Yes, Thunder faithful. I’m here to rain on your premature championship parade. As the editor of fellow FanSided blog Lake Show Life there’s one things I’ve learned all year long from watching my Lakers – expect the unexpected.
From the Chris Paul madness that opened the season through the tantrums of Andrew Bynum and up to the inexplicable 7 game series against Denver it’s been on display all year long. Which is exactly why OKC needs to be nervous.
First off let’s just start with the two biggest elephants in the room. Well, really just one elephant because Mamba is a stealth predator capable of taking down a sizeable foe like an elephant with one deadly strike.
Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant are the headliners in a series rich with drama. Some are calling it the passing of the guard in the Western Conference. But everyone was writing off KB24 as over the hill last year. All the dude did was go out and nearly take another scoring title this year.
KD got the crown for top point producer and honestly should have taken his first MVP award too. But being overlooked in the West is nothing new. How Bryant only has one to his name is a mystery. Such is life when all people see you as is a scorer.
Durant’s all around game has improved but scoring is still what he does best. Bryant has the edge because he can affect the game in ways Durant just can’t.
Kobe is a killer of the highest degree who gives full effort every night. And if the game is on the line there’s only one closer that’s proven himself with a career’s worth of big shots in bigger game. Bryant also can adapt his game to any scenario. Shifting from scorer to facilitator has become common for Kobe this year. He too deserved some MVP love but we all knew the hype machine was going to crank out another trophy for the LeBrom collection.
While we’re on the topic of hype nothing is more over-hyped than the so-called Kendrick Perkins effect.
I’ve seen Perk go toe-to-toe with the Laker bigs in those two Finals battles when he was sporting that ugly green jersey and here is what I know for sure. He is a very good low post defender that throws his size around and intimidates with his presence.
But he’s got an offensive game that makes Dikembe Mutombo cringe and is almost a complete non-factor on the boards considering his size and the position he plays. All that talk of Perkins bringing toughness to a team is just hot air. That means nothing if Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol are going for double-doubles each night.
What that presence in the post does for the Lake Show is allows them to control the tempo which is OKC’s greatest asset.
Slowing the Thunder roll takes Russell Westbrook’s greatest weakness (half court hoops) and puts it on display for the world to see.
With the game being played at L.A.’s pace the points in the paint battle looms large. For a team like OKC that lives and dies by perimeter scoring that become problematic. As we just saw against Denver athletic and active bigs like Serge Ibaka can cause problems for the Lakers but over the course of a seven game series true post game always overcomes the genetic lottery.
If the Thunder can’t get out and run then all that James Harden front running gets put on the back burner. Plus he’s got to contend with Metta World Peace again. It goes without saying this will be the matchup that will be the most talked about after elbowgate. I don’t in any way endorse the actions of the ironically self-named World Peace but his defensive approach is more intimidating than his MMA.
Don’t overlook that last meeting between these two teams either. Some want to just chalk that OT thriller up to late season indifference but something clicked for the Lakers in that game. Yes, the Thunder ran away from the Lake Show in their previous meetings. But as we all know when the Lakers feel like they’ve got something to prove or are painted into a corner they tend to come out with an intensity few teams can match between the determination of Kobe and the harassing nature of Metta.
And yes, there is the added element of Derek Fisher facing his former team. That too is being oversold. D-Fish and all his intangibles are nice for barbershop talk but the reality is he’s a defensive liability that doesn’t play like a true lead guard any longer.
Now I’m not going to go Bynum and push the easy button on this one. The Thunder is a legit title contender for years to come. This just isn’t the year they get their hands on that Larry O’Brien. Everyone pays their dues and now is OKC’s time. I don’t see any way for the Lakers to win this one in less than seven games. Which means you’ll just have to endure a heart-breaking loss in your crib. Take your medicine and we’ll see you again next season.