Memphis Grizzlies @ Los Angeles Lakers: Game Preview

Pau Gasol (16, right) and Marc Gasol (33, left) will be squaring off in a crucial Friday night game in Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports

I wouldn’t call this one a must-win, but it’s pretty close. It’s among three or four remaining games against top-notch opponents that the Los Angeles Lakers will need to win at least a majority of to get into the postseason. They’re sitting comfortable now, in the eighth seed, but they need to keep the foot on the accelerator. The Jazz, currently the ninth seed, have a much simpler remaining schedule. But as any player or coach will tell you, it’s best to take the season one game at a time. In doing so, the Lakers (39-36) find themselves in a home bout against one of the top teams in the western conference at 7:30 PT tonight. The Memphis Grizzlies (51-24) are still battling the Denver Nuggets to try to get the 3rd playoff spot in the west (the Clippers are locked in the fourth spot due to being the Pacific division champion). Los Angeles is trying to add onto an impressive victory at home on Tuesday against the Dallas Mavericks where they dominated at both ends of the court. It was a well-balanced offensive effort, a phenomenal defensive effort (especially by this season’s standards) and an impressive rebounding effort which saw four different players (Howard, Clark, Bryant, Gasol) record at least 10 rebounds–a very rare feat in basketball. The Grizzlies are coming off of a 18-point drubbing of the Trail Blazers on Wednesday. It was a balanced effort. No player on the squad scored more than 20 points. The Grizzlies also showed off the best defense in the western conference in that they forced the Blazers to shoot 41.3% from the field, an abysmal 13.8% from three, and the Blazers also committed 16 turnovers against the Grizzly defense led by Pau Gasol and Tony Allen.

Injuries:

  • Steve Nash – Doubtful. Nash looks like he’ll miss another game with the strained hip and hamstring that he’s been nursing. In his absence, Steve Blake will start again. In his last 2 games, Blake is averaging 13 PPG and 3.5 RPG. Kobe Bryant will still have the main facilitating duties and has done an exceptional job at it. In his last two games, Bryant is averaging 12.5 APG and only 2.5 turnovers per game.

History:

The Lakers have a 46-19 all-time record against the Grizzlies, outscoring them by an average of 6.5 PPG. This hasn’t necessarily been the case of late, however. The Lakers are 0-2 against the Grizzlies this season and are on a three game losing streak overall.

X-Factor:

The Lakers have struggled to defend Mike Conley in two games against him this season, allowing him to score 19 points in both meetings this season while letting him shoot 60.7% from the field in those two meetings. Conley is a young athletic guard and the Lakers perimeter players often struggle to stay in front of him. The shooting chart to the right shows Conley’s success against the Lakers in two games this season. As you can tell, he has hardly hurt the Lakers at all from the exterior. Half of his shot attempts are from inside the paint and that’s where the Lakers are being killed by Conley. It isn’t only the Lakers who have had problems containing Conley either, and there is a direct relationship between Conley’s offense and Grizzly victories. In games where Mike Conley shoots better than 50% from the field this season, the Grizzlies are an incredible 20-1. Once Conley asserts himself as a threat to score, opposing defenses are forced to use help defense which opens things up for Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph to do their thing on the low post and help the offense.

Key To Victory:

The help defense was spot on in the Lakers’ victory against the Mavericks on Tuesday, led by Kobe Bryant, who has notoriously been the one who has struggled in off-ball defense this season. Bryant came up with a couple of steals and this huge block on a Brandon Wright dunk attempt via help defense. If Bryant can put in strong, intelligent, and effort-filled work on the defensive end, the defense actually has the capability of being among the best in the league, especially with the way that Dwight Howard has played recently.

Prediction:

In my preview of the Lakers game against the Mavericks earlier this week I incorrectly predicted the team to give a lackluster effort and lose to a hot team. This time, I see it differently. I was really impressed by the defensive effort the Lakers gave against the Mavs and the Grizzlies don’t exactly have the marquee offense in the NBA. I expect the Lakers to win by a score of about 96-92 with Kobe Bryant not looking to shoot–recognizing the greatness of Tony Allen’s defense–and looking to pass more often. He should be close to another triple-double and I wouldn’t put it past him to play more than 47 minutes for the third consecutive contest.

Thank you for reading. My name is Skyler Gilbert. You can follow me or contact me on twitter@SkylerJGilbert for any comments or questions about the article or about the Lakers in general.

Topics: Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies

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