Game 80 Preview: Memphis Grizzlies @ Los Angeles Lakers
In the Lakers’ last Sunday matchup of the season, they find themselves facing the Memphis Grizzlies, who are in the midst of a battle to secure the eighth playoff spot in the West. With little still to win for, LA will look to be “the Player Haters” once again.
Memphis Grizzlies (47-32) @ Los Angeles Lakers (25-54) – 6:30 PST
Lakers: Kent Bazemore (torn tendon, right foot), Kobe Bryant (fractured left knee) and Xavier Henry (torn ligament, left wrist and sore right knee) have all been shut down for the rest of the season. Whilst Jordan Farmar (strained right groin), Chris Kaman (strained right calf), Pau Gasol (vertigo) and Steve Nash (nerve root irritation) are all doubtful with decreasing chances of returning before the end of the season.
Grizzlies: The more ably equipped Grizzlies have just two players missing with Quincy Pondexter (tarsal navicular stress fracture, right foot) out indefinitely and Tayshaun Prince (sprained left ankle) listed as day-to-day.
Lakers – PG: Kendall Marshall. SG: Jodie Meeks. SF: Wesley Johnson. PF: Ryan Kelly. C: Jordan Hill.
Grizzlies: PG: Mike Conley. SG: Courtney Lee. SF: James Johnson. PF: Zach Randolph. C: Marc Gasol.
(note, these are only the probable starters, final line-ups are TBC)
PPG – Grizzlies: Z. Randolph – 17.1
Lakers: N. Young – 17.6
RPG – Grizzlies: Z. Randolph – 10.1
Lakers: P. Gasol – 9.7
APG – Grizzlies: M. Conley – 6.0
Lakers: K. Marshall – 8.7
BPG – Grizzlies: M. Gasol – 1.3
Lakers: P. Gasol – 1.5
SPG – Grizzlies: T. Allen – 1.7
Lakers: J. Meeks – 1.4
As both the Memphis Grizzlies and Phoenix Suns find themselves in last chance saloon fighting for the eighth and final playoff seed in the west, this game carries significant importance for the former who cannot afford any late season stumbles in their closing three games. As for the Lakers, they could look to capitalize on the two victories this week from the Boston Celtics who, if the Lakers lose, would fall into a two-way tie for fifth place in the “Tank Rank”. A crucial game for both teams with LA potentially making the trip easier for Memphis.
Even if they play with great heart and endeavor, this is a very tough matchup for the Purple and Gold. The extensive injury crisis in Los Angeles has cost the Lakers their season and whilst the efforts of the last-men standing have been admirable, they haven’t shown that great of a resistance against opponents all year. That being said, we should expect heightened intensity and energy from the players on-court in these final three games as their impending place in roster limbo sees them try their hardest to market themselves to other franchises before the off-season.
One such player is Jordan Hill, the 6-foot-11 center whose peak in form has come in what may be his final year with the Lakers. When given the opportunities in the team’s rotations, Hill has certainly shown that he is capable of baring the load of the front court off of the bench with his energy and hustle being two trademark features of his game. Although his formed peak in late November/mid-December, Jordan has experienced resurgence on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court, averaging 16.8 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in his last five games. Whilst he will more than likely command more money at the end of the season (as well as look for any opportunity to be rid of Mike D’Antoni), Hill’s drive for the team has certainly been welcome and if this is his last year in our jersey, let me be the one to say thank you to him for his efforts.
Although the Grizzlies hold a 2-1 series record over the Lakers this year, the team certainly haven’t disgraced themselves in their previous outings. Conceding only, on average, 96 points across the three games, this series of showings demonstrates one of the finer defensive efforts from the team all year. Despite being one of the more refined defenses in the league, the runnin’-n-gunnin’ Jodie Meeks has been able to expertly poke holes in their defensive strategy. The guard is experiencing career highs across the board and has notched 19ppg, hitting 61FG% across the three matchups as well. If LA is to snap their six-game losing streak, he will need to be dynamite across the floor.
Whether you’re a Lakers player, staff member, writer or fan, this year has been absolutely torturous. The struggle to find grains of positivity has been never-ending and as the season draws to its close, the pain is almost over.
It’s time to consolidate, draft and rebuild and a loss tonight could help the Lakers do just that. I never root for my team to lose. However, one must question whether it may be for the greater good with a potential fourth seed in the lottery looming.
Who knows what to want anymore?