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Preview: Lakers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

The Lakers (18-34) play one final game before this weekend's All-Star break, hosting the Oklahoma City Thunder (42-12) on Thursday night at Staples Center.

Oklahoma City has the best overall record in the NBA, despite star guard Russell Westbrook missing 28 games with a knee injury.

Kevin Durant has dominated the league, scoring 31.2 points with 7.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game.

The Lakers have floundered, struggling to play through multiple injuries. They'll play the Thunder without Steve Nash (nerve root irritation), Kobe Bryant (knee), Pau Gasol (groin), Jordan Farmar (hamstring), Nick Young (knee), Jodie Meeks (ankle) and Xavier Henry (knee).

Key matchup

The Lakers will try to slow Durant with Wesley Johnson initially but Shawne Williams and Ryan Kelly will also get a try.

The team doesn't have much depth at small forward, or at guard in general.

Chris Kaman has become the team's primary scorer. The Lakers can't match Durant (and probably can't even slow him much), but it would help if Kaman chipped in the 26 points he's averaged over the last two games.

X-factor

Reggie Jackson has emerged as a steady scorer for the Thunder, averaging 13.6 points a game this season.

Jackson has filled in well for Westbrook, making 29 starts. He's shooting 43.9% from the field and 31.7% from three-point range while chipping in 4.2 assists a night.

The Lakers are expected to start Kendall Marshall and Steve Blake in the backcourt.

They're both coming off tough shooting nights in a loss to the Utah Jazz, but Marshall is the Lakers top available scorer at 10.1 a game.

Marshall is shooting 47.8% from three-point range while dishing 9.2 assists a night.

Blake is still struggling to play through an elbow injury but he's averaging 9.3 points with 7.8 assists a game.

The Lakers are still suffering but at least with Blake, who missed 26 games, the Lakers have another available point guard outside of Marshall.

Outlook

The Lakers have made real progress lately, at least when it comes to lottery position. The worse the team plays, the better the chances of a top pick in the 2014 NBA draft.

The Thunder are a fierce defensive squad with arguably the top scorer in the game. They should be able to get a win on the road before hitting the All-Star break.

ALSO:

Lakers fail to sell out another game at Staples Center

Xavier Henry to have his knee drained; out another four weeks

Steve Nash says he doesn't expect to play Thursday against Thunder

Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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