Why the Thunder is a threat to the Lakers: The Lakers showed in their 100-85 loss Thursday to Oklahoma City why they would have no chance against the Thunder in the playoffs. Regardless of how the Lakers tried to control the tempo, it didn't work. The Thunder went on a 9-0 third-quarter run even though the Lakers remained methodical on offense and minimized Oklahoma City's transition game. The Thunder also scored 21 fast-break points. All in all, they showcased their depth, while the Lakers scrambled to find oxygen masks.
Why the Lakers are a threat to the Thunder: Blame part of the Lakers' struggles against the Thunder to their back-to-back the previous night against Dallas. In the playoffs, the Lakers would have more days to rest their aging bones and to make adjustments. James Harden's trash talk would prompt Kobe Bryant to light him up the next game. Metta World Peace would have more chances to figure out how to temper Kevin Durant's scoring. Andrew Bynum wouldn't do as much of a disappearing act. Also, come April, the Lakers offense will look much prettier than it appears right now.
VERDICT: Two years ago, the Lakers survived a six-game first-round series against the Thunder because of their experience. That's not a factor anymore. Oklahoma City is now battle-tested, having reached last year's Western Conference finals. Meanwhile, the Lakers have become older and slower. Unless they upgrade their roster, they likely could only push a playoff series to five games.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) and guard James Harden slap hands after scoring against the Lakers and power forward Troy Murphy in the first half Thursday night in Oklahoma City. Credit: Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press / February 23, 2012