On the plus side, us Lakers fans have a new pseudonym for the S-Word, and this pretty much assures us that Turiaf will get more meaningful minutes. On the downside, the transfer window is closed so any possibilities of Mitch trading Luke, Vlad and Mihm for Amare Stoudemire are killed even before discussions can begin.
Even if the trade could happen, I doubt Amare would want to come to the Lakers, considering the odds of him getting an ankle injury would quadruple instantly.
Marquee Matchups -
Point Guard – Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmar vs. Rafer Alston: Wow, Alston really can’t shoot very well. 40% from the field 34% from behind the arc (where he takes almost half of his shots), and a pathetic 66% from the line. He’s also currently in a shooting slump over the last two games, going just 9-37 from the field and an equally abysmal 4-18 from downtown. To top it off, his shooting stats go down even further playing the second night of a back-to-back.
Shooting Guard – Kobe Bryant vs. Tracy McGrady: Finally! A match-up worthy of analysis. It wasn’t too long ago that T-Mac was in Lebron’s shoes, being upheld as a challenger to Kobe for the title of best player in the game (he’s also shooting a similarly woeful percentage from the line at 69%). He’s blessed with many of the same physical attributes, and talents to a lesser extent, that Kobe possesses and has an extra two inches of height to boot.
In their past meetings those extra two inches have really helped T-Mac defensively on Kobe, as he’s been able to force adjustments to Kobe’s shot at times. However, it is universal truth that Kobe performs better when injured. The added bonus of T-Mac playing the entire 48 minutes last night should allow Kobe to get that extra bit of separation in the final 5 minutes that help him get the best possible looks at the basket.
Also, at this stage in their careers, Kobe is the better basketball player, on both ends of the floor.
Small Forward – Vlad Rad vs. Shane Battier: Battier is rated as a defender who can shoot three’s and make glue plays (kind of like what we want Luke to be). For this game, if Vlad is hitting his shots our advantage, if not then it goes the other way.
Advantage: Tentatively, Lakers.
Power Forward – Lamar Odom vs. Luis Scola: Often given credit for a good part of the historic winning run, Scola has been instrumental in keeping Houston afloat after Yao went down. I don’t like this match up for Lamar because he is now the de facto second option, and we all know how that goes…
Center – Ronny Turiaf vs. Dikembe Mutombo: I think Turiaf has been underutilized this season and I really hope this next run of games goes well for him. He can do most of the same things Bynum did offensively with the pick and roll, slip screen etc. as well as shoot it out to 18ft like Gasol, so I really feel that, if Kobe makes a concentrated effort to utilize him, he will become a major offensive threat.
On the other end, Mutombo has the size advantage but they will also be watching his minutes. He played a season high 31 minutes last night and has yet to play two games back to back this season. I doubt he will make much of an impact today.
Right now, the Rocket’s bench is the best in the league. Everyone from Chuck Hayes, to Luther Head, Bobby Jackson, Steve Novak, Carl Landry, and even last night’s surprise package Mike Harris have the ability to come in and change the game. They all hustle and the odds are, one of them will step up in a big way.
The Lakers “Faster Bench Mob” is nothing to laugh at either. Although they lose Turiaf to the starting lineup, the quartet of Luke, Sasha, Farmer, and Mbenga are versatile and, like the Rockets, they all hustle, and they all attempt to play D.
Just a hunch, but for the first time in a while it looks like our bench should be outperformed, and when it looked like that earlier this season they responded to the challenge. Hopefully, today’s game will be more of the same.
Lets play coach!
Key Matchups -
Offense – Turiaf vs. Mutombo: Reiterating what I said earlier, Turiaf needs to have a solid offensive game for the Lakers to do well tonight, and it will be mostly on Kobe’s shoulders to take advantage of his versatility.
Defense – Kobe vs. T-Mac: Simply put it’s on Kobe to shut him down. I know they preach team ball in Houston but the reality is that T-Mac is vital to a lot of what they do, and if he ends up with 15 assists and 10 points then well done Kobe. You make the Shane Battier’s of the world beat you, not the T-Mac’s.
Mind you that didn’t work too well in the first game of the season…
Everything Else: The Rockets area surprisingly poor free throw shooting team. This is mostly surprising because last year they were an excellent free throw shooting team. Out of the current starters, their highest percentage guy is Battier at a robust 75%. None of the other starters even crack 70%.
I’m sure the Lakers will use that to their advantage.
Statistical Predictions -
Feel free to copy and past this part into the comments section with your own predictions. I don’t promise to keep track of winners or anything but it’s always fun to predict stuff.
20+ Points: Kobe, Lamar, and Turiaf.
10+ Rebounds: Turiaf and Lamar.
3+ Blocks: Turiaf.
7+ Assists: Walton, Kobe, Odom
Closest To A Triple-Double: Kobe, Odom.
Out On A Limb: I’ve got two…
A) Kobe and Odom have triple doubles.
B) Turiaf sets a career high in points (not sure what it is right now).
Actually I have a third one too…
C) Luke will get blocked by Mutombo, twice.
Game Information -
Radio: KLAC & KWKW
Burning Questions/Sage Answers -
No time to be sage, you’ll just have to settle for questions…
What’s going on with all these ankles?
Does Pau’s injury make the returning Mihm’s redundancy more palatable?
On a similar note, do we need Mihm now that we have Gasol? And if not do you have any ideas as how to turn him into something useful (my idea would be to send him to Chicago for their draft pick this year, either before or after the draft) and another future pick.