NBA Playoff Preview – Los Angeles Lakers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

It was Kobe vs. Durant in the final week of the regular season, as the two battled it out for the scoring title. Now these two superstars lead their respective teams head to head as they battle for a spot in the Western Conference Finals.

The trash talking has already begun, as Metta World Peace stated that he “…doesn’t shake substitute’s hands” when asked how he planned to greet Sixth Man of the Year winner, James Harden.  At the end of the regular season, World Peace sent an elbow to the head of James Harden, knocking him out of the game with a concussion. World Peace recently returned from his 7-game suspension due to the incident, and it appears that he isn’t looking to make things right with Harden.

All of this just fuels the fire of a budding rivalry between the two teams; Los Angeles, seemingly at the end of their dynasty and Oklahoma City, the new kids on the block looking to make a name for themselves in the playoffs. No doubt this will be a hard fought series – let’s take a look at how the two teams stack up statistically.

Offensive Comparison

TEAM

PTS

FG%

3P%

FT%

Oklahoma City

103.1

47.1%

35.8%

80.6%

LA Lakers

97.3

45.7%

32.6%

75.6%

Throughout the regular season, OKC has been the superior offensive team, averaging over 103 points per game while shooting a high percentage from just about anywhere on the floor, especially the free throw line.  The Thunder have guards who can create their own shot and take control of a game from the perimeter and by getting to the hoop.  The Lakers still have Kobe who will be one of the premier guards in the league until the day he retires, but Los Angeles lacks a point guard who can score if needed.

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LA does have the advantage down low, at least in scoring. Gasol and Bynum are a formidable force when they are on top of their game, and the Thunder do not have the post-players who can match them offensively. If each team plays to their strengths, we should see some tightly contested games.

Defensive Comparison

TEAM

PTS

FG%

3P%

Steals

Oklahoma City

96.9

42.7%

34.2%

7.5

LA Lakers

95.9

43.7%

34.8%

5.9

On paper, the Lakers have the better defense, giving up one fewer point per game than the Thunder. However, the Lakers allow a higher shooting and 3 point percentage, while gathering fewer steals than OKC.  The Lakers will need to control the tempo of the game, and try to avoid playing a track meet style of game, if they want to maintain an advantage at the defensive end.  Oklahoma City loves to go for the block down low, meaning there will be plenty of opportunity for the Lakers to gather some offensive rebounds. It will be interesting to see if Oklahoma City changes their shot-blocking mentality to adjust for the presence of Bynum and Gasol, or if they just continue to play the style that got them here.

Head to Head Matchups

TEAM

PTS

FG%

3P%

FT%

Oklahoma City

102.7

42.8%

32.8%

82.9%

LA Lakers

97.3

39.6%

32.5%

77.9%

During their regular season meetings, the Thunder outscored the Lakers by nearly 6 points per game, shooting a higher percentage from behind the arc, the free throw line, and anywhere in between.  It will be interesting to see how the Lakers try to match up defensively with guards of OKC and likewise how the Thunder will match up against the bigs of LA.

About Aaron Garcia

Aaron is an avid sports fan who passionately follows the NFL, NBA and MLB, in addition to NCAA Sports. He is an Arizona State University grad who loves the Dodgers and the Patriots.