Yes, the Grizzlies lost earlier in the week to the Denver Nuggets, but that doesn't mean the bottom has fallen out. They enter tonight's game against the Lakers with an 8-2 record, atop the Southwest Division and in the midst of a 5-game homestand.
The Lakers are going through a mini identity crisis, as was evident in their loss to the Kings on Wednesday night, thanks in part because they now have a new coach (Mike D'Antoni) and a new system to, well, learn. Such, this is professional sports and it's not going to take long at all for the Lakers to hit their stride.
We actually match-up pretty well against the Lakers. We're one of the few teams in the NBA who can counter their size inside, thanks to our frontcourt trio of Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay.
It's going to be a tough matchup for Gay, seeing as well as Meta World Peace is playing right now, and of course Marc v. Dwight should be a battle.
With Kobe Bryant, who is playing great basketball as usual, it's going to be on Tony Allen and, to a lesser extent, Quincy Pondexter and Rudy Gay, to keep him in check. The concern is in the second unit guys -- I can imagine what Kobe can and will do to Jerryd Bayless and Wayne Ellington. We probably won't see many Mike Conley-Bayless sets, because of the defensive matchup.
A major key is going to be Conley's game and how he can take advantage of the underwhelming point guard presence in Los Angeles. Chris Duhon and Darius Morris shouldn't pose much of a threat to Conley. In this game, he's going to need to elevate. Whether it's getting to the hoop and scoring or penetrating, causing a collapse, and then kicking.
A lot will ride on Conley tonight.
The Lakers bench has been underwhelming this year, so our second unit will be key. And in a turn of good-great-amazing news, according to our friend Ron Tillery, Darrell Arthur will make his debut tonight. This is some much-needed news, especially as we look a spot further down the line and try to work our bench into the rotation more and more, giving guys like Z-Bo and Gasol some rest.
The Lakers are obviously a good defensive team, anchored by Dwight Howard, and they also possess the top rebounding team when it comes to limiting their opponents. They allow just 39 rebounds per game to opposing teams. To that, they cough the ball up a lot. They are 26th in the league, allowing 9.0 steals per game. That should play into our defensive strengths.
Tonight's not going to be easy by any means. However, I think it's going to be a closer matchup than anyone would have pegged it as some four weeks ago. In fact, I think we're the better team -- considering the point guard situation in Los Angeles.
Do I think that means we'll win? Well, I think we have better than a 50-50 shot, so, yeah I think we're the favorites to win -- especially at home -- but it's not going to be east. Then again, it never is when the other team has Kobe Bryant on their side.
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