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L.A. Lakers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder NBA Playoff Preview & Free Pick

NBA Playoffs Basketball Matchup: Lakers vs Thunder

Well, it’s come down to this again.

If the Lakers want to stave off elimination on Monday at Oklahoma City, they must play a full 48-minutes of basketball, especially big man Pau Gasol who needs to step up and turn in a massive double-double performance.

Gasol’s anemic 10 points in 39 minutes of play in Game 4, were certainly not the only thing to blame for LA’s collapse, but his disappearance act in the fourth quarter (no baskets and no points) can’t be overlooked either.

Date/Time: 9:30 PM ET, Monday, May 21, 2012
Venue: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Broadcast: TNT
Spread: Oklahoma -8
Over/Under: 192

Matchup | Preview  

The Thunder outscored the Lakers 32-20 in that final period en route to a 103-100 win on Saturday behind another super human effort by Kevin Durant who sank the game-winning three with 13.7 seconds remaining.

The win gives Oklahoma a commanding 3-1 series lead, ending a 14-game playoff losing streak to the Lakers in Los Angeles, while putting LA on the brink of another embarrassing second-round defeat.

But after Game 4’s disaster ending, the Lakers shouldn’t be pointing the finger at Gasol alone, as their golden boy Kobe Bryant missed 16 of his 28 field goal attempts and even missed three of his 17 free throws, which also proved to be the difference in the outcome LA was looking for.

All of those mistakes allowed the Thunder to surge, as the Lakers carried an 80-71 edge into the fourth, but found themselves down 98-96 with under four minutes remaining on the tail end of a 20-5 Oklahoma City run.

From there, the teams traded sloppy turnovers until Durant silenced the capacity crowd at the Staples Center by knocking down a 25-footer from the top of the arc.  [soliloquy id=”82219″]

Bottom line, the Lakers as a whole need to step up, and Bryant needs help if Los Angeles is to take three in a row from the Thunder.

That help is going to have to come from Gasol, who is only averaging 11.5 points per game in this series. He is going to have to draw more fouls down low when he gets the ball, and hopefully turn those into points.

Also, LA can’t just really on an aging Metta World Peace, who for the most part has been solid in this series, they are going to have to get more from Andrew Bynum who was out rebounded again in Game 4. Bynum walked of the hardwood with just nine rebounds.

Free Pick : Thunder- Oklahoma City rode nine straight points from point guard Russell Westbrook to close to within four with just over four minutes remaining in Game 4. With all the focus on Durant and James Harden, it left Westbrook a lot of room to operate efficiently, finishing with a team-high 37 points.

Frankly, I think the trio of Westbrook, Durant and Harden is the best in the NBA right now, and while the Lakers may have the talent to stop them, they just don’t have the heart to beat them.

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