Open Thread and Contest: Game 23

Regular Season Game 23
Wizards (11-11) at Lakers (16-7)
Staples Center
9:30 PM

This west coast road swing is supposed to give us a true indicator of the strength of this Wizards team, but in the first two games of the trip, the Wizards catch a couple major breaks.  For tonight, the Lakers don't have Lamar Odom for tonight's game.  Considering how badly the Wizards defend opposing forwards, Odom surely would have had a huge game.  Combine that with the distinct possibility that the Nuggets won't have either Carmelo Anthony or J.R. Smith for Monday's game after yesterday's brawl, and two wins really aren't out of the question.

Without Odom, the Lakers have reverted back to a Kobe Bryant and everyone else offense.  In their win over the Rockets on Friday, Kobe had 53 points, while the rest of the team had 59.  Considering that the Wizards defend opposing shooting guards better than any other position (14.0 PER, which still isn't great), the Kobe-centered Lakers are exactly the type of offense the Wizards have a chance to stop.  

However, this is Kobe Bryant we're talking about.  He scored 53 points on Shane Battier, arguably the toughest man-to-man defender not named Bowen or Artest.  Those 53 points also came essentially without anything in the first quarter.  If he's hot, nobody can stop him.  The Wizards' best strategy may be to let Kobe get his and make sure guys like Smush Parker, Luke Walton, and Brian Cook/Vladimir Radmanovic don't get anything.  

On the other end, expect big games from Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison.  The Lakers don't defend opposing point guards well, and Arenas has torched them in the past.  The Lakers also struggle to defend opposing fours, especially ones that hang around the perimeter.  If Jamison can pull out the Lakers big guys, the Wizards should be able to drive to the rim and draw fouls on Kwame Brown, who has become a really solid defensive center.  

Basically, this should be an extremely high-scoring game.

Projected Starters
PG: Gilbert Arenas
SG: DeShawn Stevenson
SF: Caron Butler
PF: Antawn Jamsion
 C: Brendan Haywood

PG: Smush Parker
SG: Kobe Bryant
SF: Luke Walton
PF: Vladimir Radmanovic
 C: Kwame Brown

Lakers blogs: Forum Blue and Gold, Laker Noise, Show Time, LA Times' Lakers Blog

The Contest is still in effect, and if there are any Wiz or LA fans going to the game tonight, be sure to e-mail me with a postgame report.  Tonight's lines are as follows.

Wizards at Lakers: Lakers by 5
Over/Under on Big 3: 65.1 points

This is an open thread, so post game thoughts in the comments section throughout the game here.

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