Chucky Atkins vs. Kirk Hinrich:
Kirk will struggle a lot tonight. He is listed as questionable, because of a bruised thigh, which he suffered in the Nuggets game, keeping him out of the last six minutes of the game. So, he will likely play, but will be playing injured. I would expect the rookie, Duhon, and the former Laker, Pargo, to see more playing time tonight, due to the injury. Kirk has been having a solid second year, especially when it comes to passing the ball, but has really had a rough time on the defensive end of the floor. Also, he shooting percentage has gotten worse, he is turning the ball over more, and he is committing more fouls. I think the success of the Bulls tonight is depending on Kirk's thigh, how much that bothers him, how it prevents him from playing his game, and how much mobility it takes away. If he is really struggling out there, Tyson and Eddy aren't going to get the ball as much or at the right time, and their scoring from those two, as well as Kirk will decrease tremendously. I think this will be a good game for Chucky. We need for him to have success from the 3 point line, like he did against the Suns. This could be a matchup he could win, which says a lot, when his defense is decent at best. He can't let any of their PGs, Duhon, Pargo, or even an injured Kirk get going like he did with Nash. He was allowing Nash to get to the hoop, shoot the ball, and feed it to Amare at will. It still will be a tough game for Chucky, every one is, but he should be able to outplay the Bulls PGs. Another interesting matchup should be the two speed-sters, Pargo and Brown. It will be an off to the races battle, all offense, little if any defense...quickest one to the basket basically wins the matchup.
Kobe Bryant vs. Eric Piakowski:
Kobe has a pretty easy time against shooters, especially older, slower ones. Pike is only useful on the offensive end, on the defensive end, he is a liability. It should be a very productive and easy 24 minutes for Kobe. I would look for him to do most of his scoring early on, while Pike is in the game. Then take a more passive role, until the 4th quarter comes around. Kobe should be able to be very aggressive on both of his opponents. Pike has little muscle and zero aggression in him. I don't recall see him playing defense in a few years, now that I think about it. Then when Pike has to go to the bench for his oxygen mask, Ben Gordon, the rook, will come in. Another easy matchup, because Gordon is the size of a point, but plays the two. When you give up that type of size against Kobe, expect for him to take it to the basket every single time he touches it. If they start to double, he will just shoot over Ben, before the helps arrives. A couple of interesting things about the former Husky is that he leads the league in field goal attempts per 48 minutes and he is fifth in turnovers per 48 minutes, not exactly making the best of his playing time. Kobe is preparing his teaching lesson against the rookie tonight, I expect for Ben to fail the class. I think the best matchup against Kobe will be Deng, although he will probably play most of his minutes backing up Nocioni. His length and rebounding ability to cause some problems for us. Kobe needs to have another big game for us tonight, I don't care if he gets another triple double, but if he plays with that energy against the Bulls, we should be in good shape.
Caron Butler vs. Andres Nocioni:
Caron is coming off a very solid game against the Suns, hopefully he can have a similar game, but stay away from fouling out. Nocioni is one of the most athletic players that has come out of Europe in the past few years, meaning Caron has his work cut out for him. He is also a very solid, all around player, a player that can do a little bit of everything. The only place that he has really struggled is in his 3 point shooting, so if we can keep him outside and force him to shoot the outside jump shot, we should be in good shape. But, since he is such an athletic player, that is easier said than done. He tries very hard when he plays, hustles after loose balls, tries to play D, the whole nine yards. Although he tries on defense, his D is lacking. He hasn't been able to stop any of his opponents so far, I doubt it will be any different against Caron. I am more worried about how Caron will be able to do against Deng. His strength, bigger body, length, 7 foot wingspan, and skills on the glass are going to be tough for Caron to deal with. I suggest that Caron attacks the basket, because his shots will likely get packed by him, he can't back Luol down, it's going to be a tough night for Caron. He is going to have to use his athleticism against the player that is being compared to the next Grant Hill. Perhaps Caron can swipe at the ball or can get in front of Deng when he makes a move to the basket, because he has a slower first step. Deng is another player that we need to try to keep outside, because his 3 point shot is shaky at best. This is a night where it would pay to have JJ out there for us, especially against Deng, but I guess we will have to wait a little bit longer.
Lamar Odom vs. Tyson Chandler:
Tyson is having a solid year, so far. He's quick, athletic, a PF/C, active on both ends up the court, but he is known for being in foul trouble. If we can get him to commit to a couple of early fouls either against Odom or Kobe, who both can get to the line very easily, then that would make things much easier on Lamar. A PF never wants to have to face a center. Chandler can be a very important piece to them tonight in rebounding the ball. Since he is a few inches taller than Odom, of course it is easier for him to get rebounds. Lamar has a tough job tonight. When he's not facing the center sized player, he is going against another PF/C, but this one is older, slower, and similar to the size of Odom. Davis is a post player, that's about as simple as you can break it down. He can shoot the ball, but he excels in the post. He's the veteran on the team, their captain, the voice of the team. This rebounding matchup concerns me too. I think that Grant would be better suited going against Davis, because neither have to worry about the other player beating them in a foot race. But both are solid, built, rebounders that prefer the rugged post play. Then as if that was not enough, we have to contend with Harrington as their 3rd stringer. He is a rebounder, specializes in offensive rebounding (not good for us). His height could be what would only allow him to see limited minutes, but that would depend on who we have in the game at the time.
Chris Mihm vs. Eddy Curry:
Curry has had some very good games against us, I hope this isn't one of them. Curry has all the attributes to be great, but what keeps him from becoming a great or very good center is the fact that he has a concentration level of a toddler. He loses focus, determination, and ends up getting lost out there on the court. Not to mention that he, like Chandler, is very foul, but he has another problem too, he is extremely careless with the ball. He is 4th in turnovers per game, with over 4. And for the Bulls, he has to stay out of foul trouble, because he is the only center they have tonight, unless they want to play Chandler or Davis some there tonight. Depending which Curry shows up will determine how Mihm does. If he can stay focused for 40+ minutes, we are in trouble. If he ends up starring at the jumbo-tron, we are perfectly fine. Mihm needs to try the Vlade philosophy tonight, because that's the only chance that he has against Curry in the post, since his is giving up 30 pounds. Hopefully Chris is over whatever kept him out of the Suns game, we are going to need him at 100% tonight, due to the Bulls' frontcourt and the fact that they can be a good rebounding team. Like I said in the PF matchup, if Davis is in, whether it's at the PF or C, we should put Grant in against him.