Right before the start of every Los Angeles Lakers playoff series, Silver Screen and Roll's fine selection of authors will offer up their predictions for the upcoming matchups.
Lakers in 5.
The real scares won't start until the second round. In the meantime, I expect to see the Lakers pull out of their late-season dive. It won't be because any switch has been flipped, but rather because Andrew Bynum is back in the rotation and Kobe Bryant is playing with fresh legs. Kevin Durant will average 25-30 points per game, but Ron Artest will force him into a low-efficiency series overall. Russell Westbrook will both make Derek Fisher look terrible and commit too many turnovers. Beyond Westbrook and Durant, the Thunder just don't have enough ways to score. There won't be any blowouts, but the Lakers will win in five games, with Pau Gasol serving as the unofficial series MVP.
See what everyone else has to say after the jump.
Lakers in 5.
I agree with Dex that Pau should dominate this series. With Bynum coming back, there is just no way the Thunder can focus on defending Pau straight up. To start the game, Jeff Green is going to have to guard Pau or Bynum and that just won't work. Should Oklahoma decide to sub in Ibaka early, the Thunder will have 2-3 guys on the floor who aren't scorers. Bynum changes everything.
I'm expecting Kobe to go into facilitating mode, but I see him trying to do it all in the first game in OKC. If the Lakers lose any game, I feel Game 3 will be it due to a friendly home whistle (or lack of) for the first playoff game in OKC, and tons of Laker frustration.
I'm also with Dex on his thoughts of Westbrook and Durant. Westbrook will probably also earn his share of silly fouls like over the back and reach ins. I have a feeling the Lakers may give him the Robdo treatment and put Kobe on him and dare him to shoot. Sefolosha scores 6 ppg. I think Fish can handle covering him. Durant? Ron held him to 34% FGA in the regular season, and I expect Artest will get to be even more physical in the 1st 2 games. If so, it could force Durant into more of the rushed deep shots he takes sometimes.
I pick the Lakers in 5. How close the games are will depend on how well the bench plays.
Lakers in 6.
I hate predictions. If you know me, I hate when people seem so certain about the future, and when anyone is spouting "Mark my words - the Lakers are going to lose in the second round" - my standard response is, "well then, g o bet your house on it".
The only thing I would be surprised by is if the NB A decide d to forgo the playoffs this year and just make everyone a winner. Like John Lennon sang, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." I'll go one further and add a quote of my own: Predictions are made so that people can look back and laugh at you.
So this pick is for entertainment purposes only (as I'm sure everyone else's pick is, whether they realize it or not!).
Lakers in 6. Kobe may struggle against the Swiss Mister Sefolosha, and the Lakers may drop a game in Oklahoma City and one at Staples (maybe even the first game, causing shockwaves of panic in Lakerland), but they'll utimately prevail, with a few nice games from Kobe, two amazing performances from Odom, solid all-around play from Pau Gasol, and Bynum contributing first and second quarter points to add to the offensive tally. Who else did I miss? Oh yeah, Ron Artest will make 40% of this threes. Kevin Durant will not score more than 35 points in any one game. How's that for predictions?
Lakers in 6.
Some may argue that the Thunder will have a 'deer in the headlights' reaction due to most of them having never been in the Playoffs before, and get blown out in the first game, but I think it's more likely the Lakers have such a reaction, having forgotten how to play well. That, in addition to having to weave Kobe and Drew back into the fold, will cause them to drop the first game. I see them winning the second by double-digits, as a bit of a wake-up; but then losing the third to a highly energised Thunder team playing at home, probably losing in double figures due to losing focus after game 2. Games 4 and 5, 5-10 point Laker victories, pretty run-of-the-mill games. Game 6, I can see going into overtime, as the Lakers relax being back at home and one game away from the second round, but the Lakers will eke it out in OT. Pau Gasol for series MVP, with Bynum coming back surprisingly well from injury against OKC's weak frontline, Kobe having a quiet, facilitator-type series, and Artest proving his worth by holding Durant under 25ppg on sub-43% shooting.
Lakers in 5.
No matter which way you slice it. the Lakers have this one pretty well covered. The Lakers have more talent than the Thunder. They have more size. They have more experience. They have less emotion (which in this case will be a good thing). I know the Lakers haven't looked very good in a while, but they lucked out in that department as well. The Thunder are the only Western Conference team (besides the Lakers of course) that isn't coming into the playoffs firing on all cylinders. A team as young and inexperienced as the Thunder are coming in can go two ways in the playoffs. Either they can wilt under the pressure of the big stage, or they can play with a fearlessness that can only come from having no idea what you are doing. If the Thunder were hot coming into this series, I'd worry about the latter. But they aren't, so I see the Lakers teaching the Thunder a valuable lesson in playoff experience. That said, a raucous home crowd in OKC and the Lakers propensity for relaxation in non-threatening situations is good for at least one game.