Los Angeles Lakers at Oklahoma City Thunder Preview

USA TODAY Sports

A hobbled Lakers fly to Oklahoma City for the first time this season to face one of the Western Conference's very best

Showtime: 5:00pm PT

Plot: Four games in five nights isn't exactly the best thing for a Lakers team trying to readjust on the fly to a returning superstar and a crippled point guard corps. Let's notch that up as a double considering the first game is in Oklahoma City against the 17-4 Thunder.

Los Angeles takes their first meeting of the season with one of the West's best tonight at Chesapeake Energy Arena in what could be a very difficult game for a hobbled Lakers squad. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are--for a lack of a better word--absolutely balling thus far this season for the former Western Conference champions. With a nightly 28/8/5 coming from KD and 21/5/6 from RW, the Thunder are extremely hard to contain on any given night (what's new?). Their offense ranks 7th in scoring efficiency, a testament to the improved playmaking from both Durant and Westbrook, but also from Boston College's finest in PG Reggie Jackson. Defensively, they've very quietly become one of the league's best, settling in as the NBA's 5th best in defensive efficiency. The Thunder are long and athletic, often feeding off of the defensive intensity of their three best players in KD, Westbrook and Serge Ibaka. In short: despite the naysayers, this team is very, very good.

And the Lakers? At this point, not so much. And only getting worse before it can get better.

LA will go into tonight's contest without the services of Steve Blake, who will be sidelined for six weeks with a torn UCL in his right elbow. Coupled with the absences of Jordan Farmar (out another few weeks with a hamstring tear) and Steve Nash (out indefinitely), the Lakers will again run a patchwork set of lead guards including Kobe Bryant, Xavier Henry, Jodie Meeks and incredibly, unfathomably, unbelievably...Nick Young. The Lakers haven't reported a starter yet for tonight's matchup, but it will most likely be Meeks or Young alongside Bryant.

The key for the Lakers is to keep the damage limited to one of either Westbrook or Durant and restrict the impact from any one of the Ibaka-Thabo Sefolosha-Jackson-Nick Collison supporting cast. Considering the complete lack of interior defense from Los Angeles as of late, it seems that such a request is unlikely. Grow up, Peter Pan.

It could be a messy one tonight for a scrambling Show, but another necessary step for a team that will likely see a lot of Kobe Bryant at point guard throughout the season, with or without injuries to his teammates.

--MAMBINO

--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino

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