Chucky Atkins vs Kenny Anderson:
I am not really sure what Kenny's problem in Atlanta is, but he has yet to fit in. His shooting hasn't been this bad since 97-98, his assist numbers are a joke, and he isn't creating anything for their offense (the Hawks only have 6 fast break points in the two games they have played) . Now, I know that when you are talking about the Hawks, you are going to have extremely limited option to pass to, but averaging 1.5 assists a game is something you would expect out of a slug like center, that comes off the bench, not your starting PG. If your starting PG can't even get you 2 assists a game, then you are going to be looking at the #1 pick in the upcoming draft. With Delk on the injured list, Kenny is going to have to play at least 35 minutes. Ivey will have to play some, but he is far from a third string PG, or even a polished PG at that, he is more of a SG, forced to play PG, because of size and Delk's injury. He is a good defender, but Kenny is a bigger body, so it will be interesting to see how they do against the Lakers PG's. I think we win this matchup, because of Kenny's struggles, I know...bigger surprise...Atkins actually winning a PG matchup. Hopefully Atkins can play like he did against the Spurs and put up similar numbers, but I wouldn't count on it, because Anderson is a tall PG, and that could prevent him from getting some good shots. Kenny has been able to do one thing and that's rebound the ball decently for a PG, which isn't good for us, because defensive rebounding has been our weakness. And Tierre can beat Ivey and Mr. Anderson with his quickness, and since there is nothing in the middle for the Hawks, he can get to the basket, probably for every single play that he is in the game for.
Kobe Bryant vs. Boris Diaw:
I expect for the Lakers to get off to a very early start tonight. Get a big lead and maintain it, allowing the bench to get some significant minutes, and rest the starters. This all starts with Kobe. I would expect a very determined and aggressive Kobe tonight, he knows the Lakers need a W, and this is as easy of a team to get one against, as there is. Diaw is young, athletic, and a good defender (even though you couldn't tell that by his first two games against JJ and Allen), but this is just his second year, he is still very inexperienced when he's going against the league's elite and still makes some rookie type mistakes. He lacks an intensity, bulk, much weight, and much of an offensive game. It should prove to be a fun matchup for Kobe to take advantage of. Kobe will look to take it straight to the basket, without passing go, or collecting his $200, I mean how could he not, against such a team (inexperienced opponent and no bigs). I would expect for all of the Hawks guards to get in foul trouble, Kobe has been attacking the basket in every single game this season, taking beating, and getting two easy shots from the line. Although there is no one with the Hawks to make Kobe think twice about attacking, he will still get fouled, and go to the line a lot. This is probably the Hawks deepest position, and they are going to need all 3 of their SG's tonight. Childress and Barry have been splitting the backup minutes, with Barry usually finishing the game off. Josh is the Hawks future, that could be a good thing, that could be a bad thing. But he bring excitement and offense to the game, even though he is about as heavy as a twig, and most of that weight is from his fro. He has very long arms and that's the only hope he has at being able to do anything to benefit the Hawks, in terms of guarding Kobe. So, that's two lightweights that Kobe gets to go against and bully in the paint or on anywhere on the floor for that matter. Then, probably after those two get in early foul trouble comes the Hawks veteran presence in their backcourt. Barry is a class act guy, but his brother is the more talented of the two. Although he hasn't gotten off to a great start this season, when it comes to shooting, that is still what he specializes in, and as the season progresses, so will it. But for vets. that age, it takes time for them to shake off the rust of the summer and get back in the swing of things, thankfully he will still be as rusty as a nail tonight. And he is far from a defender, although Kobe will have to respect his shot, he should have no problem stopping him, or the other two SGs. Kobe is faster than Barry and will make him exhausted, trying to keep up with him. Kobe is going to have a big night and will probably be able to get others very involved too.
Caron Butler vs. Al Harrington:
This should turn out to be the matchup of the night. If this was last year's Harrington, then no question, he wins, but I don't think that can be said of this year's Al. The Hawks are playing Al out of position and it's very obvious that playing him at the 3 is causing some problems for him. His shot isn't falling, he is committing silly fouls, and is having some problems picking up on Woodson's defensive plan. I don't think either will have a very big game, they will probably cross each other out. Both are athletic players that can score and rebound. Al is bigger overall, so I guess we will have to wait and see if Caron can stay out of foul trouble, and what he can bring to the game tonight. I doubt he will do much offensively, since he is still struggling somewhat, especially against such defenders, and his D has been questionable, but tonight should prove to be a good test. I would be content with Caron's performance if he just rebounded the ball, and that's big, because that is one of our weaknesses, letting opponents get so many second, and even third chances on a possession. I don't think we can afford to let any team do that, even the Hawks, since that would probably be Harrington's main means of scoring. JJ will probably be matched against the Hawks 17th pick, Josh Smith. The kid from Atlanta is an athletic freak, loves to attack the basket, he has long arms too, can be very strong off the glass, but he gets carried away with shooting, lacks a good sense of when to shoot and when not to, can't handle the ball very well, and he often settle for jumpers. I think JJ's D can prevent him from doing much of anything tonight, he might have a fancy dunk or something, but that should be it. It should be a good battle on the glass, but the veteran should win out in the end, exposing Smith for what he is...just a rookie.
Lamar Odom vs. Antoine Walker:
Our second best player against their number one option. Odom wins this matchup, no if's, and's, or but's about it. Odom's length and versatility will prevent Walker from breaking out. We all know that Walker is going to shoot, from when the first boozer sounds, until the last one sounds. If there was one player that likes to shoot and shoot and shoot, it would be Walker, which is not always a good thing when you are a big man. I often think that Walker is a PF, that thinks that he is a two guard, he takes as many shots as most two guards do. He is not very physical, he would avoid contact whenever he gets the opportunity too, he won't fight for any rebounds (unless you attack a doughnut to it), and he won't pass the ball, unless he thinks that he will get the ball back. You know that your team is in trouble, when Antoine is your assist leader, and that's only with 3.5 assists a night. I know for a fact that Walker has never met a shot that he did not like. He was once asked why he shoots so many 3's and his response was, "because there are no 4 pointers." If he was a very good 3 point shooter, that would be one thing, but he isn't and he still loves to shoot them. Also, he can't buy free throws, I tend to wonder which is worse, his shot selection or his free throws. If Odom can't win a matchup against Walker, I think we should bench him, because that would be embarrassing. I would like to see Grant against him some too, since he is a bigger body against him, and if Walker gets on anything resembling a one man run (all the Hawks have), then we will need to put an end to it, and put an end to it quick. Walker can rebound though, I can understand why he gets offensive rebounds (which he averages more of), so he can shoot again, but I don't understand why he gets defensive rebounds, I would think that he would have the mindset that doing that would take up energy that he could use to jack up another 3. So, we are going to need the Odom that showed up last night, the one that was out of the slump, but with fewer turnovers. I wouldn't mind us letting Walker get his and shutdown everyone else, which is pretty easy against these group of guys. I mean Walker can't score 100 points alone, he may jack up 100 shots, probably all 3's, but he can't convert on 1/5 of them. And that would really wear down Walker, and since their backup PF is Pig Miller, the former Laker, the player that should have called it quits after his fist game with us, back in 94. Miller is going to be cut soon or injured, he isn't in shape, and his body can't last 79 more games. A backup PF that can't even average 1 rebound, more than 2 points, play in more than 4 games since the 99-00 season, is not going to make it through the first month of the regular season. This should be a fun night for Cook, getting some blocks on Ice Cold Miller.
Chris Mihm vs. Kevin Willis:
The Hawks are without their starting center, and don't really want to use the oldest player in the NBA too much. Willis will likely split the minutes pretty equally with Drobnjak. Those two are really having their share of problems against athletic big men, Amare and Lampe both had solid games against the ATL duo. Willis is probably one of the best conditioned athletes in the NBA right now, and you sure can't tell his age, by his game play. I expect that a Mihm and Grant duo can beat out the two centers for the Hawks. Mihm is quicker than Willis and will hopefully use that to beat him to the basket, or get by him with his first step. I would look for some back door passes, alley oops, cuts, and lobs, because Mihm can also jump higher than Willis and if he plays an active, fast paced, at the basket game...he can really take advantage of his youth. He doesn't want to get into a strength matchup with Willis or let himself be in the position where Willis can get at the ball when he has it, Willis will just take it from him. Mihm has to learn to dunk the ball, Willis will also get it from him if he keeps trying that rolling the ball in or the weak layups or that Boston style ball. Bulk wise, a Grant vs Willis matchup would be best, and if Mihm isn't working, we will see that a lot. And Pedrag is not hard to stop, he can shoot, although his shot has been inconsistent so far, but he is about as un-athletic as they get and he possesses zero defensive skill, making things even easier for Mihm, for the 35+ minutes that Drobnjak is in the game.