Preview: Lakers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant is a game-time decision with an ankle injury

The Lakers (8-17) return to the court on Friday, hosting the Oklahoma City Thunder (12-14). 

After a three-game winning streak, the last two on the road, the Lakers were blown out by the Indiana Pacers (110-91). With time to rest and prepare for the Thunder, the team is hoping for a better performance on Friday.

Kevin Durant suffered a mild right ankle sprain in the Thunder's Thursday-night loss in Golden State to the Warriors (114-109).  He's a game-time decision.

The Lakers are still down Xavier Henry (Achilles), Ryan Kelly (hamstring), Steve Nash (back) and Julius Randle (leg). 

Key matchup

Obviously, if Durant plays, the Thunder are a different team, arguably a title contender.  Durant missed the start of the season with a foot injury, as did point guard Russell Westbrook (hand).

The Thunder's two-headed offensive monster is difficult for most teams to contend with -- injuries are the reason Oklahoma City sits below .500 this season.

Durant can score almost anywhere on the floor.  At 6-foot-11, he's one of the most skilled players in NBA history at his size.

The matchup against Westbrook may be the bigger concern for the Lakers, certainly so if Durant doesn't play. Westbrook is a ferocious scorer -- a lot for Ronnie Price and Jeremy Lin to deal with.

Kobe Bryant, Wayne Ellington and Wesley Johnson may all get time against Westbrook -- although if Durant plays, Johnson will be occupied defensively.

The Lakers could use a big night from Bryant offensively, but with a strong balance of play-making and scoring.  The team seems to have more success when Bryant looks to pass before scoring -- which, in turn, opens up more scoring opportunities for the Lakers' All-Stars if his teammates are contributing offensively.

X-factor

Serge Ibaka is another problem for the Lakers.  The power forward is an extremely versatile, athletic defender.

Ibaka has improved as a scorer through the years, but his biggest strength is as a disruptor around the basket with great timing and natural length.

The Lakers don't have much spacing on the floor with their poor-shooting starting lineup.  That changes when Jordan Hill is hitting from the outside.

Outlook

Given the Thunder are on a back-to-back, possibly with no Durant -- while the Lakers have been off most of the week, the outcome is far from set.

The Lakers have a real shot to get the win, but the safer bet is on the Thunder.

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

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