January 27, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) shoots a basket against the defense of Los Angeles Lakers small forward Earl Clark (6) during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

OKC Thunder vs. LA Lakers: Preview of the First Round of the Playoffs?

The Oklahoma City Thunder will host the Los Angeles Lakers tonight at Chesapeake Energy Arena. At this point in the season, no one expected the Lakers to still be out of the playoff seeding.

Right now, they have the ninth best record in the Western Conference at two games behind the Utah Jazz and two and a half behind the Houston Rockets.

The Thunder are of course right at the top of the Western Conference standings just three games behind the San Antonio Spurs, who just lost Tony Parker for the next month.

With the top seed very much in reach for the Thunder and the Lakers charging for the last playoff spot, will tonight be a preview of what we will see in the first round of the playoffs?

It seems more likely than ever today.

The Lakers have won their last two games, seven of their last 10 and are at .500 for the first time this season. Kobe Bryant is playing great basketball and the Mike D’Antoni system in LA looks like it might actually be working somewhat.

It’s not what we expected to see from the Lakers this season. They’re doing all this without Pau Gasol. Dwight Howard and Steve Nash have not been featured as much as was expected either.

The reality is that despite the Lakers not living up to expectations, catching Utah or Houston is totally possible for them right now. The philosophy for the Lakers now has become to just make the playoffs and not care about the seedings.

The best case scenario for the Lakers would be avoiding the Thunder in the first round. OKC has played very well against LA this season and the last. They beat them in five games in the second round last year and LA still doesn’t look like they are capable of slowing down Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook.

But by the same token, the Thunder would prefer to avoid the Lakers in the first round too. Why would you want to deal with a foursome of Kobe, Howard, Nash and Gasol? Who knows, maybe they’ll suddenly figure it all out and start playing to the potential we once thought they would by the time the playoffs start.

We’ll get a good look tonight in OKC of what to expect if these teams do meet in the playoffs. The Lakers are playing very well right now but so are the Thunder, who are coming off a big win on the road vs. the Los Angeles Clippers last Sunday.

The Thunder have been blowing teams out lately at the Peake but tonight, it’ll probably be a close one.

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Tags: Los Angeles Lakers Oklahoma City Thunder

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