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NBA Western Conference playoff preview: [1] Los Angeles Lakers vs. [8] Oklahoma City Thunder

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Why the Lakers can win: The Lakers have either been disinterested or dysfunctional in the final six weeks of the season. But despite injuries to Kobe Bryant's right index finger and right knee, not having Andrew Bynum's services since he strained his left Achilles' tendon in late March and Phil Jackson's murky future, the defending champs have the decided edge in talent, experience and coaching.

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Why the Thunder can win: At 21, Kevin Durant is the youngest scoring champion in NBA history and is a nearly unstoppable offensive force with his ability to shoot over opponents and get to the free throw line. Making the first playoff appearance since the franchise moved two years ago, the Thunder should be an enthusiastic opponent.

Difference maker: Russell Westbrook, Thunder. Westbrook struggled in April, but he has a favorable matchup against the trio of Derek Fisher, Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar, who have had trouble defending speedy, athletic point guards.

Bottom line: Lakers in six.

SERIES SCHEDULE

Sunday: Oklahoma City at L.A. Lakers, 3

Tuesday: Okla. City at L.A. Lakers, 10:30

Thursday: L.A. Lakers at Okla. City, 9:30

April 24: L.A. Lakers at Okla. City, 9:30

April 27*: Okla. City at L.A. Lakers, TBD

April 30*: L.A. Lakers at Okla. City, TBD

May 2*: Okla. City at L.A. Lakers, TBD


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