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Open Thread and Contest: Game 46

Regular Season Game 46
Lakers (28-19) at Wizards (27-18)
Verizon Center
7 PM

Previous Results: Wizards 147, Lakers 141.

It's the game many have been waiting for.  In December, Gilbert Arenas dropped 60 points in an overtime Wizards win, prompting the following famous condescending comments from Kobe Bryant.  

"Individually, it's funny.  He doesn't really seem to have much of a conscience.  I really don't think he does. Some of the shots that he took tonight, if you miss those, I mean they're just terrible shots.  They're just awful.  If you make them, they're unbelievable shots.  I don't get a chance to play him much, so I haven't gotten used to that mentality of just chucking it up there.  And he made some big ones, but I'll be ready next time."

Kobe is downplaying the individual matchup between him and Arenas, but it's incredibly naive to think that it's not on his mind.  Remember, this is arguably the most competitive superstar in the game.  He's going to want to upstage Arenas tonight.

However, as great as Arenas was in the previous matchup, it was the other Wizards who really helped get the win.  As Forum Blue and Gold explains:

A lot of the Wizards shot well. All-Star Caron Butler used 22 possessions and shot 50% (eFG%) and got to the line a lot, so his true shooting percentage (think points per shot attempt) was a very good 65.5%. DeShawn Stevenson shot 71.3%. Jamison shot well too, but he will not be playing tonight due to a knee injury.

Bottom line: The Lakers are going to have to play a lot better team defense than they did last time these two squared off.

The Wizards are really going to need Butler and Stevenson to play well tonight with Jamison sidelined.  With Luke Walton out, the Lakers have been forced to start Vladimir Radmanovic, and I don't see him or Lamar Odom staying with Butler.  The Lakers will likely put Kobe on Stevenson, but Kobe's defense is overrated, and Stevenson should be able to get open shots.  Those two, as well as Brendan Haywood, will be key tonight.

The one thing that makes me nervous tonight is Eddie Jordan starting Jarvis Hayes.  I think it's an awful decision; not because Hayes hasn't played well this year, but because it's putting him in a really bad situation.  Hayes or Butler is going to have to guard Lamar Odom, and that's a matchup that simply won't work.  Odom is too big and strong for either of them, and if he's posting up, getting layups, and drawing fouls, it makes it harder for the Wizards to push the tempo.  The problem is the Wizards have nobody that's quick enough to guard Odom on the perimeter, but I'd rather see him kill us there than inside.  

On the injury front, Darius Songaila is expected to play tonight for the first time all season, but will be extremely limited.  Songaila's probably the best bet to guard Odom, but again, that's not saying much.  At this stage, I'm not expecting much from him, but any lift Songaila provides will be key.  

The key to this game will be pushing the tempo.  The Lakers played a game in Indiana last night, and looked bad in it.  Their offense scored only 84 points, including 14 in the final quarter.  Indiana outscored them by 18 in the fourth to win the game.  The Wizards haven't played since Wednesday, where they looked listless against Toronto.  They're the rested team, they're the home team, and they need to come out with tons of energy tonight.

Lakers blogs: Forum Blue and Gold, Lakers Blog

Your lines for tonight:

Lakers at Wizards: Wizards by 3.5.
Over/Under on Big 2: 50.1 points.

This is an open game thread, so all "quality shots," "Hibachi," or "Kobe sucks" comments go here.