Talent disparity stifling Lakers

Up and down their starting lineups, Oklahoma City outclassing L.A.

Updated: May 21, 2012, 3:57 PM ET
By Neil Paine | Basketball-Reference.com
Kevin Durant & Kobe BryantNoah Graham/NBAE/Getty ImagesTheir teams distribute plays similarly, but Durant's supporting cast has been better than Bryant's.

One reason why the series between the Lakers and Thunder is such an interesting matchup is because of how each team is structured. Los Angeles' free throw-aided Game 3 victory aside, it appears the Thunder are the better basketball team, but in terms of who is making plays for them, Los Angeles and Oklahoma City are actually very similar.

You can always draw parallels between teams at this time of year, and while these teams look like opposites they actually use similar structures out on the court, but the secret to the Thunder's superiority is that at each slot in their lineup, they are using a better player than the Lakers are. Simply, OKC's talent is trumping L.A.'s experience and championship pedigree.

Neil Paine writes for FiveThirtyEight, the data-supported sports, politics and culture site coming soon from ESPN.