Things are seemingly going from bad to worse for the Lakers as they continue to flounder on the road. Tonight things don’t get any easier when they face one of the best in the West. The Grizzlies are a great team who are 15-6 on their home floor.
Back in November the Grizzlies defeated the Lakers 106-98. One saving grace for the Lakers could be that the Grizzlies recently made a minor trade for salary cap reasons and the chemistry in their locker room has been slightly shaken. Nevertheless, the Grizzlies didn’t lose any key players and the Lakers will have their work cut out for them tonight.
Frontcourt: Coach D’Antoni might want to consider using Gasol more than 26 minutes off the bench tonight since the Grizzlies have Zach Randolph at the four who will be able to bully Earl Clark in the post. Randolph is a physically imposing player at 6’9, 260 lbs. and he’s pulling down 11.6 boards per game.
At center, Pau’s younger brother Marc will be a formidable matchup for Dwight Howard. Marc is averaging 13.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks for the season. An often overlooked stat for a center, Marc is also averaging 3.5 assists which means that he is one of the best passing big men in the league. Marc recorded eight assists against the Lakers in their last meeting.
Recently discussed in possible trade scenarios, Rudy Gay seems to be staying put in Memphis after the Grizzlies dealt a few bench players to get under the salary cap. Gay is the Grizzlies leading scorer with 17.5 points and he’s never afraid to take a shot when the pressure is on. Gay has struggled with his field goal percentage this season and is only hitting a shade over 41% of his shots. Hopefully MWP can make life difficult for the talented forward. Off the bench, forward Darrell Arthur is a solid rebounder and potential shot blocker.
Backcourt: The Lakers have been getting killed by point guards and Mike Conley is going to give them fits tonight. Conley loves to penetrate and dish, but his best asset is his on-ball defense. Conley leads his team with 2.4 steals a game and will try to make life hard for Steve Nash tonight. At the two, Tony Allen is a defensive specialist who will get the undesirable task of guarding Kobe Bryant tonight. In their first meeting this season, Allen limited Kobe to 7 -23 shooting, but Kobe was able to get to the line 14 times and ultimately ended up with 30 points.
Backup point guard Jerryd Bayless is the type of guard who can give the Lakers trouble with his size. Bayless is bigger, stronger and faster than Nash who is already a poor defender to begin with. The Lakers cannot afford to overlook Bayless just because he only plays 18 minutes per game.
Key to Lakers’ Victory:
Kobe’s Shot Selection – In the past three games Kobe is shooting 31.6% from the field. To make matters worse, Kobe has attempted 79 shots from the field in that stretch while only attempting eight free throws. No that wasn’t a typo, Kobe has only attempted eight free throws total over the past three games. Contrast that with his career average of 7.6 free throw attempts per game and you’ll understand the brevity of the situation.
I will never be the one to demean any of Kobe’s greatness and I am of the opinion that he is one of the best shooting guards to ever play the game. That being said, Kobe is playing like crap lately and is taking way too many contested jumpers. He needs to put his head down, drive to the rim and get to the charity stripe. Kobe is a career 83.8% free throw shooter and should be able to increase his scoring efficiency via free throws rather than forcing up jumpers a midst a crowd of double and triple teams. Bottom line, Kobe needs to assert himself as a leader and not allow his play to negatively impact the team.
Lock Down Conley – The Lakers guards can’t seem to stop any point guards recently. Even the offensively challenged Kirk Hinrich had the best game of this season against the Lakers with 22 points, eight assists and seven boards. One day earlier, Calderon logged 22 points and nine assists as the Raptors defeated the Lakers.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Mike Conley is quicker and more athletic than Hinrich or Calderon. Things could go very poorly for the Lakers tonight if they can’t figure out a way to slowdown Conley. Nash is clearly not the solution, so perhaps they will have to ask Dwight to come out and hedge on screens. Clearly, something will need to change in the Lakers approach to guarding point guards since what they are doing is not working.
Limit Turnovers – I’ll cut to the chase: The Grizzlies are second in the league with 9.2 steals per game and the Lakers are one of the worst in the league with 15 turnovers per game. The Lakers will need to make a concerted effort to take care of the ball tonight if they hope to steal a victory on the Grizzlies home court.
Los Angeles Lakers (18-23) at Memphis Grizzlies (26-14)
5:00 PM PST, January 23, 2013
FedExForum, Memphis, Tennessee
TV: TWC Sports Network
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Grizzlies Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Mike Conley
SG: Tony Allen
SF: Rudy Gay
PF: Zach Randolph
C: Marc Gasol
Key Reserves: FC: Darrell Arthur PG: Jerryd Bayless