Are the Lakers on the ropes?

By Mike Baldwin, Staff Writer, mbaldwin@opubco.com Published: April 17, 2010
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/> Defensive stopper Ron Artest, who most likely will guard Thunder star Kevin Durant, twisted his ankle in the regular-season finale. Reportedly, the ankle injury is not serious.

Luke Walton, who missed much of the season with a pinched nerve in his back, has returned but has played limited minutes.

"What happens is there’s a trickle-down effect,” Collins said. "Lamar Odom is great coming off the bench. He gives you a nightmare matchup. Without Bynum, then (Pau) Gasol has to play center, which changes his matchup instead of going against a power forward. It all gets changed.”

Whether it was injuries or boredom from essentially wrapping up the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference in mid-February, the Lakers went 16-12 after the All-Star break, 11-10 the past six weeks. The team opened the season 24-5.

Not only have the Lakers lost games, several have been blowouts, including a 91-75 loss to the Thunder three weeks ago. The Thunder led that game by 33 points at one point. Bryant had nearly as many turnovers (nine) as points (11).

"I think we’ll be shocked if the Lakers don’t get to the Finals,” said Hall of Famer Charles Barkley. "They’ve really just been going through the motions all season. Now it’s the playoffs.”

Thunder coach Scott Brooks said with Bynum returning, the defending champions are one of the favorites to win the title.

"They have a team built to win now and a few years from now,” Brooks said.

"I admire Kobe that he plays through injuries,” Brooks said. "He’s done that all year long. A lot of guys in the league don’t want to put themselves out there if they’re not up to par.

"They’re healthy now. What they’ve done the last month has no bearing on what they’re going to do on Sunday.”

Oklahoma City forward Nick Collison agrees, stating the Thunder’s focus is on how they play, not speculate whether the Lakers are vulnerable.

"Honestly we don’t really care,” Collison said. "We’re focused on playing that game on Sunday. We expect them to be the Lakers.”



Thunder vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Sunday: at L.A. Lakers, 2 p.m., ABC

Tuesday: at L.A. Lakers, 9:30 p.m., TNT

Thursday: at Oklahoma City, 8:30 p.m., TNT

April 24: at Oklahoma City, 8:30 p.m., ESPN

April 27: at L.A. Lakers, TBD*

April 30: at Oklahoma City, TBD*

May 2: at L.A. Lakers, TBD*

* indicates if necessary

NewsOK live blog: Join The Oklahoman’s Berry Tramel and Darnell Mayberry on the Press Row Live Blog during every game at newsok.com/sports/thunder.

Twitter: Follow them at twitter.com/berrytramel and twitter.com/DarnellMayberry

Radio: All games will be on WWLS (640 AM, 98.1 FM)

Local TV: Games 2-4 will be on FOX Sports Oklahoma (Cox 37, 722 HD)

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