When: Friday, November 15th, 9:30 PM CST
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Looks like the “ghosts of Grizzlies past” are coming back to haunt us this week. Wednesday it was Rudy Gay and the Raptors coming to town, while tonight the Grizz trek out to meet our old friend Pau Gasol and the Lakers. The Grizzlies come into this one 3-5, but it feels more like 1-7, with the only real emphatic victory coming against the Golden State Warriors. Looking back, there are a myriad of explanations for why things have gone so sour on Beale St.. Looking ahead, the Lakers appear to be a welcomed opponent on paper, and this game will be important to establish some momentum to ride off of. This matchup is the first of a grueling four game road trip spanning the next 6 days, so expect Coach Joerger to continue looking for the contribution of a 10-deep rotation until they head back home to face the Spurs next Friday. Rough waters ahead.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Steve Blake
Steve Blake was the Lakers’ hero of the Houston game with a buzzer-beating three ball, and really has not looked back ever since. Shockingly, he has been the more productive “Steve” for the Lakers, as Nash is once again dealing with injury issues slowing him down. Blake comes into tonight’s match averaging 13.2 points and 7.8 assists through his last five, and is thriving in the Lakers’ more “Mike D’Antoni” system this season. Blake will be a sneakily difficult matchup for Conley, but number 11 has been the Grizzlies’ best player so far, and shows no signs of letting up.
Tony Allen vs Jodie Meeks
If you’re sitting high in the bleachers or far away from the television set, and neglect to put on your specs, you may mistake Jodie Meeks for Kobe Bryant and wonder how he is back on the court already. With a shaved head, similar build, and deceptive choice of wristband, Meeks has had me fooled a number of times. Of course, once you see him play, or more logically the camera zooms in, you come to your senses. Meeks, like most gunners, is awfully streaky, but when he’s on, he’s the prototypical D’Antoni two-guard and you cannot entirely sleep on him. With him as an assignment, Tony Allen should get his mojo back defensively.
Tayshaun Prince vs Wesley Johnson
Wesley Johnson leads a group of early draft pick reclamation projects on this Lakers roster. Coming into the league, Johnson projected as a versatile wing in the Shawn Marion mold, but flamed out in Minnesota as little more than another tweener. Now, getting a chance to really play with the Lakers, he is beginning to show shades of the promise that the Wolves saw in him when they made him the 4th overall pick in 2010, highlighted by his 5 block, 3 steal performance against Denver on Wednesday. Prince is still in the process of working himself back into game shape after missing the preseason with a stomach bug, but looked better than he had in any previous game that wasn’t against Golden State on Wednesday night versus the Raptors. Now, the fact that a 6 point, 3 rebound, 4 assist performance holds as one of his better outings should tell you all you need to know about the way the season has gone, but I’m confident that he will be able to pull it together in time, and the Grizzlies really need him to perform.
Advantage: Los Angeles
Zach Randolph vs Jordan Hill
Jordan Hill was recently moved into the Lakers’ starting lineup and in the two game sample has been putting up some powerful results. In his first two games as part of the starting unit, the University of Arizona product has boasted robust lines of 21 and 11, and 18 and 15 points and rebounds respectively, and has yet to shoot less than 50% from the field in any game this season. I’m going to try not to read into this absurdly small sample too much and will favor Randolph in the matchup, but it really would not be too far fetched for Hill to give him hell tonight.
Marc Gasol vs Pau Gasol
The Super Gasol Bros.! There’s a part of me that lives in a fantasy world and is 100 percent certain that the sole reason D’Antoni moved Jordan Hill into the starting lineup a few games ago was to ensure that this matchup became a reality tonight. Okay, that part of me is going to go play some video games. On a serious note, this should be a very interesting matchup. Beginning with Marc, the Grizzlies have seemed out of focus and out of touch, but something tells me that Marc is going to bring his A-game against big brother Pau and the team that traded his rights. Maybe this is the swift kick in the you know what needed to wake Marc, and in turn the Grizzlies, up for this west coast trip.
Turns out Mr. Pau Gasol is not the only familiar face playing for the bad guys in tonight’s game. Xavier Henry’s got a revenge agenda of his own to push against our Grizzlies as a member of the Lakers. Henry took the basketball audience by storm with his breakout performance in the opening night battle of LA, but has inevitably regressed to the mean ever since, aside from a monster jam over Jeff Whithey. Henry may catch a few teams off guard with his strength and slashing ability, but he is a straight-line driver with a sketchy jumper. He’s joined off the bench by Jordan Farmar, Swaggy P, and the displaced Chris Kaman. The Grizzlies’ bench has been struggling mightily of late, but this could be a game for them to get out and showcase why they had the fan base excited going into the year.