Season Series: Lakers 3-1
* This is a preview for one of the eight match-ups, click before to see all eight *
The defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers are in a much better position than I've noted the Penguins are in my NHL write-up. To be the champs, you have to beat the champs and in the NHL, the 'Road to the Cup' goes through Washington where as the Lakers havesecured the #1 spot in the West and will make any opponent in the West have to steal a game in Staples Center which is not an easy thing to do (the Lakers are 34-7 on their home court).
Not only do they have the best player in the game in Kobe Bryant, but the Lakers in recent years have done the best job at surrounding Kobe with star-players, giving Kobe the chance to win when it matters most.
Last year, all critics were pushed aside and Bryant was able to win the title without Shaquelle O'Neil at his side. Yes, he had big dominant Pau Gasol, who averages 18 plus points per game while averaging a double-double with over 11 boards. That is how you win championships, by getting the most consistent players in the league and pairing them with the most talented.
The Lakers were able to keep Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom (who are both just shy of double-doubles), while adding defensive specialist Ron Artest to shut down the opposing teams star and let Kobe focus on what Kobe does best... score points. The scariest part about the Lakers is that Bryum comes off the bench and their 5th starter is Derek Fisher, and if you are familiar with basketball what-so-ever, you know he and Robert Horry are two of the most clutch veteran players you could ask to have on your team (Horry is now retired and works for ESPN as a commentator).
Kobe and Bynum are both banged up (Kobe with a swollen knee and aching index finger, Bynum with a sore achilles) but they sat out games at the end of the season and if the Lakers can stay healthy, there is no question they are the team to beat...not Cleveland or Orlando, not Dallas or Denver but Kobe Bryant's Los Angeles Lakers.
Wow, you couldn't ask for a better 1st round match-up. No, not the Oklahoma City Thunder vs the L.A. Lakers, but Durant vs Kobe. If you watch basketball, than you know how good Durant is, if you don't, than you've only heard the names LeBron and Kobe for the past couple years and as much as I'd like to say that it's about to change, to anyone who watches the wonderful game of basketball, it already has changed.
Young phenom Kevin Durant has completely taken over the league averaging 30+ and topping point totals put up by Lebron, Melo and Kobe. Keep in mind Durant played all 82 games and averaged almost 40 minutes per game. Not only does Durant make the rest of the league look like it's his for the taking, but he also leads his own team in rebounds. The guy can only be summed up with one word... amazing.
As for the rest of his team? Not so much. I know 2nd year point guard Russell Westbrook is really starting to find his way as well as Jeff Green who is in his 3rd season with the Thunder (1st actually in Seattle before they moved).
Westbrook and Green have helped out Durant so much. But after the two of them, unless you live in Oklahoma, you may be saying James Harden who? And Nenad Krstic what? Exactly my point. Not only are the Thunder not that well known (they haven't been good for very long and the last time Oklahoma City/Seattle fans had something to celebrate was the mid-to-late 90's) but they're team is so young that when you put them up against Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, among other veteran Lakers.
They stand no chance. Give them a few more years and the 1986' born Jeff Green will be that much older and more mature as a player while Westbrook and Durant might even be able to grow facial hair (both born in 88').When 65% of your scoring comes from guys who when they hear the words Commodore 64 they say "Nintendo 64? Huh?"... it's going to be tough to beat the defending champs... ...KOBE!
TheCoach's Pick: Lakers in FIVE