We brought in a ringer for our Playoff previews. He's a new writer that you'll be seeing more of around here. He calls himself The Crow and has been obsessed with predicting sports outcomes since middle school. If you're betting, take his advice. If he asks you to join his fantasy league, don't—you won't have a chance.
I can't remember the last time the Lakers were an underdog in a playoff series, but that's exactly what they are against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Not just an underdog: a big underdog—and for good reason. Oklahoma City is younger, has a better roster, and has home court. Do the Lakers have a chance? Sure, I think they do. Do I think they will play to their potential for four games? No way. Simply put, they are way too inconsistent to hang with the Thunder, who bring it every night. I don't want to see it end this way for this Lakers squad I've come to like, but I don't see any way this team, as currently constructed, comes back intact next year.
The Thunder are a brutal matchup for the aging Lakers. That's not to say I'm not interested in the story lines the series offers. Every hoops fan is excited to watch Metta World Peace receive the loudest chorus of boos since, well, his return to the Palace in Detroit. Then you have the passing of the torch of premier scorer from Kobe Bryant to Kevin Durant. You've also got Kendrick Perkins—who many thought was the main reason Kobe and Co. got their last championship after his ACL injury prior to game seven—getting a chance at redemption.
Oh: And you have long time Laker guard Derek Fisher getting a chance to knock off his old team. No big deal. (That is, of course, if he gets to see the court.)
I'm curious to see if the Lakers allow the bigs to be the primary options like they did in the deciding game against Denver. My guess is Kobe will try to include them until Bynum takes a lazy jumper and then gets beat to a rebound by the ultra-athletic Serge Ibaka. I also fully anticipate Pau Gasol playing his usual soft ball, which is sure to drive Kobe into the me-against-the-world mentality that will not get it done.
In the end, expect Russell Westbrook to be the difference in the series. He should be able to penetrate at will, which is the biggest weakness of the Lakers. I want to say the Lakers will make it competitive, and they may if they can steal one early in OKC, but the smart money is on the Thunder going up 2-0 before heading out west. From there it will be another fold job in LA and the Thunder should advance with ease.
Oklahoma City in 5