Phil Jackson is already up to some old tricks criticizing refs for their handling of Kevin Durant. Come on Phil, like Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan didn’t get EVERY call when you won your 10 NBA Championships? You know better so grow up! Phil Jackson’s mouth has added even more spice to this first round series. Here is a breakdown of the matchups:
Point Guard: Russell Westbrook is a up and coming point guard who will likely abuse Derek Fisher in this series. Westbrook played in 82 games (all starts) for the Thunder this season and he averaged 34.3 minutes, 16.1 points, 4.9 rebounds, 8.0 assists and 1.3 steals per game. He has too much speed for Derek Fisher to deal with.
Derek Fisher is the starting point guard in name only as Kobe directs the offense. Fisher is a big game player and he isn’t too shy to take a big shot at the end of a game. Fisher played in 82 games (all starts) for the Lakers this year and he averaged 27.2 minutes, 7.5 points, 2.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.1 steals per game.
EDGE: HUGE FOR THE THUNDER
Shooting Guard: Thabo Sefolosha starts at shooting guard for the Thunder because of his defense. He will have his hands full trying to cover Kobe Bryant in this series. Sefolosha played in 82 games (all starts) for the Thunder this season and he averaged 28.6 minutes, 6.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.2 steals per game.
Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in NBA history, period. He loves to step up in the playoffs so I think he will have a outstanding series against the Thunder. Bryant played in 73 games (all starts) for the Lakers this season and he averaged 38.8 minutes, 27.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.6 steals per game.
EDGE: HUGE FOR THE LAKERS
Small Forward: Kevin Durant is one of the two or three best players in the NBA and Phil Jackson done pissed him off. He abused Ron Artest during the regular season and I see no reason for that to change in this series. Durant played in 82 games (all starts) for the Thunder this season and he averaged 39.5 minutes, 30.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocked shot per game. This series will be his big coming out party on the National Stage.
Ron Artest has fit right in with the Lakers as he plays solid defense and he defers shots to other players. He played in 77 games (all starts) for the Lakers this season and he averaged 33.8 minutes, 11.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.4 steals per game. Look for Artest to foul Durant hard a couple of times in this series to attempt to get into his head.
EDGE: HUGE FOR THE THUNDER
Power Forward: Jeff Green will have to really man up in this series against the much bigger Pau Gasol. Green played in 82 games (all starts) for the Thunder this season and he averaged 37.1 minutes, 15.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.3 steals per game. Green should do a solid job at least offensively in this series.
Pau Gasol will slide back over to power forward where he plays better in this series. Gasol played in 65 games (all starts) for the Lakers this season and he averaged 37.0 minutes, 18.3 points, 11.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.7 blocked shots per game. He will try to bully Green in this series.
Center: Nenad Krstic is a basic center who likes to play close to the basket. He played in 76 games (all starts) for the Thunder this season and he averaged 22.9 minutes, 8.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 0.7 assists per game. The Thunder will be happy if Krstic plays good defense and rebounds in this series.
Andrew Bynum is back for the Lakers for this series after missing some time at the end of the year due to injury. Bynum played in 65 games (all starts) for the Lakers this season and he averaged 30.4 minutes, 15.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.0 assist and 1.5 blocked shots per game. The Lakers are a better team with Bynum back in action.
BENCH: The Thunder have a young bench with three rookies (James Harden, Serge Ibaka and Eric Maynor) playing key roles. So it’s important that none of the kids are intimidated by the Lakers and the playoffs. Harden will have the tough job of covering Kobe when he is in the game. He played in 76 games (0 starts) for the Thunder this season and he averaged 22.9 minutes, 9.9 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.1 steals per game. Serge Ibaka was tough around the basket and the Thunder will need him to keep it up when he is in the game. Nick Collison is another big guy who will be needed to battle down low with the Lakers’ front line. Eric Maynor will likely give Westbrook a breather once in a while in this series.
Lamar Odom is back to being the first player off the bench for the Lakers. He played in 82 games (38 starts) for the Lakers this season and he averaged 31.5 minutes, 10.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar will both also get a lot of P.T. in this series for the Lakers.
Coach: Scott Brooks led the Thunder to a 50-32 (61%) record this year. He now has a 72-79 (47.7%) record in his time with the Thunder. It will be interesting to watch Brooks try to match X’s and O’s with the Zen Master.
Phil Jackson led the Lakers to a 57-25 record (69.5%) during the regular season. He has a record on 553-267 (68.3%) during the regular season in his career with the Lakers and he is 98-50 (66.2%) during the post season with them. Jackson has won 4 NBA Championships with the Lakers and 10 overall in his career.
EDGE: HUGE FOR THE LAKERS
PREDICTION: Kevin Durant will prove to be the best player on the court at all times in this series (sorry Kobe) but the Lakers will still win this series in 5 games.