Games like these are the reason fans love the NBA. The two biggest stars in the world and their cohorts will lace them up tonight at the Q and the world will indeed be watching. Just like Christmas Day when Kobe and Lebron went at it. That day we saw both Kobe and Lebron have off nights to their standards and the Cavs supporting cast thoroughly outplay the defending champ Lakers. Unfortunately Lebron's mate who did the most damage Christmas Day, Mo Williams, won't be able to play tonight as it was announced today he may be out a week or so with a shoulder sprain. A few thoughts on tonights game.....
- Kobe and Lebron....Look for Lebron to be more aggressive for a full 4 quarters tonight. Lebron knows the spotlight. He craves it. He showed Ron Ron how physical he can be down in the post in the previous matchup and I look for Lebron to setup shop down low on occasion tonight and attack the hoop all night long. On the other hand Kobe will be aggressive as always but he may be more of a jump shooter tonight than ever before. There's no secret that he's banged up and more than likely he'll remember the pounding that the Diesel dished out almost every time he drove to the hoop last game. Now with a bad back, finger, etc I don't see him challenging the middle too often with the Enforcer back there.
-Cavs bigs vs Lakers Bigs...This was by far the biggest surprise of the holiday. Shaq, Z, and Andy just outplayed the Lakers frontline in Gasol, Bynum, and Odom. On paper that simply shouldn't happen. LA bigs were 8-20 with 21 pts and just 17 rebounds between them. On average these three combine to score 42 pts and grab 29 boards. Since then our bigs have only improved. Z was just 1-6 that night and has settled into his role nicely. Shaq is coming off a beastly game against Toronto and Andy is just Andy. Leading the world in +/-. He was a mere +20 that game. Can they repeat that performance or at the very least play the LA frontline to a draw? We shall see. I like our chances.
-No Mo....This hurts. Derek Fisher had a hell of a time with Mo Gotti in their first go around. This was the game Mo Williams debuted his post game and it was effective. As was everything else Mo did on Christmas as he lead the Cavs with 28 and also had 7 assists and 6 boards. With him out we're going to see if going into this season without a true backup PG will come back to bite us. Delonte will assuredly step into this role. We've seen Delonte be turnover prone at times and is nowhere near as dangerous with his outside shooting as Mo is. On the flipside I've noticed over the last 2 years that Delonte is the Cav that defers to Lebron the least. Maybe we'll see more offensive sets being run with Delonte at the helm. Even if Delonte starts I would still keep Parker on Kobe to start just because of his size. I truly think Kobe is going to be looking to shoot over people tonight and AP has a few inches on West and played him admirably last time.
-Welcome back Boobie..... as the news of Mo's injury ripples we land on Boobie Gibson. A lot of us have been scratching our heads at Boobie's lack of run, really since that Xmas Day matchup with LA. Coach Brown had mentioned that he has so much depth that he was too involved with getting players their minutes than letting the game flow. Boobie lost out. Now he has been catapulted right back into the rotation. He truly was playing the best ball of his career this year. Hopefully he learned from Damon Jones how to sit for weeks at a time and be ready to come in and produce. This says a ton for the Cavs depth and something Phil Jackson would probably kill for right now. Boobie can come in and keep the floor spaced for Lebron as he's still shooting almost 48% from 3 pt land.
-Defensive intensity...We've seen the Cavs start out slow defensively recently then flip the switch and shut down teams late in the game. That can't happen tonight. Lebron has to get his team up at the jumpball tonight. This may be 1 out of 82 for the players (so they say) but this game has Cleveland amped up. If we come out sluggish the crowd will start chewing on their nails a bit. If we come out and start strong the Q will be in rare form. We can only hope the D comes out gassed up and Lebron has the eye of the tiger tonight. If that's the case teh Q will absolutely explode with every hoop. Lets hope.
Prediction: The Laker frontline comes to play today and plays tough and keeps the Lakers in it all game. I think Kobe will get his 30 but may need 20-25 shots to do it. Meanwhile Lebron and company plays solid across the board with short bursts of high production from Shaq Nasty. Lebron will challenge for a triple dub and have a terrific all around game to lead the Cavs to a 104-97 win.
Check back tonight at 6:30 for the Wine and Gold Podcast