3 teams that could give the Thunder trouble in first round of playoffs

Oklahoma City Thunder v Los Angeles Lakers
Oklahoma City Thunder v Los Angeles Lakers / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages
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Los Angeles Lakers

We all knew this was going to be here. How could it not be?

The Lakers won the season series 3-1 against the Thunder and outrebounded OKC in each of their three wins. They are the ideal team that pundits think of when they make the case that OKC needs more size. On top of this, Los Angeles is climbing up the conference standings toward locking in a seventh or eighth seed. 

The Lakers eliminated the Warriors last season in the second round of the playoffs. They were able to take down the defending champs because they were a more physically imposing team even though Golden State had the skill advantage, with players who can shoot, pass, and dribble filling out much of their roster. 

Does that sound familiar?

Obviously, the Thunder have plenty of differences from the Warriors of last year, but the blueprint is there for the Lakers: physicality.

What was the 13th overall defense in the regular season leaped up to fourth in the playoffs. The Lakers know how to turn it on when it matters the most. 

Anthony Davis is as strong a rim deterrent as any in the league. You could see Thunder players visibly recoiling away from attacking the rim in their last matchup. Jarred Vanderbilt is long enough to guard any forward and quick enough to stay with any guard. LeBron James isn’t the defender he once was, but he’s sturdy and can still time interceptions that lead to transition buckets. 

A playoff series against the Lakers could be a nightmare for the Thunder. But it could also be a chance at vindication.

All season, the narrative around the Thunder has been that they need more size and that they're too young to contend. If the Thunder managed to outlast the Lakers, overcoming the physicality and experience of Los Angeles, that could be the confidence boost they need to carry them through a deep playoff run. 

A chance to silence the critics. How sweet that would feel. Still, the Thunder would likely still rather face another team like the Kings.