Chucky Atkins vs. Jason Williams:
White Chocolate will be hard for us to keep up with. He is a fast, flashy, PG, and is almost impossible to predict what he is about to do. We have been seeing an improvement in Chucky's play over the past couple of games, which has to continue. Chucky better be ready to run, because there is nothing that Jason loves more than to get on the break, get an open court situation, and create some excitement for the home crowd. We can't allow them to play a game where they are up and running, getting fast breaks with ease, we have to slow down their tempo and play tough defense. Atkins is the better defender, so he shouldn't have too hard of a time of stopping Williams from scoring, although it's his passing that concerns me, more than his scoring. And Jason is a sub-par defender at best, he let Ward get the best of him last night. If Chucky doesn't get tired, and sloppy against the Grizz, I expect him to have the better night. Tierre has his work cut out for him too, he will be going up against Watson. Both are quick backups, Earl is the better of the two. He is a very good defender, but is also turnover prone. So, hopefully Tierre can play some decent defense, at least and attack the basket. He was really out of it against the Hornets, because of the bigger PGs, that were also top defenders...maybe he can catch a break tonight. With Burks injured, Memphis will be lacking some of their depth at the point tonight.
Kobe Bryant vs. Bonzi Wells:
Since Posey has an injured ankle and is questionable, Wells will start and play a good bit of minutes against Kobe. Wells is a very good player, an all around solid SG. He rebounds, scores, but is streaky. Hopefully we catch him on an off night, he kept T-Mac out of his game last night, let's see how he does against the best two guard in the league...talk about your tough assignments, one night T-Mac, the next Kobe...someone is going to be very tired. Kobe has to watch the fouls tonight, we can't afford to play another game where he is not in the game, if we want to get a W. Kobe also has to be more careful with his passes, he and Chucky were getting a lot of turnovers last night, turnovers that we shouldn't have been making, and that kept the game close for longer than it should have been. I would rather see crisp passes, than fancy ones. Kobe will have another big game. No one can stop him, not even the three (4 if Posey plays) guards that they are going to throw at him tonight will be able to stop him. If his shot isn't falling, he will take it straight to the basket and go to the line, and shoot 15 free throws on you. I don't like it when he has to get the majority of his points from the line, but points are points, and that is a superb way of getting his opponent, as well as the other team's big men in foul trouble. Bonzi will get like 10 and 5, and won't be able to contain Kobe. When Wells gets in foul trouble, in will come their shooter, Mike Miller. Mike does a lot on offense, shoots the ball well and is a good shooter from downtown. One of the weaker areas of his game is on the defensive end, bad for him...good for Kobe. But he is another guard that can rebound for them, so we are going to have to own the glass, if we want a win. Dahntay will see some minutes too, especially when fatigue sits in with the other two, or fouls. Kobe can afford to gamble against him the most, since he is a rook, makes rook mistakes, and still has yet to develop a jumper. I highly doubt he will be able to stop Kobe for one play, he will be in for offense and for some excitement...he and Swift give their bench a kick when it comes to play above the rim. But the bad news for us, is that he is another guard on their team that can also rebound very well, especially under his own basket.
Caron Butler vs. Shane Battier:
Taking after #8 is really working out for Caron. He has had great games in his past two outings, and he still has a sore ankle. He has been shooting extremely well, rebounding the ball for us, and making smart decisions when he has the ball in his possession. If Jim Jackson can shut down Shane, I think Caron can. The former Blue Devil is a great all around player, but some of his weaknesses are Caron's strengths. Shane is not very athletic, can be taken out of his game easily (if guarded by an athletic defender), is a streaky rebounder, and doesn't look to score. He is a huge help and asset for the Grizz, mainly do to his basketball IQ and size, but is a better fit coming in off the bench. I think if Caron can play well against Harrington, he can do well against Battier. He has been huge for us, we are really going to need for him to keep up his hard work, and effort on both ends. I think him coming in a few hours before the game to practice has really been helping his overall play. If Caron gets hot, they will probably look to put Cardinal against him. Brian is their 39 million dollar man, a very aggressive, bulky, hard working player. But he is slow, so if Hubie tries this, Caron can take Cardinal baseline and attack the basket with ease.
Lamar Odom vs. Pau Gasol:
Lamar has to win this matchup and I feel that he can. He has to play very good defense, because Pau is quick and scores quick, and a lot. If Odom can play tough D and box him out, not incredibly difficult, considering Pau has the body of a SF. Pau is the greatest threat that the Grizz have, his long arms allows him to shoot over most of his opponents, and block, but that's the only defense he can play. I think Odom will have a solid night considering Pau is a horrendous defensive player, he let Juwan and Taylor have very solid games against him last night, whatever they wanted to do on the offensive end last night, he let them. Odom has to take advantage of this, and if he can't stop Pau, at least match his production. I worry about Swift going off on us more than I worry about Pau. I think we matchup pretty well against Pau. But Stro is an athletic freak. He will and can dunk on about anyone and gets to the rim with ease. He took it right at the Rockets front line. We have to watch him and Williams when in the game together, because Jason will be throwing him alleys left and right. Grant is too slow to guard Swift and can't get off the ground in time to contest his shot, Slava can't play D. I think Odom and Cook will see the most time against him. Also, Swift uses his leaping ability to rip down some rebounds, which we can't have. This is going to be a matchup where I think we struggle, and I don't think fouling him would be wise either, because that's where he got the majority of his points against Houston. At least Swift is only an offensive threat, maybe we can use Cook and Slava's shooting ability against him.
Chris Mihm vs. Lorenzen Wright:
Wright is really more of a combo forward, he shouldn't be playing center in the West, but neither should Pau, so they let the closest thing that they have to a center, play the position. The player that has spent the better part of his basketball career in the greater Memphis area is liked by the fans, mostly for his college accolades. But he hasn't had his collegiate success carry over to the NBA. He really has a hard time defending bigger players, especially young, athletic centers. He is a good rebounder, nothing great, but often makes tick tack fouls, limiting his playing time. And considering he can't shoot the ball very well, his game is limited to the paint. If we stick Mihm on him, prevent him from getting his shot up, he will be useless on offense. I don't think we will have any trouble at all against Lorenzen. Slava, Grant, and Mihm will all see time again him, all fairing decently. I think they might break out big Jake tonight against us, considering they will need size and rebounding. Now, he could give our back up bigs some major problems, hopefully Chris is guarding him too. We can't let him or Wright rebound the ball under their own basket, we can't afford to let them get many second chance points. If we limit their rebounding the ball and fast breaks, we have a great chance of winning. Lakers win the center matchup, as long as Mihm doesn't get in early foul trouble.