NBA PLAYOFFS - CONFERENCE SEMIFINAL PREVIEW
(2) OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER vs. (3) LOS ANGELES LAKERS
The 2009-10 season was one that boosted the Thunder from a team looking for a new home to a team looking for a championship. They won 50 games and clinched a first round playoff matchup with the L.A. Lakers. The Lakers ended their magical season, and now it’s time for the Thunder to be thinking about payback.
Oklahoma City steamrolled defending champion Dallas in a 4-0 sweep in round one, which seemed to include a different player in each game stepping up to lead the Thunder to victory. Serge Ibaka threw down 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting in game one, Russell Westbrook had 29 in game two, Kevin Durant had 31 in game three and James Harden put up 29 in game four. While Kevin Durant looks to be a perennial MVP candidate and scoring title winner, Oklahoma City is not about one player.
The Lakers are centered around one player, but when that players is Kobe Bryant you really can’t blame them. Bryant scored 69 points in the first two games of their first-round series with the Nuggets, both L.A. wins. The surprise of the season has been the emergence of Andrew Bynum, who looks to have matured as a basketball player after last season’s embarrassing sweep by the Mavericks when he was ejected after laying out J.J. Barea late in game four. Bynum gives the Lakers an inside scoring presence they haven’t seen since they parted ways with Shaquille O’Neal. Ibaka will have his hands full in the paint in the conference semifinals.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
The Los Angeles Lakers are undoubtedly one of the greatest franchises in the history of professional sports. The Lakers have made an astounding 47 playoff appearances, captured the division title 27 times, made 25 NBA Finals appearances and won the NBA championship 11 times throughout their history.
The team won its first championship in 1972 thanks to the remarkable play of Wilt Chamberlain, Gail Goodrich and Jerry West. The Lakers would later enjoy their most impressive run during the 1980s, when they ascended to dynasty status by capturing the NBA championship in 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988.
After a period of rebuilding, the Lakers would return as a top contender with the pairing of All-Stars Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal to capture five championships in the 2000s. The team capped off their 50th season in Los Angeles with yet another championship win in 2010, laying the groundwork for several more decades of playoff success.
Of course, some of the greatest contributors to the team's postseason success are the stellar coaches and players who have made their mark in the history of NBA lore. Coaching greats Pat Riley, Bill Sharman and Phil Jackson have led Laker squads to several championship wins, and legends such as Chamberlain, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have sported the yellow and purple in many playoff games.
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