We continue with our conference semifinal team previews!
Beat Dallas in the first round, 4-0.
Seed: #2 (West)
Stat Leaders: Kevin Durant (28.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG), Russell Westbrook (5.5 APG, 1.7 SPG), Serge Ibaka (3.7 BPG).
Opponent: #3 Los Angeles Lakers, 41-25
Record Against Them This Season: 2-1
Writer: Royce Young (@DailyThunder)
Web Site: Daily Thunder
It’s been a while since we heard from the Thunder but that was because they got rid of the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks in four games in an otherwise competitive series. Royce Young from Daily Thunder comes back to help me preview the Thunder’s second-round match-up with the Los Angeles Lakers. Last time they met in the playoff was two years ago but things are totally different in 2012.
It was a sweep. But what would you like to see the team improve in the next round?
The Thunder played with a bit of fire in the opening round, cutting two home wins really close. Defensively, they were sound, but there was a little bit to be desired on the offensive end at times. OKC is a dynamic, awesome offensive team, except when its scorers aren’t scoring. That sounds overly simple, but when Durant struggles, as do the Thunder often times. Getting Durant going early is something OKC needs to focus on.
What can we expect in terms of personnel adjustments with this team in this series?
Scott Brooks shortened his bench against the Mavs cutting Nazr Mohammed out, but I think he’ll reinstate the 10-man rotation as having depth down low is a must against the sizable Lakers. Especially with Kendrick Perkins’ health being a bit in question.
Do you think James Harden has made the leap in the previous series (this year)?
Oh absolutely. People haven’t really had as much a chance to see what a complete basketball player Harden has developed into. He could easily go for 20 a night if he wanted, but he chooses to score 16 on seven shots, make smart decisions with the ball and play a wonderful middleman to Durant and Westbrook. He’s a full blown star, just without any of the pomp and circumstance that follows around OKC’s two All-Stars.
So it’s finally here. Thunder vs Lakers. Keys for the Thunder to win.
Rebounding. I think the Thunder can defend the Lakers as well as anyone. OKC has size, two good defenders for Kobe and the best rim protector in the game. But it comes down to the defensive glass. The Thunder have had issues this season allowing offensive rebounds, and that’s something obviously the Lakers do well. The Thunder have to minimize second chances because I think their defense is good enough to get plenty of stops. They just can’t be having to get two, three or four stops a trip.
I’ve got the Thunder in five, just because I think it’s a pretty favorable matchup for OKC. Obviously the Lakers have every opportunity to take this because when No. 24 is on your side, you’ve got a shot, but I think those two Thunder wins showed that OKC plays the Lakers well.
PHOTO CREDITS: 1) Garrett W. Elwood/Getty Images. 2) Glenn James/Getty Images. 3) Stephen Dunn/Getty Images.