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Lakers, Magic Favored Sunday NBA

The Lakers repeat bid begins today as they face Oklahoma City in Game 1 and they are favored in Kevin Durant's playoff debut today. Oklahoma City at L.A. Lakers (-7.5) O/U 196.5

The Thunder begin their first playoff run since moving to Oklahoma City from Seattle, while the Lakers aim for another championship. Basketball fans would love to see this series turn into Kevin Durant vs. Kobe Bryant, but that may not happen. The Lakers stumbled down the stretch thanks to injuries and inconsistent play and may need to play a more team-oriented game instead of constantly feeding Kobe if they’re going to gel again and make a long playoff run.

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Durant may have a chip on his shoulder after Phil Jackson said he got to the foul line too easily this season and one has to wonder if Phil’s mind games will hinder Durant or cause him to unleash an offensive flurry on the Lakers. During the regular season the Lakers were 3-1 against the Thunder, but Oklahoma City’s lone win came the last time they met up in late-March. That night the Thunder crushed the Lakers 91-75 behind 26 points for Durant and 23 points from Russell Westbrook. Bryant was limited to only 11 points. The Lakers were without Andrew Bynum in that game, but he is expected to return from a month-long absence.

Charlotte at Orlando (-10) O/U 187.5 AT Bovada The Bobcats are making their first playoff appearance in franchise history. Too bad it looks like it may be a short one against the defending Eastern Conference champion Magic. Charlotte may not boasts the big name star like most of the other playoff teams, but they do play stellar defense. The Bobcats boasted the best defense in the league this season after allowing a league-low 93.8 points per game. Charlotte’s main scorers are Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace and both will need to be one their game if Charlotte is going to pull an upset in the series. Orlando was 3-1 against the Bobcats this season and before a loss in March they had won eight straight against Charlotte. Dwight Howard has feasted on the Bobcats throughout his career and he may be inline for a big night on Sunday if the Bobcats are missing center Tyson Chandler. He suffered a hard fall in the Bobcats’ regular season finale and banged up his elbow and hip. He is expected to play on Sunday, but could be limited, leaving more open looks for Howard.

San Antonio at Dallas (-4.5) O/U 194.5 at Bovada The Spurs and Mavericks collide in the opening round for the second year in a row. Last year the Mavericks cruised past the Spurs in five games, winning the series 4-1. Dallas also won the season series against the Spurs 3-1, including a win on the final day of the regular season earlier this week. Don’t take too much out of the Mavericks win last week though. San Antonio rested both Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili and practically handed the game to Dallas. The other matchups are also pretty much a wash as well because they all came before Dallas retooled their roster by acquiring Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood. The X-factor in this series could end up being Spurs forward Richard Jefferson. He’s been a big disappointment in his first season in San Antonio, but if he can find some consistency in the post season he would give the Spurs another player for the Mavs to worry about along with Duncan, Ginobili and Tony Parker.

Portland at Phoenix (-7.5) O/U 204.5 at Bovada Injuries have been a detriment to the Trail Blazers and things haven’t changed heading into the post season. Leading scorer Brandon Roy missed the regular season finale with a torn meniscus, but was considered day-to-day and was hopeful for the playoffs. Instead, Roy had knee surgery earlier this week and his season is over. Without Roy the Blazers will rely heavily on LaMarcus Aldridge, Andre Miller and Rudy Fernandez to carry the load. Against the Suns and their NBA-best offense that is a very heavy load. Steve Nash may be aging, but you wouldn’t know it as he continued to put up big numbers leading the Suns offense. Amar’e Stoudemire appears to finally be back to 100% after numerous surgeries and injuries the last few years. He finished the regular season on a tear and will be hard for the shorthanded Blazers to contain.