Tonight kicks off Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals matchup between the L.A. Lakers and the Oklahoma City Thunder. After experiencing one of the worst playoff blowouts in their history, the Lakers are looking to rebound.
Here are some key matchups to follow as the game progresses.
1. Kobe Bryant vs. Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook is the speed of the Oklahoma City offense. In Game 1, he practically shot the lights out of the stadium.
In Game 2, controlling Westbrook will be a task left to the heart of the Lakers, Kobe Bryant.
Although Kobe no longer has the youthful athleticism that Westbrook has, veteran experience and defensive anticipation make Kobe a superior defender. Expect him to take personal offense to every basket Westbrook scores.
2. Metta World Peace vs. Kevin Durant
The Peacemaker will have the difficult duty of holding off Kevin Durant tonight. Metta World Peace does not quite possess the speed to guard Westbrook, so his defensive skills will instead be put to the test against the NBA's leading scorer.
If Durant gets off easy shots during the game, the Lakers really have no chance of winning. World Peace knows that the Lakers rely on his defense to succeed, so expect him to play all out and stick to Durant like glue.
3. Andrew Bynum vs. Serge Ibaka
In this position battle, Andrew Bynum must prevail in order to ensure a Laker victory.
Ibaka isn't as much of an offensive threat as he is a defensive threat, so against the league's leading shot-blocker, Bynum will need to employ his whole array of post moves. Shots just do not come easily against Ibaka's gigantic frame.
The Lakers have had success working an inside-out system; it's up to Bynum to continue this success in Game 2.