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Lakers vs. Thunder Preview: Westbrook, Durant Sidelined Again

The Thunder are the walking wounded as they come into Staples Center looking to atone for recent stumbles against fellow Western Conference playoff contenders with their star duo on the shelf yet again due to injury

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers will close out a brief two-game home stand against Oklahoma City as the Thunder roll down from the Pacific Northwest looking for their first win in three attempts. While the Lakers have been nigh unbeatable over that same stretch, OKC would typically represent the stiffest competition the purple and gold have faced since reconvening after the All-Star break.

Unfortunately for the Thunder, the availability of their two best players has been far from typical this season, with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant missing a combined 46 games to date. While Durant's season-long podiatric issues have required multiple surgical procedures and will merit further evaluation next week, Westbrook's latest trip under the knife was necessitated by one of the flukier injuries in recent memory. For the second time during the month of February, an NBA player sustained a facial fracture at the hands (or knees, as it were) of his own teammate. Only this time, instead of Richard Jefferson's errant knee inadvertently knocking out Rajon Rondo, it was the Thunder's Andre Roberson doing the very same to a prone Russell Westbrook with all of 2 seconds left in regulation during Friday's game in Portland. The injury left a jarringly apparent dent in Westbrook's face that required prompt surgical correction on Saturday. Meanwhile, Oklahoma City fans scramble to educate themselves on what exactly a zygomatic arch is.

It's almost impossible to overstate how much of an absolute tear Westbrook has been on of late, and although it would always be a huge blow for the Thunder to be without his services for any length of time, the MVP caliber performances he's been churning out make his absence an even more bitter pill to swallow. Oklahoma City's mercurial star just capped off an historically dominant February with his third consecutive triple-double, displaying a sheer force of competitive will that has fan bases around the association salivating at even the faintest whispers of discord in OKC that might one day spur Russ to seek greener pastures outside of the Sooner State.

Although the Thunder will once again be without their pair of superstars, they still boast  All-NBA defensive stalwart Serge Ibaka, sharp-shooting guard Anthony Morrow and the unspectacular, yet ever steady Nick Collison. Additionally, General Manager Sam Presti has done much to bolster the team's depth in recent weeks, swinging trades to bring aboard veterans D.J. Augustin, Enes Kanter, Kyle Singler and Dion Waiters, while D-League call up Mitch McGary has made good on his opportunity in the post-Kendrick Perkins era with a career night against the Blazers on Friday.

Fresh off of their come-from-behind victory over Milwaukee, led by rookie Jordan Clarkson's team high 16 points and Wayne Ellington's blistering 4th quarter caper, the Lakers will once again be without the services of Nick Young as they look to ride their motley crew of journeymen and youngsters to an unprecedented four-game win streak on a nationally televised Sunday matinee.

Time: 3:30 pm PST

Stations: ESPN and TWCSN