THUNDER AT LAKERS, 10:30 P.M. ET

TV: TNT

  • The Lakers won’t have Steve Nash for tonight’s game against the visiting Thunder after the nerve-root irritation in his back flared up the last two games, but that’s just part of their problems as they prepare to face the team with the best record in the NBA and the league’s hottest player, Kevin Durant. L.A. is also still without five of its top six scorers, leaving the club with eight bodies for tonight’s final game before the All-Star break. One of them, starting guard Steve Blake, is playing with a painful right elbow injury, mainly because he and Kendall Marshall are the only true guards in uniform tonight. Shawne Williams, on the final day of his 10-day contract, will likely open up trying to guard Durant, with rookie Ryan Kelly and undersized Wes Johnson also getting a crack at the league’s leading scorer (31.2). L.A. once dominated this matchup, winning 14 out of 15, but Oklahoma City has won seven of the last nine. 
  • Durant increased his scoring average in each of the first three full months of the season, going from 26.9 in November, to 29.4 in December and then blowing up for 35.9 points a game in January. Durant’s offensive game took a breather and he scored between 26 and 31 points the first four games of this month, but he appears to be on fire again following a one-point loss last Friday in Orlando. He scored 41 points in Sunday’s win against the visiting Knicks and followed up with 36 on Wednesday in Portland, leading the Thunder to a 98-95 win. Another example of just how dominant of a scorer has Durant been: He’s scored at least 30 points in 33 games this season, while the next two closest players in that category, LeBron James and Kevin Love, have 35 such performances — combined. “He’s been in the league seven years and he’s improved every year,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said before the game.

Dan Arritt

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