-Lopez's inexperience will play a key in this game, and will result in him not having a good night, and it won't help him any that he has to guard Payton. Now this would have been an interesting matchup if they had Arroyo, but they don't, so Payton will be to have a field day with Lopez. Payton will be able to post up, score, and dish at will. Lopez won't score or do much of anything, and Payton will have good stats; with his share of points (around 15), rebounds (probably 5), and assists (7 or 8). Oh, yeah, by the way Lopez will be playing injured.
Kobe/Stevenson & Bell
-This should be an easy matchup for Kobe, especially since Stevenson is trying to recover from the flu, so he will be weak and tired. So, since he won't be able to play major minutes, expect to see Bell play Kobe for about half the night. Neither are great defenders, so Kobe won't have to worry about not being able to score or get to the basket as often as he wants. I think Kobe will take advantage of these matchups and the lack of an inside presence for the Jazz, and he will look to have a big night. I think Kobe will get close to 30 points against these guys, without much resistance.
-George has to defend the 3 point line against Harpring, because if he doesn't Harpring will light us up from downtown. George is a more physical player than Matt, so hopefully George can use this to his advantage, and use that to aggravate Harpring's shot. George will also have to box him out, because Harpring has been getting his share of rebounds this year. I think Harpring will have a better game than George in this one.
-If Malone was playing, then the matchup would favor us, and Kirilenko would get abused in the paint by Malone; but Malone has to serve his one game suspension. So this is where we will get to see how much Slava has improved and we will find out if Slava can play D, if he doesn't play defense, then Kirilenko will have a big night. We all know Kirilenko is a much better player than Slava, even playing out of position (Kirilenko's natural position is sf). But hopefully Slava will step us his game, and limit Andrei's production. Slava has to have one of his best defensive games of his career, unless Phil wants to use Shaq to give Slava some help in this matchup.
-I can't help but laugh at this matchup. I keep thinking of Greg getting mad at Shaq and chunking a ball at him, this guy is a joke. Shaq doesn't have to guard Ostertag, but Ostertag sure has to worry about trying to guard Shaq, something he won't be able to do. Shaq will have a fun night, scoring, and rebounding with ease over the much slower #00. Shaq will probably continue to play the way he has in the past couple of games, and have another good game scoring (25+ ) and rebounding(10+). All Ostertag will get is: dunked on, a bad field goal %, fouls, and if he's lucky...a rebound.