Who: Memphis Grizzlies (31-24) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (19-38)
When: Wednesday, February 26th, 7:00 PM CST
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Watch and Listen: Sportsouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Discuss: 3SOB on Twitter / 3SOB Forum, Grizzlies Message Boards
Who would have thought that in this lifetime we’d see a Lakers roster of this magnitude of sadness? Now I know that for all of the tribulations of this year they will be rewarded two-fold by a high lottery pick in arguably the most stacked draft of this decade, but still… for the time being it’s been a slow-mo trainwreck. Last night the Lake show made its way out to Indiana, where it predictably notched its 38th loss of the season. However, while all of this is good and dandy for me to say, it must be the furthest thing from our Grizzlies’ minds, who have exhibited an alarming tendency to defer to the level of competition, this year. They’re at the point in the journey where they must come out with all they’ve got no matter who they’re playing, or they can kiss their playoff hopes goodbye. They broke Rule 3 of our own Jonathan May’s path to the playoffs in Saturday night’s game against Charlotte, and can certainly not afford to break Rule number 1, tonight.
Mike Conley vs Kendall Marshall
Kendall Marshall has been a fantasy basketball virtuoso off the waiver wire this season. Coming into the league, his passing ability was never in question. Combine that with the fact that Mike D’Antoni’s offensive schemes have always been quite friendly to point guards, and the assist numbers, though eye-popping, have not been a total stretch. What has come as a surprise, however, is the fantastic shooting touch that he has exhibited since setting his feet down in LA. Just a year ago as a rookie in Phoenix, Marshal put up an abysmal 45.5 for a true shooting percentage, while going 37.1% from the field and 31.5% from three. In 28 games with the Lakers this season, those numbers have all skyrocketed to a 55.7 TS%, 44.9% FG%, and a dynamite 47.2% from three at just shy of 4 attempts per game. Mike Conley has struggled shooting the ball since his return from the ankle injury, eclipsing 40% in just one of his first three games back, but I’ve got a good feeling about his quickness advantage in this one.
Advantage: Memphis, but probably won’t look it on paper
Courtney Lee vs Jodie Meeks
Courtney Lee’s been struggling a bit coming out of the break. To the left is his shot chart post-All-Star, illustrating the trend and distribution of his 34.5% shooting since the break. I guess you can look at it as a regression to the mean of sorts, but it is only 3 games, so I’m not willing to put all that much stock into it just yet. His counterpart, Mr. Meeks, is shooting a rock steady 39% from downtown on the season, and is on board as a main recipient of Kendall Marshall’s assist magic, as he’s been on the receiving end of 45 of Marshall’s helpers on the year*. The good news for Grizz fans is that Meeks will not do much damage off the dribble, however. On the whole, 76.5% of his field goals have been assisted so far this season*. If Courtney doesn’t get caught ball-watching, Meeks shouldn’t be all that dangerous, but the Grizzlies do have a history of getting burned by the 3.
Tayshaun Prince vs Kent Bazemore
Nothing signals the glory days in Los Angeles quite like starting Kent Bazemore at small forward. Notorious for his wildly captivating bench celebration techniques, Baze has had little time to show off his most entertaining asset for Laker fans, because he’s been too busy playing. And heck, he’s done so quite well, I might add. In his first three games as a member of the Lake show, he has dropped consecutive career highs in scoring, of 15, 17, and 23, respectively. In other news, yes Tayshaun Prince is still here, Grizzlies fans, and I give him the nod tonight over the wildly inexperienced and sometimes out of control Bazemore, because my brain tells me that Kent “Tarence Kinsey” Bazemore can’t possibly keep this up.
Zach Randolph vs Wesley Johnson
If the lineup doesn’t change, then this could turn into a looooong night for the Lakers in the paint. Conventionally speaking, I would presume D’Antoni to start either Chris Kaman or Jordan Hill alongside Pau to match with the Grizzlies’ frontline, but seeing as he rolled with this lineup against the equally massive Pacers last night, I don’t see him changing the tune tonight. In other words, expect Joerger to be running Zbo isos on the block versus either Wesley Johnson or Pau ad nauseam, at least until the Lakers’ reserve bigs come into the game.
Marc Gasol vs Pau Gasol
Well this is always fun, right? The Super Gasol Bros! If I’m being honest, I always go into watching this matchup all excited, and find myself ending up pretty unmoved when the book on the game is written. Marc and Pau know each other’s games as well as any two players in this league, and neither has been setting the basketball world on fire this year, so to see the two play to a standstill might not be out of the question. Regardless, as usual, I’ll be attuned to this matchup whenever it presents itself, and will be looking forward to seeing the two duke it out tonight.
Sadly no Swaggy for LA tonight. Nick Young tried to make a return against the Nets on Sunday night from the knee injury that sidelined him for seven games prior, but he still was not quite feeling right. So, the Lakers add Young back to the graveyard heap of injured players unable to take the court for them. They’ve still got a handful of options likely to get some burn off the bench, though. Jordan Farmar returned from that graveyard last week, and has blue skies of playing time ahead with Steve Blake having been shipped out to Golden State, and is joined by gunner MarShon Brooks, and the aforementioned big bodies of Hill and Kaman. Lastly, I think we might see a bit of Ryan Kelly getting minutes at the four, in attempt to pull the Grizzlies’ bigs out of the paint. But still, the Grizzlies bench, now healthy, should trump whatever second unit combinations the Lakers manage to trot out there.
* denotes last night’s game not included.