Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Lakers: Game Preview, TV, Radio and Roster

USA TODAY Sports

Memphis begins a four game West Coast road trip tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers. This early season swing out West is a test of the Grizzlies' questionable mental toughness with which they've recently affiliated themselves.

2013/2014 NBA Season
vs
3-5 (0-3 road)
Lost 2
4-6 (3-2 home)
Lost 1
November 15th, 2013
Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA
9:30 PM CST
Fox SportsSouth/ 92.9 FM ESPN
Possible Starters
Mike Conley PG Steve Blake
Tony Allen SG Jodie Meeks
Tayshaun Prince SF Wesley Johnson
Zach Randolph PF Pau Gasol
Marc Gasol C Jordan Hill
2013/14 Advanced Stats
94.8 (27th) Pace 102.8 (1st)
97.6 (23th) OEff 97.0 (25th)
104.5 (26th) DEff 102.5 (19th)

Injury Report:

Memphis: Quincy Pondexter (Questionable, Nose)

Los Angeles: Steve Nash (Out, Back) Pau Gasol (Probable, Foot)

Have you ever felt like you're beating you head against the wall?

I have had that feeling several times in the last 36 hours. Whether it is trying to understand where the defensive studs Tony Allen and Marc Gasol have run off to, why some people hate Ed Davis with such passion or how "Grit and Grind" can be proclaimed dead 8 games into a season, there have been plenty of discussion points and frustrating moments both at the work place and in cyber space when it comes to Grizzly conversation. The struggle is real, and it is currently tough in these Grizzly streets.

While these past 8 games (and the last 2 preseason games) have gone pretty poorly, hopefully most Grizzlies fans will continue to be patient. The roster's major issues appear to be with adapting to a new head coach, and this is understandable. Dave Joerger is not Lionel Hollins; to many, this is a blessing. To a growing population of Grizzlies fans, this is a rapidly developing concern.

As Coach Joerger finds a way to get the roster to fully accept his vision and better understands how to run rotations at the NBA level, the team will improve. There is plenty of blame to go around for this below expectations beginning to the season. This four game road trip to California, which is detailed here, can be a very good thing for reviving team camaraderie and forcing them to come together under this new head coach. It could also be a disaster.

This road trip is a potential disaster that hopefully will result in the team coming together and finding ways to win tough games.

The road to that outcome starts this evening in a late tip with the Lakers. The mighty Purple and Gold have fallen on tough times; Kobe Bryant has been out all season rehabbing a torn Achilles' tendon. There were rumors that Bryant was targeting this very game to return, but recently Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak stated that it was likely that he would not return to the Lakers' lineup until around Thanksgiving at the earliest. That, along with Steve Nash's injury and rapid aging, Pau Gasol's slow start and the departure of Dwight Howard for Houston this past Summer all have made the Lakers vulnerable.

It has also led to them playing as if they have nothing to lose. The king of swag Nick Young is launching shots, about 10 a game in 23 minutes. Xavier Henry (yes, THAT Xavier Henry) is getting good run for these Lakers, shooting poorly (39%) but proving capable of getting good minutes off the bench. Two of the biggest positives for the Lakers have been Steve Blake and Jordan Hill. Hill is averaging 9 points and 8 rebounds in 18 minutes, while Steve Blake has filled in for Nash nicely. 10 points, 6 assists on almost 50% shooting from three point land.

The Lakers are down, but they are capable of beating anyone. They beat Houston on the road with this shot (over Dwight Howard no less), and dominated a Pelicans team that dominated the Grizzlies. This is a winnable game, but only if the Grizzlies play to their capabilities.

Players to Watch-

  • The Lakers depend heavily upon Pau to deliver scoring punch. How he responds to basically being the main man until Kobe returns remains to be seen. It has not started well, as he is shooting 39% currently from the floor. If you shut down Pau, the options really run low for these Lakers.
  • Blake, Hill, Henry and Young cannot consistently win games for these Lakers. You limit Pau, you limit LA. Also keep an eye out for Chris Kaman, who has been coming of the bench for the Lakers but is averaging 9 points and 6 boards. If you combined Hill and Kaman, they would make a formidable center. Marc Gasol will have his work cut out for him.
  • As of right now, this is not Zach Randolph's team. It is not Marc Gasol's team. It is Mike Conley's team. While Steve Blake is a longer PG, and Conley has struggled with those in the past, there is no reason for Mike Conley to not abuse his on the dribble drive and pick and roll this evening.
  • Look for Mike and Marc to really work this combination tonight; if defenders crash the paint, Mike can pass back out to Marc and Gasol can make the extra pass to a slasher or shooter in the corner or hit that mid-range jumper. Enabling Mike to be in position to make plays and facilitate for others is key to the first two games of this California trip, especially.

Keys to the Contest:

  1. Play within yourselves. The Lakers are going to try to push the tempo under Mike D'Antoni. They currently lead the league in PACE, so the Grizzlies, while playing faster, need to be sure to not give this Lakers roster easy baskets and not force things. Make them earn buckets in the half court sets and outside of their comfort zone.
  2. Punch first. The radio voice of the Grizzlies Eric Hasseltine explained it though being in a fight. When you're about to fight, you want to deliver the first punch. That way, it is up to the other person to respond, to see what they are made of. The Grizzlies are one of the worst 1st quarter teams in the NBA so far this season; the team is not responding to getting punched. The energy and intensity needs to be there from the get go tonight. Punch first, make the Lakers respond.
  3. Rotate efficiently. Coach Joerger needs to make sure that pairings full rosters are constructive and complimentary. I covered some of the drawbacks to Randolph and Davis earlier in the preseason, and then yesterday, in his Hatewatch of the Raptors game, Matt discussed the stretch of basketball where the game was lost during a Davis/ZBo pairing. These two should be together in very limited minutes, if at all. Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince should play limited minutes together, even though they are starters. Spacing and communication are key, and part of this is having the right bodies and minds out on the court together.

The Prediction:

Memphis starts fast, attacking the paint through Zach Randolph and Mike Conley. Mike Miller and Ed Davis have strong outings and Marc Gasol rises to the occasion against big brother.

Memphis Grizzlies 97, L.A. Lakers 91.

A late night in Memphis. Hopefully the Beale Street Bears start the weekend off right.

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