Game: Memphis Grizzlies vs L A Lakers
When: 8:30 CST
Place: Staples Center, Los Angeles
Records: Memphis (3-4), Los Angeles (5-4)
Expected Starting Lineups:
Memphis: Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Rudy Gay, Dante Cunningham, Mac Gasol
Los Angeles: Derrick Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Matt Barnes, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
The Grizzlies looked tired playing the 3rd game in 4 nights and at altitude in Utah. The good news is the return to sea level and an extra day off should help somewhat. The bad news is the L A Lakers are a much tougher opponent than the Utah Jazz. The Grizzlies are still trying to adjust to numerous roster changes including working Marreese Speights into the rotation, Dante Cunningham into the starting rotation and all the other new faces into the system. This team was supposed to be ready to go from the start but injuries, delays in signings and trades have made the Grizzlies one of the most changed teams in the league this season instead. With everyone getting a practice on Saturday it is hoped the Grizzlies will look a little more organized tonight but no one is expecting the continuity the team had last season in the playoffs already.
Los Angeles has had to deal with their own dramas this season as well. Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol were to be traded to New Orleans and Houston respectively for Chris Paul but the league, acting as owners of the Hornets, vetoed the deal. Lamar Odom, upon hearing the Lakers wanted him gone, demanded a trade and the Lakers agreed sending him to Dallas for basically nothing. There has been one other small change in LA, Phil Jackson, the Zen Master, is retired and Mike Brown, who last coached LeBron James in Cleveland, is in. The triangle offense is out and more one on one play from Kobe Bryant has emerged. So far Kobe has handled the change but it is not known how much longer the team can ride the back of the 33-year-old, 15 year NBA veteran. The return of Andrew Bynum, 4 game suspension to start the season, has helped the Lakers out tremendously. Still the Lakers are no longer a Western Conference favorite for the first time in years.
For Memphis to win: The Grizzlies are going to need to find a way to offset the Lakers size on the interior. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum are an intimidating duo even without the presence of Lamar Odom on the wing. Backups Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy were both rumored to be desired by Memphis but signed instead with the Lakers giving the Lakers two strong offensive players but both are limited defensively. New acquisition Marreese Speights has to show more than he did against the Utah Jazz to help offset the Lakers size.
Memphis also needs a strong game defensively from Tony Allen. Kobe Bryant’s annual new injury complaint hasn’t slowed him down yet. This time it is a wrist injury following knee, hip and finger complaints in the past. Bryant has also been served divorce papers which can be distracting for some people. Somehow, despite the wear a tear and emotional duress Bryant keeps performing like the Energizer Bunny. Allen has risen to the challenge too many times to doubt him but Kobe Bryant has a way of rising to the occasion himself.
Finally, the Grizzlies bench needs to play much better than they did against Utah. Mayo, Pondexter and Pargo, all three on their rookie contracts still, need to play like veterans and not be impressed by the theater lighting in the Staples Center. For those that don’t know the lights are turned down on the crowd to accentuate the stage effect of the game for the Lakers. It can be distracting to younger opponents who are used to seeing the crowds in the stands.
The Grizzlies will need to avoid early foul trouble on Gasol, get strong scoring off their bench and have Tony Allen shut down Kobe for the Grizzlies to have a chance.
For the Lakers to Win: No big surprise here but on defense the Lakers need Matt Barnes to step up and slow down Rudy Gay. Gay has been getting his offensive game back in order with the loss of Zach Randolph. Z-Bo’s absence costs the Grizzlies their best offensive rebounder but his absence has opened lanes previously blocked by him big backside and numerous defenders helping out on defense. Barnes, a former Grizzlies 2nd round draft pick, has always been more of an offensive player but his offense isn’t needed on the Lakers.
The Lakers big men of Bynum, Pau Gasol, and Murphy also need to contain the Grizzlies Mark Gasol. Marc Gasol is the Grizzlies only big man right now and his hands will be full trying to battle the trifecta of bigs from the Lakers but he has shown great strength this season.
On offense the Lakers will likely save Kobe for big moments and pound the ball to Pau or Bynum inside against the smaller front line. The Grizzlies have won some with the small ball lineup but the Jazz exposed that lineup Friday night. The Lakers will likely know this. Expect the tandem of Gasol and Bynum to be the focus on offense as they attempt to get Gasol in early foul trouble.
The Lakers will need Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum to live up to their hype and dominate inside, Kobe to allow others to win the game and their bench to stand up against the Grizzlies disorganized 2nd unit to win the game.
Prediction: Lakers coast to the win against the battered Grizzlies who return home for their longest home stand of the season after this game.