2010 NBA Playoff Predictions: Is a Thundering Upset in the Works for the Lakers?
"They're vulnerable, they're not the same team as last year, Kobe Bryant is shooting only 21-for-70 during his last three contests, and without Andrew Bynum they can't win a championship."
And during this last month, I have sat back and soaked in all the negativity that was being spoken.
I thought to myself, "Come on, it's the Los Angeles Lakers we're talking about here! They have arguably the greatest basketball player in NBA history on their roster, how can they lose?"
Well congratulations to all those people, here's the article that you've been waiting for.
Yesterday, we found out that the Lakers will be matched up against the Oklahoma City Thunder for the first round of the 2010 NBA Playoffs.
It's certainly a relief for LA that they won't be facing the San Antonio Spurs, who are 2-2 against the Lakers in the regular season (the Spurs two wins have been by an average of 19.5 points).
More importantly, the Lakers dodged a bullet with not pairing up against the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the playoffs.
The Blazers hold a 2-1 record against Kobe and company this season, beating the Lakers this last Sunday at the Staples Center without their star Brandon Roy in the second half.
While it would be even more nail biting for the Lakers to compete against one of the two teams mentioned above, the Thunder have just as good of a chance to make history in the short weeks to come.
It's obvious that the Lakers lack a true point guard that can simply distribute the ball and hit the open jumper.
At the age of 35, Derek Fisher should not be the starting point guard for a defending championship team, simply put.
Most of his opponents are much younger and quicker, creating an instant mismatch night in and night out.
Fisher will be assigned to defend Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook for possibly seven games. The young gun is averaging 17.5 PPG, 8.2 APG, and 5.2 RPG on 46.7 percent shooting in four games against Los Angeles this season.
Another major concern for the Lakers will be how to prevent Kevin Durant from scoring in bunches. Durant has clearly had his way with Los Angeles, much like every other team in the NBA this season, averaging 25.7 PPG on 46.0 percent shooting in the four games.
Although Ron Artest is well-known for his toughness and remarkable defensive ability, he will face up against arguably his toughest opponent in KD. The former Defensive Player of the Year will most definitely have his hands full throughout the entire first round of the playoffs.
While most believe that the Lakers' two seven-footers will dominate the paint on both ends of the court in this series, don't forget that the Thunder rank fourth in the league in rebounds per game (43.5 per game), less than one rebound per game than Los Angeles.
And with Andrew Bynum just beginning to exercise, it will be a huge issue if the center cannot run up and down the court consistently and perform at his best after missing close to a month of action.
The Lakers' biggest concern will come down to if Kobe Bryant can step up his game, and with Oklahoma City's top defender Thabo Seflosha matched up against the Black Mamba, it will definitely be a sight to see.
We have all seen Kobe do it in the past, but with a fracture in his right index finger and his team not playing anything close to what they should be, is there really a thundering upset in the works?
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