Lakers vs. Thunder: Is Kobe Bryant the Lakers’ X-Factor in This Series?

The Los Angeles Lakers will begin their Western Conference Semifinals series in the unfamiliar role of the underdog against the young, talented Oklahoma City Thunder and there are numerous analysts and fans who feel the title is justified.

The Thunder won two out of three games against the Lakers during the regular season, and Los Angeles needed two overtimes in order to secure its lone victory at home.

However, none of that means the Lakers face hopeless odds when they begin their series with the Thunder on Monday night.

Oklahoma City may be favored, but it's not impossible to imagine the Lakers stealing the series if they can turn the games into a contrast of styles and utilize their X-factor, who just happens to be one of the best closers in the game.

Most people will never consider a player like Lakers star Kobe Bryant to be an X-factor since that role is usually reserved for someone of lesser acclaim, but in a series where the strengths of each team are so clearly defined, he may fit the description.

The Thunder would prefer to push the tempo of the series to hyper-speed and if they succeed, they will run the bigger, slower Lakers off the court and out of the postseason. But if the bigger, slower Lakers can maximize what may be the biggest advantage of any playoff team then things might take a different turn.

Miami, San Antonio, Philadelphia and Oklahoma City all prefer to play at a break-neck pace, but it may be because none of those teams have two talented seven-footers roaming the paint.

Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol are arguably bigger and more talented than any other players at their position remaining in the postseason, and if they can capitalize on that advantage then they can make life much easier for themselves and Bryant.

If the Lakers can neutralize the speed and quickness of Kevin Durant, Russel Westbrook and James Harden with th...

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