Initial Thoughts On The Thunder

Darius Soriano —  May 13, 2012

The Nuggets hangover can last for a few hours longer, but not much more than that. Round two awaits and with that our focus shifts. We’ll have an extended series preview coming a bit later but for now, a few thoughts, questions, and observations heading into the second round versus the Oklahoma City Thunder…

  • The Thunder are sort of a hulked-up version of the Nuggets. They have the same speed and athleticism, but also offer the star power that the Nuggets lacked. At pretty much every position (at least in the starting lineup and in their 6th man), the Thunder offer a more quality alternative to the Nugget team the Lakers just needed 7 games to defeat. Be it Westbrook/Lawson, Gallo/Durant, Faried/Ibaka, or even Mozgov/Perkins the Thunder bring an upgrade.
  • Will the Thunder employ the same double-teaming strategy the Nuggets did on the Lakers’ big men? They have the horses in Perkins and Ibaka to single cover Bynum and Pau and during the regular season they rarely doubled L.A.’s bigs. Will that trend hold?
  • James Harden is going to be a problem for a variety of reasons. Who guards him when he shares the court with both Westbrook and Durant is one of the major concerns going into this series. I mean, if Kobe is going to guard Westbrook (which seems like the best strategy to slow him) and Ron guards KD (ditto), does that mean Sessions guards Harden? Blake? Do the Lakers go to an unconventional lineup just for defensive purposes?
  • Last night, on twitter, Nate Jones (@JonesOnTheNBA) said “This Thunder series will be where the Lakers really regret dumping Lamar.” After that Andrew Ungvari (@drewunga) replied to him “Just as long as it’s not one where they really regret dumping Fisher.” I agree on both counts, though I’m not going to stress over things that can’t be undone. Both players are gone – though we’ll get to see plenty of Fisher starting on Monday.
  • Has Devin Ebanks played himself out of the rotation? With his last couple of performances, I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case.
  • Will Matt Barnes find more creases in the defense to slash to the rim? He’ll need them because being relegated to a spot up shooter diminishes a fair amount of his utility on offense.
  • Earlier I spoke of the Thunder’s starting bigs but they also have two very good reserve big men in Nick Collison and Nazr Mohammed. Jordan Hill will need to continue his solid play to ensure that Gasol and Bynum don’t get worn out dealing with a foursome of bigs that will come in waves while always being fresh.
  • That said, just because they have the bigs doesn’t mean that OKC won’t go small. KD at the 4 will offer an interesting dilemma for the Lakers in terms of matching up. Asking Pau or Hill to cover Durant is asking for trouble. However, the hope would also be to make KD work on defense, trying to punish him in the post and make him work on the glass so he can’t run out as easily. So, going small to match up might not be the best solution. This will be one of the many games within the game that will occur in this series.

These are just some of the things that are on my mind this morning. There are countless other variables, though. What’s on your mind; what are the things you’re looking forward to? Let me know in the comments.

Darius Soriano

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