Sometimes it is hard to get perspective in life. If all you did was read the headlines you might think the Lakers are languishing in the Western Conference. A quick glance at the standings reveals the Lakers sitting third in the West. That would mean homecourt for one of the NBA’s best performers in their own crib and a slightly more manageable path to through the playoffs.
Of course part of getting perspective in life involves examining all of your surroundings as well. For the Lakers there is no comfort in being third in the West. A mere 2 ½ games separates the Lake Show from the sixth seeded Nuggets. That means the margin for error is small. Generally the Lakers have erred often on the road with a woeful mark of 7 wins against 14 losses away from Staples.
One of the teams the Lakers are battling with for their playoff standing is Memphis, a team struggling with injuries yet still finding ways to win. The Grizzlies host the Lakers tonight and they’re looking to move up one spot in the West. A win over the Lakers will allow Memphis to make up the ½ game between the two teams.
For the Lakers the time is now or never if they want to show some signs of life in the title chase.
Winning in Memphis is rarely an easily obtained objective for the Lakers. Even in some of the more lean years the Grizzlies have posed a problem for Los Angeles.
With Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph listed as day-to-day you might think Mike Brown is catching the Grizzlies at an ideal time. Of course you might have also thought the Lakers would be able to hold onto a 21-point lead against the Washington Wizards. Not everything is as it seems in the NBA and Memphis still has plenty of talent beyond their two most recognizable players.
Marc Gasol was the lone All-Star in his family this season. His brother Pau watched the festivities from his home this season, no doubt happy for his brother but also disappointed in how much his stock as has fallen. Marc has quietly developed into one of the league’s premier big men. Combine that Gasol with the underrated Marreese Speights and Hamed Haddadi off the bench and you’ve got a team capable of matching the Lakers size. Usually Pau and Andrew Bynum are the biggest on the block. Not the case against Memphis.
But that is only half the story. The Grizzlies also boast of an elite perimeter defender in Tony Allen. Kobe Bryant has routinely praised Allen as one of the best defenders he faces year-in and year-out in the NBA.
However the real dilemma facing the Lakers tonight is how the bench will perform. O.J. May alone is capable of producing more than the men that comprise the Lakers’ second unit. In Memphis’ most recent game, a 94-91 win in Denver, Mayo dropped 22 points and pulled down 8 rebounds. There just isn’t a man in purple and gold capable of matching those totals.
With so much congestion in the middle of the Western Conference it is ideal for the Lakers to begin to assert themselves against their competition sooner than later. Depending on how things shake out there is a very good chance we could see Memphis and L.A. facing one another in the first round. That’s why tonight it’s vital for the Lakers to give the same effort we’ve seen the last two Sundays. The trade deadline is looming but movement by Los Angeles seems unlikely. So like it or not this is the team that will finish the season for the Lakers. Therefore there are no secrets. The Lakers know their weaknesses and they also know how to play to their strengths. They’d be advised to do the latter one the ball is tipped in FedEx forum tonight.