Kobe Bryant meets Kevin Durant as the Lakers and Thunder fight it out tonight.

Kevin DurantLast season, the reason that the Oklahoma City Thunder didn't win their first playoff series since moving from Seattle is because they couldn't win a game at Staples Center.

They're going to probably have to do it eventually if they want to win the NBA Championship, and if they do it on Sunday against the Los Angeles Lakers in NBA action, they might have a shot to have home court advantage in a prospective series with the two teams.

What's On the Line

Both the Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers know that they are going to have home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs as division winners, but everyone wants to stay out of that No. 4 hole to A) avoid having to play the San Antonio Spurs in the second round of the playoffs and B) missing the Denver Nuggets, who are going to be the No. 5 seed and have a very, very talented team.

Coming into play on Sunday, LA has a one game edge on the Dallas Mavericks and two games on the Thunder with just three to play.

Oklahoma City Inching Back Into Race

It really wasn't all that long ago that Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City were just considered to be that team that was going to be the No. 4 seed in the West. However, it has played some great ball over these last few days, and when parlayed with terrible ball by the Lakers (who have lost four in a row) and the Mavs (who just broke a four game losing streak), it has figured out how to get this close to the edge of moving up to either No. 2 or No. 3.

Tougher Team Should Tame NBA Odds

We know that Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook try to play a "prettier" style of basketball, as they'll all take long range jumpers and just try to stroke their foes to death over and over again with that sweet shot. However, in this one, the men that are going to bang on the inside are going to make the difference.

If this means that Kobe needs to drive the lane more or that Durant needs to do better on the glass, so be it. However, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Lamar Odom make up a formidable frontcourt, and for that reason, the Thunder assembled their own frontcourt trio with Serge Ibaka, Nazr Mohammed, and Kendrick Perkins. These three don't have the same sort of luster as the trio for the Lakers, but don't kid yourself. They all have the ability to haul in 10 boards in a game, and they all could be in for a big day should Oklahoma City have the upset inside of it.

When Push Comes To Shove, It's Kobe Time

Kobe BryantBlah, blah, blah. We know that we've heard all about the Lakers flipping the switch, and perhaps the sight of the team that gave them the best series last year before the NBA Finals might be just what wakes them up. The NBA odds makers are only asking us to lay 5 1/2 points on the NBA betting lines tonight, an awfully short line considering just how good LA is at home against some of the best teams in the league in pressure spots like this one.

Kobe could be in for a nuts day if the pace of this one gets going as we expect, and with his "refuse to lose" mentality, he could be the man that really turns it on and gets these men in purple and gold into that No. 2 spot once and for all.

My Pick: Back the Lakers.

SBR's John Ryan also expects the Lakers to cover the 5.5 and take the win.