2010 NBA Playoffs: Los Angeles Lakers-Oklahoma City Thunder Preview

Curtis FinchumCorrespondent IApril 16, 2010

LOS ANGELES - FEBRUARY 10: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers controls the ball against Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder on February 10, 2009 at Staples Center 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 Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The NBA regular season has come to a close and now it's time for everything to be put on the line. From blood, to sweat, to tears this is what every playoff bound team has been working for. 

For the Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe Bryant, it's a familiar setting—the four-time champion knows what to expect from his team come playoff time. 

However, the talk of the league of been the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder sport the league's youngest roster and the youngest scoring champion in NBA history in Kevin Durant. 

The Lakers are supposed to be the perennial powerhouse that no team in the league wants to play, as they return to the playoffs to defend their title. 

However, the Thunder are a team that has no fear. Even though they've never been to the playoffs, they don't really care about experience and plan on fighting until the end. 

Highly energetic Oklahoma City versus the experienced LA Lakers, its a matchup to be completely intrigued about. Which team has the advantage at what position? Time to break it down:

Point Guard:  Lakers

The Thunders Russell Westbrook and Eric Maynor are both very talented guards, Westbrook being an explosive scorer while Maynor is a more controlled player. But they simply don't have what the Lakers do. 

The Lakers point guards have experience, consistency, and explosiveness. Derek Fisher, Jordan Farmar, and Shannon Brown are all capable of taking over back-court dominance along side Bryant.

The Lakers trio will simply overrun the Thunders duo.


Shooting Guard:  Lakers

This is probably the easiest answer, as the Lakers have the advantage with former MVP Bryant at the helm. The Thunder have Thabo Sefolosha and rookie James Harden. 

Bryant, though, struggled in his last game against the Thunder, but is still easily the best guard out of both two teams and the best in the league. If the game is on the line, expect Bryant to take—and most likely make—the game-winning shot after hitting seven game-winners this season. 


Small Forward:  Thunder

The Thunder have the league's most terrifying young monster in Durant. In only his third season, Durant averaged just over 30 points a game and has shown that he fears no one. 

The Lakers obtained Ron Artest in the offseason for defending such a play, however, in four games against the Lakers Durant has averaged 25.8 points. Artest has yet to effectively get into his head.

Durant's mental toughness this season has been astounding as teams have sent wave after wave of defenders his way and it hasn't stopped him. 


Power Forward:  Tie

Yes, the Lakers have NBA All-Star Pau Gasol and super-sub Lamar Odom, but the Thunder have a duo that virtually mirrors them. Jeff Green and rookie Serge Ibaka. 

Green has been the glue-guy for the Thunder doing a little bit of everything, while Ibaka's late-season development has given the Thunder an inside presence defensively. 

The Lakers Gasol has been forced to play center while Andrew Bynum recovers from injury and Odom's production as of late has slowed down. Though both duos are explosive, there is really no advantage here other than experience. 


Center:  Lakers

This one has to go to the Lakers for now, as Bynum plans to return to action in the series opener. Should Bynum not be at 100 percent, though, this one is really a toss-up as to who plays better. 

Oklahoma City's Nick Collison and Nenad Kristic both have a touch matchup whether its defending Bynum or his replacement Gasol. 


Series Winner:  Lakers 4-2

Though the Thunder will put up a great fight, Bryant will simply out will Durant and his teammates. Bryant will not be denied a chance at winning a second straight title and he'll come into the series ready to play and put the Thunder away in game six. 

But the future for the Thunder looks bright and that should frighten not only the Western Conference, but the entire league.