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Lakers vs. Thunder preview: Game time, TV info and more

Oklahoma City welcomes the L.A. circus into town for the first time on Friday.

USA TODAY Sports

Even though the Thunder steam-rolled though the Western Conference Playoffs last season, most of the media attention in 2012 has been centered on the never-ending circus that is the Los Angeles Lakers.

On Friday night, L.A. comes into Oklahoma City for the first time since their 4-1 defeat in last year's playoffs, but aside from Kobe Bryant, the Lakers have a whole new cast of characters.

Steve Nash is still out and Pau Gasol, whose taken a starring role in the latest bit of L.A. drama, will probably not play, but Dwight Howard will be manning the center position and Mike D'Antoni will be on the sidelines.

And even though the Lakers have gotten off to a miserable 8-10 start to the season, they're still widely believed to be the biggest threat to the Thunder's attempt to return to the NBA Finals.

As a result, Friday's 8:30 p.m. game will be nationally broadcast on ESPN, giving Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant the opportunity to send a message about who should be the favorite out West.