Pump Up Music: Led Zeppelin -- "Black Dog"
The Big Picture: It's the end of a long road trip, and the Bobcats looked weary Monday night in Portland. That's not to say that they will be a step slow in this game, but it would definitely be understandable if we saw it again.
If we do see a sluggish Bobcats team out there again, I think it's as good an excuse as ever to truly sound the alarm on the minutes Larry Brown is asking the core guys to play. This isn't a Golden State situation, in which eight guys are suiting up every night. Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson are still playing more than 40 minutes per game, and at a certain point, that will catch up to them. It's not that we'll even see it, but that the slow grind of the season will wear on them more than it does on a guy like Raymond Felton, who's played in 9 more games than Jax, but has about equal minutes. If they suffer injury, we won't really know it was because they were overworked, or if it was a fluke, but the fact "overworked" is a possibility is troubling.
These are the games I'd like to see Crash 'n Jax log 40 minutes, because the Bobcats simply aren't as talented as the Lakers, and to win, they'll need their best players on the floor as long as possible, and playing as effectively as possible. Because those guys can switch positions, Charlotte can match up reasonably with L.A. no matter who's on the floor, but they'll have to make concessions.
I wouldn't mind seeing Boris Diaw on Pau Gasol and Wallace on Lamar Odom when those guys are the front court. However, when Andrew Bynum's out there alongside Pau, do the Cats roll with Nazr Mohammed or DeSagana Diop at center? In crunch time, if the Lakers bring that lineup, will the Cats still stick with Diaw at nominal center, try to take advantage on offense with a small lineup, and put up a good fight on defense? It's hard to believe LB will be content with Diaw on Bynum and Wallace on Pau during the game's most critical minutes.
Key to Victory: Make Kobe believe that he has to save the game, and then frustrate him. If anyone can do it these days, Jax is a guy who'd probably tick off Kobe the most. If I may play amateur psychologist, it strikes me that Kobe is wracked with a fundamental arrogance that usually works to his advantage. He so loves basketball and dominating other players that he'll do anything to achieve that on a day in day out basis.
When he runs up against a guy who can contain him, it's always a challenge. I get the feeling Kobe would relish going one on one with LeBron James all game. However, when he runs up against a Raja Bell, a James Posey, a Stephen Jackson, an aging Ray Allen, I get a sense he's still consumed by desire to dominate, but a small part of him thinks that dominating this guy is beneath him. When that guy actually has some success and keeps Kobe from doing what he does against the Charlie Bells of the world -- or even what he normally does against great defenders -- well... it's just not supposed to happen, and that's when we see those legendary 5-20 nights.
Detail That May Interest .08% of You: Adam Morrison, 170 minutes this season. What are the odds he announces his retirement once his contract is up?