Keys to the 2nd round.
Everyone needs to look out for the Thunder in the playoffs. They are going to have the feel of the Warriors a few years ago. Im going to look at a few keys for the Thunder to advance to the second round of the playoffs in the first time in franchise history. If they can get by the Lakers, there is no telling how far this team could go on its first playoff appearance. Lets take a look:
1. Thabo Sefolosha - His defense on Kobe could change everything for the next mont in basketball. If he can frustrate Kobe into doing 1 of 2 things, it could mean a victory for the Thunder. The obvious thing you want to force Kobe to do is play bad from a scoring standpoint. Kobe is such a good player that if you stop him as a scorer, you wont stop him as a playmaker. That being said, if you can stop Kobe from scoring and make other people, Pau and Artest, beat you, you have a better chance to get to the second round. The second thing that Thabo can do to Kobe to help ensure a win is force Kobe to score. That may sound funny because that is what Kobe does but hear me out. Lately, the Lakers have been in a funk and that could cause Kobe to revert to what he used to be and that is a ball hog. If Thabo can get under his skin and make him take 30 shots per game, that will disrupt chemistry and piss Gasol and Artest off.
So basically, either make Kobe be a play maker and make the rest of the team beat you without Kobe OR make Kobe do it all whether his teammates want him to or not. There cant be a balance of scoring throughout the Lakers. If there is, the Thunder dont stand a chance.
2. Kevin Durant - This one is pretty obvious. Durnat might as well be playing against Ray Lewis. Artest is going to beat him to death. Durant is going to have to make sure that he runs off of screens very cleanly, he will have to make sharp cuts, and he can not hesitate. If he has an open look, he had better take it because he wont be open for long. Durant is going to have to be big and everyone in the nation knows it.
3. The Front Line - Etan Thomas, Nenad Krstic, Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison, and Jeff Green. That is the front line rotation and they are going to have to work hard on the glass. With Bynum likely out for the first couple games, they need to take advantage of the Lakers lack of depth. Green will be matched up with Odom so he wont have a mismatch on the offensive end. Gasol is going to have to be defended well so I see Ibaka and Thomas playing on him most of the time. If they can be a little intimidating in the post, it will go a long way to them making the second round.
4. Transition Defense - This is something that the Thunder have struggled with for a long time. The Lakers love to get out and run. Anytime Odom gets a rebound, he is going to take off flying down the court to start the break. Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar, backup PGs, like to push the pace also. Westbrook is going to have to be the guy who is conscious of this. Lately, he has gotten into a habit of crashing the offensive glass and that leaves nobody in the backcourt to stop the break. If they can make that small adjustment, they wont stop the break but they can slow it down and give everyone time to catch up.
5. Russel Westbrook - Westbrook is the X-Factor for this entire playoff. Yea, everything else mentioned would help them advance but Westbrook can make them advance. He can carry this team to the second round. Fisher is a great defender but he has been exposed by young, quick, athletic PGs. Westbrook is almost the poster-boy for those kinds of PGs.. If he can continually dominate Fisher, which he probably will, and he can hit a 3 or two, this Thunder team will look impressive. If Russel can continually get into the paint, it can open up shots for Green, Krstic, Durant and Thabo.
Many things are going to have to go right for the Thunder to beat the Lakers but it can be done. Its not out of reach because this team is crazy and with a guy that scores 30+ points every other time he is on the floor, they can be a ball buster. What do you think is the most important thing for the Thunder to do to advance to the second round??
im under the impression bynum is not out for the first few games. They said he was practicing yesterday. Either way, if Im the lakers i dump that ball inside to pau, bynum, odom, ron and i even post kobe up as well. The thunder interior is way behind the lkaers interior and the lakers have been shooting real inconsistent from the perimiter. Plus the lakers have guys that can get physical in the playoffs and get away with it much more so then the thunder have.
On the other end, ron needs to earn that money now in the playoffs d'ing up durant. Durant vs artest is a huge part of what this series comes down to.
reputation comes into play here as well. DO you honestly think the thunder and scott brooks are gonna get the benefit of the doubt on calls when this series gets physical like it always does in the playoffs? I dont.
I read that Bynum could play the first game. They just don't know how many minutes he'll play per half, etc.
Regardless... I don't think OKC has a chance to win this series. The Lakers beat them 3-1 during the regular season and we all know it's even more of a different ball game during the playoffs. A lot more physical. The Lakers will pound the ball inside. I don't think Durant will get as many calls either.
I'm predicting the Lakers to win this series 4 to 1.
It isn't a Best of 5 series, and hasn't been in a long time.
"They are going to have the feel of the Warriors a few years ago." Nope. Not at all. That Warriors team was significantly better than this OKC team. Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson, Jason Richardson, Al Harrington, Mickael Pietrus, a healthy and confident Andris Biedrins, Matt Barnes, and Monta Ellis in the role he should be playing. How soon people forget that they were a really good, deep team. The Thunder have Durant and a bad supporting cast. It is not a good formula in the playoffs.
the thunder can make it tough. BUt no offense, i think it comes down to the lakers whether or not this series is close. The lakers have not shot well this year. Kobe, Fisher, Artest and the bench have all been inconsistent. When ron and fisher throw up bricks, that forces kobe to try and go on one and this year he has been 50/50 on whether he is shooting well or not. If those guys dont hit jumpers and the bench doesnt come in and make a difference and kobe has 2-3 off games in a series, it could be big trouble for the lakers.
However, the thunder just dont have the experiance or physical toughness to counter the lakers. Playoffs are all about slowing it down and getting physical, the lakers have been there, the thunder have not. This might have been the best possible first round matchup for the lakers.
And i fully expect westbrook to treat fisher like a speed bump, but that's nothing new.
IIPerez has the right idea i think. If Artest can slow up Durant then this series is dead and buried. The Lakers just have too much on the interior in my opinion. Pau could light them up. It will be a great experience for the Thunder though, considering they are all so young. But they won 50 games this season, they're not mugs.
I am so annoyed that the Thunder have the 8 seed because I was excited to see them to win a series, but with no experience and a young team, I don't see it happening. I see the Lakers winning the first 2 games, Thunder win games 3 and 4, then the Lakers buckle down and win games 5 and 6 to take the series.
I think Lakers will get it in 5 the same way they did last year against Jazz,i.e they will only lose game 3
I do like that Sefolosha v. Kobe matchup. I think Sefolosha is the best perimeter defender in the NBA right now, and although Kobe has seen Ronnie Brewer, Shane Battier, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Mikael Pietrus among others I think Sefolosha can make life super tough for Kobe. It won't matter alot of the time though because of Kobe's ability to make just about any contested shot. I wouldn't be shocked if Kobe had some low percentage nights from the field though (40% or less) in maybe 2 or 3 games.
Westbrook isn't going to give Fisher too many problems though in the half-court because unlike Aaron Brooks or someone like that, he's not a very good 3 point shooter, and I don't see that changing in this series. I have a feeling Westbrook is going to be turnover prone too, and try to do too much in the half-court oriented playoffs.
As someone said, Artest is going to get in Durant's shirt. I know Durant will get his production and numbers, but Artest takes it personal in big matchups like this, and I see him going at Durant this series.
So far, I have been right about this. In the games that they have won, at least 3 of these things have been a big factor.