The match-up that everyone wondered about is going to happen as the cards fell just right for the Los Angeles Lakers in game seven of their first round match-up against the Denver Nuggets to advance to the second round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs. In the process, they will now face the well-rested Oklahoma City Thunder, who swept the defending champion Dallas Mavericks in four games.
With the new series comes a myriad of storylines to follow. Here are some high points to watch for:
1. Rest vs. Activity
The two teams could not come in any differently. The Thunder efficiently took care of business both at home in OKC and on the road in Dallas to earn significant downtime between the first and second rounds. The Lakers, meanwhile, have been embattled at every turn by an impressive Denver squad that took them to the edge. It will be interesting to see if the rest served the Thunder well to get healthy or whether the momentum was a good thing to keep going.
2. Kobe & Kevin
Two of the game's biggest stars face off in the second round in a series that everyone will be talking about before and after each game. The others? They are second tier series compared to this star-studded line-up filled with stars and intrigue. Yet none is bigger than the game's scoring leader in Kevin Durant facing one of the best to ever play the game in Kobe Bryant.
3. Metta World Peace vs. James Harden
This will be the short-term match-up everyone is focusing on. Ron Artest is back from suspension to face the very player and team he was removed from the NBA for his actions in the first place. After hitting Harden with his elbow and causing a concussion, it will be interesting to see how the teams respond to each other on the court. Certainly each player has their own spin on the details and will be anxious to have the final word.
4. The Homecoming of Derek Fisher
The former Lakers guard is now with the Thunder and it will be a nice homecoming for Fisher to see his old pals for a series and have his former home crowd show him some love. In a smaller subplot, Ramon Sessions is likely to want to show the Lakers that they made the right move to get quicker at back-up point guard as he faces the man he replaced.