This used to be a game where the contending Lakers would try to keep down the up-n-coming Grizz. It was also once a contest that featured an All-Star Gasol vs his younger, role-playing brother.
How times have changed.
Memphis is 26-14 and L.A. is 17-24. Pau has been relegated to role player status on his team while Marc is a star who usually initiates the offense.
The Grizzlies needs to jump on this fragile group early. The Lakers got 'grinded' last night in Chicago so they'll probably bring good energy to start the game. Last time these two teams met, the second quarter was pretty bad for the Lakers. With Tuesday's salary-clearing trade combined with the fact that Pau is now coming off the bench for Mike D'Antoni (assuming he doesn't flip flop again), the battle of the second-units may be a draw. A strong start will be big. Darrell Arthur will likely draw the older Gasol in this one. The way DA is playing, I almost want to say advantage Memphis.
With Earl Clark now starting at PF, the gameplan should again be to pound the Lakers inside. The way Howard is picking up fouls, he'll be taking his first seat before D'Antoni does. Mike had Metta World Peace guard Carlos Boozer on Monday night, so Lionel should be ready for a possible cross-match. This could create some run outs, an easy thing to do on the Lakers these days.
Nash will also probably guard Tony Allen, while Kobe checks Conley. The Grizzlies starting backcourt needs to be aggressive in this one. The Memphis frontline struggled on MLK Day vs Indiana. Then again, the Lakers defense is nowhere near Frank Vogel's. Still, the guards may need to take pressure off the 'bigs' to help the Grizz as they push through the dog days of the NBA season.
A strong first half will be key in this game. If this fragile group of Laker 'stars' is in the game late, they'll grow confidence. But if you step on them early, they will buckle.
Like a cheap imitation Gucchi belt.