The Oklahoma City Thunder faced the Los Angeles Lakers last season in their playoff debut and could meet Los Angeles again in the second round if the Thunder moves up to the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference tonight with a Dallas loss and an OKC win.
If there's a good time to catch a two-time defending champion in the postseason it would be sooner rather than later. Lakers center Andrew Bynum's knee injury Tuesday night leaves the champs looking more vulnerable. That injury also inspired the Question of the Day:
Would the Thunder be favored in a series against the Lakers if Andrew Bynum is out or slowed by a knee injury?
The Oklahoman's staff weighs in:
Columnist Berry Tramel: No. The Thunder would not be favored. We're talking about the Lakers. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol and Phil Jackson. So the Lakers would remain the favorite. But the Thunder would win. The Thunder already is a deeper team. The void of Bynum would only enhance OKC's depth advantage. With no Bynum to bother, Kendrick Perkins could wander into other brawls. And Russell Westbrook's drives into the paint would encounter one fewer redwood. The Lakers would be favored. The Thunder would win.
Thunder beat writer Darnell Mayberry: I still don't think the Thunder would be favored. The Lakers are still the defending champs and have played without Bynum before. It's not new to them. L.A. also would have home court advantage. So you'd have to give the edge to the Lakers. Bynum has become the Lakers' biggest difference-maker, though. His size, more than Kobe Bryant's greatness, is what gives teams trouble now and make the Lakers such a difficult matchup. Even if the Thunder wouldn't be favored, OKC would give the Lakers fits without Bynum and probably would win.
Columnist Jenni Carlson: An injury to Bynum definitely changes the dynamic. The Lakers would still have Kobe and Gasol and Artest and ... well, you get the idea. This team is tough even with Bynum hobbled or shelved completely. I would still give the Lakers the edge in a series against the Thunder — that squad just has too much experience to be discounted because of an injury to one guy — but it would be a dogfight of a series. I'd predict it would go seven games, and if it ended with a seventh game in Los Angeles, that might be the slight edge that the Lakers would need to win it.