Photo by Getty Images | Artwork by Kam Pashai

 

Western Conference Semifinals Game 1

It is May 14, 2012 and the (3) Los Angeles Lakers are set to battle the (2) Oklahoma City Thunder tonight at Chesapeake Arena.

The Lakers are facing an uphill battle dealing with the talented, young and rested OKC Thunder team. This second-round matchup is the first series since Pau Gasol came to L.A. that the Lakers are the underdogs.

The Lakers lost the season series to the Thunder (1-2) this season. Here is how both teams matchup.

Starter Match Up’s

PG Ramon Sessions 6’3” 190 lbs. 4th Year, Avg.11.3 Ppg, 5.5 Ast, 3.3 Reb, 0.7 Stl.      PG Russell Westbrook 6’3” 187 lbs. 3rd Year, Avg. 23.6 Ppg, 5.5 Ast, 4.6 Reb, 1.7 Stl.

Sessions vs. Westbrook is a matchup of two athletic veteran guards. Both bring speed and quickness, the ability to be dangerous on the pick and roll play attacking the basket or shooting from the perimeter. Sessions will have his opportunities to penetrate the painted area to set up teammates, attack the basket or score in the midrange game. All-Star guard Russell Westbrook has taken his talent to the next level by being able to use his speed and quickness to score on the perimeter, knock down mid-range shots, attack the basket and finish with the best in the league. Slowing Russell Westbrook down will have to be a team effort. Advantage -Thunder

SG Kobe Bryant 6’6” 205 lbs. 16th Year, Avg.27.8 Ppg, 4.6 Ast, 5.4 Reb, 1.2 Stl.          SG Thabo Sefolosha 6’7” 215 lbs. 5th Year, Avg. 4.8 Ppg, 1.1 Ast, 3.0 Reb, 0.9 Stl.

Kobe vs. Sefolosha is always a good match up to watch. Sefolosha is a solid wing defender with good size and lateral movement. Sefolosha is a very good rebounder. Sefolosha known, for his defense, but he can score. Kobe Bryant is a devastating post-up guard who makes midrange jumpers over the top of the defense. Kobe is an excellent ball handler for his size, sees the floor, is a natural scorer who can create and finish. Advantage – Lakers

SF Metta World Peace 6’7” 260 lbs. 12th Year, Avg.7.7 Ppg, 2.2 Ast, 3.4 Reb, 1.1 Stl.    SF Kevin Durant 6’9” 235 lbs. 4th Year, Avg. 28.0 Ppg, 3.5 Ast, 8.0 Reb, 1.3 Stl.

MWP vs. Kevin Durant is another excellent matchup to watch. Metta World Peace stepped his game up, improved his shot selection, started knocking down shots and finished the season strong raising his scoring average to 15.1 points in the last nine regular season games. MWP is an elite one-on-one wing defender with quick hands, superior strength and good feet.

Kevin Durant is a problem for everyone. Durant the NBA’s scoring champion, is a tall, long-armed scoring prodigy with an unblockable release who is deadly in transition. Durant has a good handle for his size and a strong free throw shooter.  Advantage – Thunder

PF Pau Gasol 7’0’ 250 lbs. 10th Year, Avg. 17.4 Ppg, 3.7 Ast, 10.4 Reb, 1.4 Blks.          PF Serge Ibaka 6’10” 235 lbs. 2nd Year, Avg. 9.1 Ppg, 0.4 Ast, 7.5 Reb, 3.7 Blks.

Pau Gasol and Serge Ibaka were teammates on the Spanish National team, the reigning European champions that won Eurobasket 2011. Serge Ibaka’s game has progressed leaps and bounds in his two-year NBA career and is destined to continue to improve. Ibaka is an athletic, long-armed shot-blocker. Ibaka was a key component for a Thunder team that recorded the highest blocks per game (8.2) by a team in the NBA in nearly 20 years. Ibaka is the NBA leader in blocked shots.

Pau Gasol is a long, highly skilled post scorer, and a dexterous big man with range. Gasol is a smart player that sees the floor well and can score with either hand. Gasol is an excellent rebounder and shot blocker. Gasol has added the role of part-time facilitator to his bag of tricks. Advantage – Lakers

C Andrew Bynum 7’0” 285 lbs. 6th Year, Avg. 18.7 Ppg, 1.4 Ast, 11.8 Reb, 1.9 Blks.     C Nazr Mohammed 6’10” 250 lbs. 13th Year, Avg. 2.7 Ppg, 0.4 Ast, 2.7 Reb, 0.7 Blks.

Nazr Mohammed will probably start due to Perkins’ injured hip. Mohammed is a cleaver big man a solid reserve with above-average footwork, good positional rebounder and uncanny short-range scoring. All-Star center Andrew Bynum is a dominant scorer inside, solid rebounder, excellent shot blocker, good passer, good post defender and basket protector. Advantage – Lakers

Bench

The Thunders’ bench is deep and talented with reigning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden, Derek Fisher, Nick Collison and Daequan Cook. The Lakers bench production has been an issue all season, but Steve Blake, Jordan Hill, Matt Barnes and Devin Ebanks have done the heavy lifting and need to continue to become a factor in this series. Advantage – Thunder

Predication: Thunder in Six

The outcome of this series is not a forgone conclusion. The Lakers have a punchers chance. The Lakers have to control the tempo, control the glass, do a solid job of defending the pick-and-roll play, stop the dribble penetration of the guards, get back in transition and protect the paint.

Tip-off: 6:30 pm pst

Television -

  • Los Angeles: TNT
  • Oklahoma City: TNT

Radio -

  • Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (John Ireland & Mychal Thompson)
  • Oklahoma City: 640 AM & 98.1 FM (Matt Pinto)

Injuries -

Lakers:

  • Matt Barnes (Sprained Ankle) Probable
  • Devin Ebanks (Middle & Ring Finger Contusions, Left Hand)

      Thunder:

  • Kendrick Perkins (Strained Right Hip) Day-to-Day (Game-Time Decision)