GAME 68/82: at LA Lakers, Open Game Thread

The 2006 campaign against evil comes down to tonight.

Kobe Bryant is no doubt angered after Ron Artest shamed him into defeat a week ago. (Yeah, I know Kobe scored 30. I also know that almost a third of that total was essentially in garbage time on near-halfcourt heaves. I've discussed this.) You almost wonder if smoke piped out of Kobe's nose when he watched the game tape of the last game several dozen times. Especially when Ron-Ron blocked the hell out of Kobe's first-quarter three-point attempt. (God, that's the highlight of the season, isn't it? That, or Artest's ridiculous right-handed drive and reach-out dunk on Andrei Kirilenko. Or Brad's stunning three to seal it against Memphis. Or Bonzi's game-winner in Minny. Or Shareef's putback dunk with a broken jaw against Portland. That's it, new poll!)

So, yeah. Umm. Okay, yeah - Kobe's going to be pumped beyond all belief. He could score 30 in the first quarter, and I might not flinch. (Grimaces likely, though.) But when it comes down to it, Artest is the best perimeter defender in the league - he's the perfect foil to Kobe, for a couple reasons. He's not going to just let Kobe get to the line on every drive, and he's not going to let him establish position or get the ball without a fight. Kobe is certainly good enough to stay alive in streetfight of a game. But he's not good enough that it won't be a battle. Artest is too strong, too quick, too fierce a competitor to get brushed off by Mamba.

And that's why Lakers-Kings is now again so fantastic a rivalry. An icy-cold, calm, cunning and calculating snake versus an extraordinarily human, incredibly fiery, suffocatingly fearless warrior. Evil, versus good.

To the lineups!

PG - King Michael I
SG - Speedracer
SF - Mr. Beast
PF - Mister Double-Double
C  - Bradrock

PG - Smush Parker
SG - The Black Mamba
SF - Brian Cook
PF - Lamar Odom
C  - Kwame Brown

The line: +3. Yeah, the Kings were -7 when this game was at ARCO.

Fun bet o' the night: Well, Bodog isn't doing their usual Kobe spread this time. The line is at 36.5. I'd say over. Again, Kobe is mad as hell.

Sideshow most likely to be entertaining: For all the complaining about centers, the Lakers' situation at small forward has to be absolutely frustrating for LA fans. Brian Cook is begging to be taken out of the starting lineup, Devean George is a good roleplayer but hardly dependable on offense, and Luke Walkton is... Luke Walton. (Kenny says hi.) Think they couldn't use Francisco Garcia, Bonzi Wells or Kevin Martin? I love Geoff Petrie, by the way.

Best matchup: Obviously, it's all eyes on Kobe-Artest. But I think it's important for Bibby and Miller to get off, just in case Mamba goes haywire starts shooting from the backcourt. Keeping Odom is control is key, too. One player ain't going to beat ya, guys.

Ladies and gentlemen... crank up your voiceboxes! Let's support our team from 500 miles away!


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