Actually, tonightâ€™s game should not be a repeat of last Saturdayâ€™s for a couple of reasons. The key one is that Jason Richardson has returned to the Warrior lineup, and did so with a vengeance against Denver Monday, scoring 42. The Warriors are a jump-shooting team (71% of their shots come from 15 feet or more) and they donâ€™t shoot well as a team, but Richardson does (48% eFG%). Richardson has the best PER on the Warriors by far, 18.59.
His return gives the Lakers some serious match-up trouble tonight. Speedy Claxton and Richardson will start in the backcourt, then Derek Fisher â€” he of the 29 points last game â€” comes off the bench. Atkins (and Brown) will struggle with Claxton and weâ€™ll see if Butler can hang with Richardson. Sashaâ€™s been getting minutes with Kobe out, but he may be overmatched one-on-one against any of the main three in the Golden State backcourt. The Lakers are going to need Chris Mihm and Odom to slow any penetration and block a few shots, but without getting in foul trouble. Some zone defense may help as well.
Odom really took charge of the offense for the Lakers last game against Golden State, including hitting the shot over Robinson to win it. However, last game he saw one-on-one defense almost exclusively, letâ€™s see how he and the rest of the team handles the double teams that will come.
The Lakers are going to need a good games from Odom and Atkins if they are going to attack the Warriorsâ€™ defensive weaknesses (based on oPER). Last Saturday, they were the Lakers two leading scorers. If Atkins plays the kind of all-around game we saw against Minnesota, things may bode well for the Lakers. Also, this is a game where Mihm should be able to get some points inside.
Every game the Lakers win with Kobe out helps not only in the playoff chase but also in team confidence. Tonight can be another step down that road, especially with more difficult games against Seattle and New Jersey looming next week.