Thunder roundtable: Breaking down OKC vs. L.A.
The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel, Jenni Carlson, Mike Baldwin and Mike Sherman weigh in on some compelling questions from the Thunder-Lakers series
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Matchup that most favors the Thunder
Tramel: Russell Westbrook vs. Derek Fisher. Westbrook is too young, too quick and too strong for Fisher. The Lakers might have to adjust their entire rotation.
Carlson: Anything involving Kevin Durant. This might be K.D.'s first playoff experience, but the guy is growing up right before our eyes. He seems to figure out a new way to score every week. He'll be a handful for whomever guards him.
Baldwin: Many argue Fisher is the weak link for the Lakers. By improving his 15-foot, stop-and-pop shot and his ability to attack the rim, Westbrook could give the Thunder a chance to make it a competitive series.
Sherman: The point guard battle is the obvious edge, but the battle of the benches is worth watching. If the Lakers don't win the title, it will be because they stood pat at the deadline instead of fortifying their depth. OKC's upside is much greater, especially if Serge Ibaka avoids foul trouble and James Harden has rediscovered his offensive confidence. But then there's that NBA adage that role players don't travel well.
Matchup that most favors the Lakers
Tramel: Pau Gasol vs. Jeff Green. Gasol is a true center playing power forward. Green is a swingman playing power forward.
Carlson: Anything involving Kobe Bryant. I know Thabo Sefolosha held him in check when the Lakers came to town last month, but this is the playoffs. And Kobe is, well, Kobe in the playoffs. No matter who matches up on him, it will be advantage Lakers.
Baldwin: Gasol or Bynum vs. Krstic. The Lakers have an edge on every team they play, especially the Thunder. Nenad Krstic had one of his best defensive games in the Thunder's lopsided win in the Ford Center 17 days ago. Gasol is a handful for everyone. He could have a monster series.
Sherman: Bynum vs. whomever the Thunder sends to guard him. He averaged 18 points, eight rebounds and shot better than 60 percent when he played against OKC this season. When he's in there, it seems like the Thunder is playing the monsters from the Michael Jordan movie Space Jam.
Biggest cause for concern from the last two road losses games
Tramel: Recklessness. For some reason, the Thunder has started playing AAU ball. Wild passes. One-on-one. Nothing at all like the bulk of the season.
Carlson: The lack of energy and defense late in the game. Everyone knows that the fourth quarter is where games are won and lost in the NBA. Yet against the Warriors and the Blazers, the Thunder couldn't stop anybody from getting to the rim. Too many easy baskets in crunch time is troublesome.
Baldwin: The defense regressed the last two months. Brooks kept harping that the defense needed to get back to its previous standards, but it never did. The drop off defensively has been alarming. Not a good sign entering the playoffs.
Sherman: Russell Westbrook's play. He's shot 36 percent or worse in six of the last eight games. In the last six: 39 assists, 36 turnovers. The Thunder was 2-4 in those games.
Possible silver lining from the Thunder's late-season struggles
Tramel: Maybe the Thunder has been taught that it's not as good as it thought it was and it has to buckle down.
Carlson: Motivation. This team has been pretty darn good about bouncing back from bad performances. They have a pride about them that shines after poor stretches. Perhaps they bow up and fight back. Do that in the series opener in L.A., and the Thunder could score a rare playoff road victory.
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