2012 LA Lakers vs Oklahoma City Thunder Series Price, Odds and Predictions – NBA Western Conference Semifinals Picks: It is a story seen so often in the world of professional sports. The Oklahoma City Thunder is the group of young, talented up and comers in search of its first championship, while the Los Angeles Lakers are the aging veterans fighting to stay on top and win one more title before their window of opportunity slams shut for the final time. Throw in a nasty incident between Los Angeles forward Metta World Peace’s elbow and the head of Oklahoma City guard James Harden, and a budding rivalry between these two franchises is about to take the next step when they meet in the Western Conference semifinals. NBA fans have been waiting for a postseason meeting between the second-seeded Thunder and the third-seeded Lakers from the time the playoff seeding was decided, and despite a first-round scare for Los Angeles, the highly-anticipated matchup is set to begin.

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2012 NBA Western Conference Playoffs Semifinals Los Angeles Lakers vs Oklahoma City Thunder Series Predictions and Previews:

It’s tough to say which team has more confidence entering this series. On one hand, the Thunder is coming off a sweep of the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks, while the Lakers nearly choked away a 3-1 series lead to sixth-seeded Denver. However, Los Angeles has a core of players that includes five-time champ Kobe Bryant that has won multiple titles together, while Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City are still searching for their first title. The Thunder also took two out of the three meetings with Los Angeles during the year, but Durant and company did choke away a huge lead before falling in double overtime to the Lakers in the final regular season meeting. Add it all up, and neither team can claim to have a mental edge in this matchup.

On the court, premier scorers Durant and Bryant will be on center stage. Bryant averaged more than 24 points per game against the Thunder during the regular season, but he actually struggled in terms of shooting percentage. The Lakers will need Bryant to score plenty of points in this series, but he will need to do it in a more efficient manner. Durant, on the other, shot more than 50 percent from the field in the Thunder’s two wins against the Lakers. He will likely be seeing plenty of World Peace throughout the series, but Durant’s versatile scoring ability has allowed him to get the better of the Lakers’ best defender more often than not. Bryant’s desire to win and reputation in the postseason can’t be overlooked, but Durant appears to be better equipped to outplay Bryant.

Another matchup that favors the Thunder is at the point guard spot, where Russell Westbrook should eat Los Angeles guard Ramon Sessions alive. Westbrook is one of the fastest and most explosive guards in the NBA, and the Lakers just don’t have the perimeter defenders to contain him. He shredded the Los Angeles defense for 36 points in a Thunder win in late March, and at times, he can be as deadly as Durant on the offensive end. If Westbrook balances his scoring ability with his duties as a distributor, Oklahoma City should have an edge in the backcourt all series long.

For the Lakers, controlling the paint will be the key to advancing to the conference finals. With Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol in the frontcourt, the Lakers should have a big edge when it comes to interior scoring and rebounding. I say should because it took a verbal lashing from Bryant to get the two players to show any kind of effort last round. Another potential issue facing Los Angeles is that Oklahoma City big men Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins are both physical, athletic defenders. Even if Ibaka and Perkins don’t score a basket, they can win the series for the Thunder simply by keeping Gasol and Bynum off the offensive glass and forcing them into tough shots. Durant, Westbrook and Bryant may be the headliners, but this series will likely be won in the trenches.

If there is an X-factor in the series outside of the mental state of Bynum and Gasol, it could be Harden. The Sixth Man of the Year gives the Thunder the deeper roster in this matchup almost by himself, and his scoring punch of the bench can’t be matched by any Lakers’ reserve. Harden is also going to be extremely motivated to face World Peace and the Lakers, who left him with a concussion the last time they met.

At the end of the day, any team with Bryant and two talented seven-footers can’t be dismissed, especially when they are just two years removed from a title. However, the Thunder has shown this postseason that they are not only talented enough to win a championship, but mentally ready for the challenge. Sweeping the team that eliminated them in last year’s conference finals was a serious statement for Durant and company. Oklahoma City has more offensive firepower, a deeper team, and two solid interior defenders. The Lakers are going to be lucky to keep up.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder Win in 6 Games

Los Angeles Lakers vs Oklahoma City Thunder Series Price
Los Angeles Lakers +340
Oklahoma City Thunder -440

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