Why the Lakers are unbeatable ...
1. The ultimate closer: The NBA polled players on who they feared most to beat them with a last-second shot. Kobe Bryant received more than twice as many votes as any player. Using the last-second parameters established by Elias, Bryant lead the NBA with 20 game-winning shots since 2000-01.
2. Monsters in the paint: When 7-footer Andrew Bynum is healthy the Lakers, 7-footer Pau Gasol moves to power forward and the Lakers can get easy baskets against almost anyone. And sixth man Lamar Odom (6-10) creates even more mismatches.
3. Lords of the rings and experience: Kobe Bryant, owner of four championship rings, has a 175-0 edge on Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook combined in career playoff games. Phil Jackson, owner of 12 rings (two as a player), has a 300-0 advantage on Scott Brooks. But Brooks has a ring, won as a reserve with the 1994 Houston Rockets.
... and why they are vulnerable
1. Have you seen Kobe's finger?: Bryant's crooked right index finger will need surgery when the season ends and he's battled a swollen knee, sitting out four of the last five games. Said TNT analyst Doug Collins: “It sounds like (Kobe's) having problems with that leg, getting lift on his jump shot. He hasn't shot the ball well the last three games.” Bynum missed the last 13 games, and though he's back, Jackson isn't sure how much his center will play.
2. Like a Fish out of water:Point guard Derek Fisher's struggles against young, quick point guards could force defensive concessions. If he's getting beat off the dribble, OKC's pick-and-roll game and Durant's wing jumpers open up.
3. No-mentum: The Lakers were 11-10 the final six weeks. Of their 25 losses, 13 were by double digits. The Thunder? It had nine double-digit losses.
Key player for the Lakers
Los Angeles All-Star forward Pau Gasol missed the first 17 games with a hamstring injury, including the first meeting with the Thunder, a Lakers overtime win in the Ford Center. Gasol hasn't played well against the Thunder in three games but is one matchup the Lakers will try to exploit.
When center Andrew Bynum is healthy, Gasol is matched against power forwards. Gasol can post up small forwards like Jeff Green and can take bigs like Nick Collison and Nenad Krstic out to the perimeter. If Gasol has a good series, the Lakers should easily advance to the Western Conference semifinals.