The Los Angeles Lakers escaped elimination - and possibly humiliation - after being able to take down the Denver Nuggets in Game 7 of their opening round playoff series. Once the Lakers surrendered their 3-1 series lead and lost only their second playoff series-clinching game at home since 1983-1984, I have to admit things looked dim. However, with the help of Metta World Peace the Lakers were able to come through and win Game 7 in convincing fashion.
Now the Lakers will head into a series where they are the underdog. Some expected them to be finished off after losing Games 5 and 6 in the first round, yet they made it to the Conference Semifinals where they will face the Oklahoma City Thunder - the West's number one seed.
The two teams will tipoff at 6:30 PDT on May 14 for Game 1, but before that, let's take a look at some of the keys for the Lakers.
Metta World Peace
The entire World Peace and James Harden episode should not overshadow what contributions either player will make to their respective teams. However, in order for the Lakers to try and establish some sort of advantage, Metta World Peace will need to be a part of that equation. His deliberate ignorance of the situation between himself and Harden should prove to be an advantage for World Peace. His unpredictability and intensity will only add to that advantage. Combine all of that with his defending and timely scoring and you have a nicely packaged advantage for the Lakers.
Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol
Both of these players need to step up their play from the first series if the Lakers want to stand a fighting chance in Game 1. The Lakers are not faster than the Thunder, just as they were not faster than the Nuggets, but they certainly are bigger. If the Lakers can use their size to their advantage and steal away Game 1, it could set the tone for the rest of the series. (Provided that Gasol and Bynum both give 100 percent throughout.)
Lakers' Outside Shooting
One of the ways the Thunder will try and combat the Lakers' size will be by double teaming in the lane. This will mean that Lakers are going to have to try and find ways to improve on their outside shooting as the double-teamed player will likely be looking to pass the ball. An open shot from the perimeter should be nearly automatic when the team is forced to run their offense from the inside out.
The Lakers will most likely need to take Game 1 from the Thunder in order to upset them in the Western Conference Semifinals. Do the Lakers have what it takes to steal Game 1 from the Thunder, or will Oklahoma City prepare to take out the team that eliminated them from the 2010 NBA Playoffs?
David is co-founder of wrapupp sports blog where fresh content is posted daily and present sports blogs and sports opinions - all with a West Coast bias. Growing up in the Bay Area, David is a huge supporter of all the local sports teams; the Giants, Athletics, Warriors, Sharks, 49ers, and Raiders. His one fault, admittedly, as many of his friends and family would say, is his love for the Los Angeles Lakers. Growing up, Magic Johnson was his favorite basketball player and he fell in love with the team. He chalks it up to, "Not knowing any better". Now his love for sports has turned just as academic as it is intuitive and he follows most all sports all over the nation.
You can follow David on Twitter: @officialwrapupp
NBA.com. Lakers and Thunder Game 1 Preview. NBA 2012
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