilliance can only carry Los Angeles so far. Against Oklahoma City, the rest of the supporting cast will need to step up to make this a series.

The Thunder won two of the three matchups during the season, and they averaged a whopping 21.3 fastbreak points per game in those games, while the Lakers only averaged 9.0.

Los Angeles will try to make the series about its size with Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol manning the middle. If those two can somehow find a way to be more dominant than they were against the undersized Nuggets, the Lakers will have a chance.

If not, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka will run their older, slower opponents out of the gym.

Bryant will step up and be as great as ever at times, but he will need more help. Guys like Gasol, Bynum, Metta World Peace and Ramon Sessions need to play at their best defensively to stop Oklahoma City's powerful offense. 

Meanwhile, Matt Barnes and Steve Blake can't struggle shooting the ball if the Lakers plan on reaching the Western Conference Finals. The Lakers have to play their best basketball of the season if they hope to make this matchup competitive.

This series will be competitive and World Peace's elbow of Harden will certainly help dial up the intensity. But if the Thunder play the way they are capable, they should take the series in six games. 

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