Originally posted on Taking Bad Schotz  |  Last updated 5/14/12

The most intriguing matchup of the second round in the NBA playoffs is the Oklahoma City Thunder versus the Los Angeles Lakers. These two teams entered the second round in very different fashions, with Oklahoma City sweeping the defending champion Dallas Mavericks and Lakers being forced to a game 7 by the Denver Nuggets.

Although many people are excited to watch this series, nearly all of them expect the Thunder to win rather easily. However, don’t expect Kobe and the Lakers to go down quietly, as this would represent a major shift in power in the NBA.

If the Thunder beat the Lakers, it signifies a passing of the torch in the Western Conference. The Lakers have had two different dynasties since 2000, and year in and year out find themselves the favorite to win the west. However, with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook quickly proving that they are the best tandem in the NBA, Oklahoma City will take over as the most dominate team, and likely hold that title over the next several years due to their young talent.

In addition, the title of most dominant player may be switching hands as well. Although he has only won one MVP award, Kobe Bryant has been the best player in basketball over the last ten years. Bryant has also been viewed as the most clutch player, best scorer, and the second greatest of all time. However, with Durant winning three straight scoring titles and hitting game winner after game winner, he could take the roles that Bryant currently owns if the Thunder win this series. As good as LeBron is, he will never take these titles due to his general lack of a fourth quarter and perception to the public.

With all of this in mind, Kobe faces the most pressure, with his need to get that sixth ring and his as status the league’s supreme player. If the Lakers want to win this series it won’t be through Bynum or Gasol, but rather Kobe will need to have a Kobe like performance to prove what he still has. Look for Kobe to try to put up ridiculous scoring numbers and even matchup with Durant if the game is on the line.

Look for the Lakers to win this series in seven games, with Kobe and Durant battling back and forth in that last game. Kobe hates losing more than anyone in the game, and with this much on the line, the Black Mamba will do what he needs to do.

Langer

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