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Lakers at Oklahoma City Thunder preview

The Lakers open a five-game road trip against the Oklahoma City Thunder today

The Lakers (18-50) start a five-game road trip, starting with the Oklahoma City Thunder (40-30) on Tuesday night.

Both teams have struggled with injuries this season.  The Thunder, typically one of the top contenders in the Western Conference, is fighting to hold onto the eighth playoff seed.

They'll play the Lakers without Kevin Durant (foot), Serge Ibaka (knee) and Nick Collison (knee), while Andre Roberson (ankle) is questionable.

For the Lakers, Nick Young is out with a knee injury while Ronnie Price (elbow), Kobe Bryant (shoulder), Julius Randle (knee) and Steve Nash (back) are all done for the season.

Coach Byron Scott will also miss the game, after the death of his mother.  Assistant Paul Pressey will run the team in the interim.

Key matchup

Russell Westbrook has carried the load for the Thunder this season, averaging 31.9 points, 11.2 assists and 9.7 rebounds a game through 11 games in the month of March.

The UCLA guard would be in serious consideration for the NBA's Most Valuable Player award, if Oklahoma had a better record.

Lakers rookie Jordan Clarkson will have one of his toughest challenges of the season against Westbrook.

Jeremy Lin, Wayne Ellington, Jabari Brown and possibly Wesley Johnson may all get a crack against Westbrook defensively.

X-factor

The Thunder acquired center Enes Kanter before the trade deadline, giving the team a badly needed offensive option inside.

On Sunday, Kanter scored 27 points with 12 rebounds in a win the 22-year-old has averaged 17.8 points and 11.1 rebounds while shooting 56.2% from the field.

The Lakers need strong performances from Jordan Hill, Tarik Black, Ed Davis, Carlos Boozer and possibly Robert Sacre against Kanter.

Outlook

The Thunder need this win to help hold off the Phoenix Suns (38-33) and New Orleans Hornets (37-33).

The Lakers are generally competitive, but rarely victorious.

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

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