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Memphis Grizzlies vs. Los Angeles Lakers: Game Preview

Wednesday night the Memphis Grizzlies take on the Los Angeles Lakers in the Grindhouse looking to start to make a run at the playoffs. The only problem with that is, as Memphis finds success so does its competition for the 6th-8th seeds in the West. The Grizzlies must take care of their own business on the court, however, otherwise any amount of scoreboard watching will matter.

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
2013/2014 NBA Season
31-24 (16-14 home)
Lost 1
19-38 (10-20 road)
Lost 2
February 26th, 2014
FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
7:00 PM CDT
Fox SportsSouth/ 92.9 FM ESPN
Possible Starters
Mike Conley PG Kendall Marshall
Courtney Lee SG Jodie Meeks
Tayshaun Prince SF Kent Bazemore
Zach Randolph PF Wesley Johnson
Marc Gasol C Pau Gasol
2013/14 Advanced Stats
91.9 (30th) Pace 99.9 (2nd)
101.9 (21st) OEff 100.8 (22nd)
101.9 (8th) DEff 105.9 (24th)

Injury Report:

Memphis- Quincy Pondexter (Out, Foot)

Los Angeles- Kobe Bryant (Out, Knee), Steve Nash (Day-to-Day, Back), Xavier Henry (Out, Knee), Nick Young (Out, Knee)

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

That's the sound of time running out on the season for the Memphis Grizzlies. Even though many of us can likely remember opening night against the Spurs like it was yesterday, amazingly there are only 7 weeks left, starting tonight, of Memphis Grizzlies regular season basketball. 7 weeks, 49 days, 27 games; however you measure it, time is slipping away.

While the Memphis Grizzlies have been one of the hottest teams in the league over the past 20 games (15-5 in that stretch), their competition for a playoff birth has not cooled off enough to make up ground. The Dallas Mavericks (13-7), Phoenix Suns (12-8) and Golden State Warriors (11-9) all have played above .500 ball and have been able to hold off the Grizzlies for the time being. As long as the teams in front of Memphis do not suffer a major slip-up, the spots in the playoffs are theirs to lose.

Given this situation, scoreboard watching does little or no good for the Memphis Grizzlies. Unless Memphis wins, and wins a lot, it will not matter how many games their opponents win or lose. The focus at this point and time needs to be on improving the Memphis Grizzlies, not on hoping that the Suns, Warriors and Mavericks fall. The Grizzlies must control what they can control, and that is their effort and execution on any given night.

That effort continues tonight against the struggling Los Angeles Lakers. 3 keys to victory:

Limit Pau

Whether it is in winning or losing efforts, Pau Gasol has been a real factor for the Lakers this season. Before he was injured heading in to the All-Star Break, he was on a tear; in 15 January games Pau averaged 21 points on 51% shooting with 12 rebounds. He is certainly not the player he once was, a certifiably dangerous Robin to Kobe's Batman, but as the Lakers best player he is capable of putting up big numbers if you allow him to.

Pau's "little" brother Marc and Kosta Koufos will be key to limiting Pau's effectiveness. Keep him out of the paint and force him to fade away on shots, not giving him a clean look at the basket. If the Grizzlies can keep Pau off the glass and out of the lane, they will find success tonight.

Play Your Pace

The Lakers are in the business of pushing the tempo. They are 2nd in the NBA in pace, and they hope to get out and run in Coach Mike D'Antoni's system. This is not Grizzlies basketball as this roster is currently shaped. Especially if the Lakers try to go small for extended periods of time, Memphis need to make L.A. pay. Zach Randolph should touch the ball every possession to start the game if the Lakers start Wesley Johnson at the 4, as they did against the Nets recently.

Despite the best efforts of Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman, Koufos and Ed Davis/James Johnson at the 4 should have no problem using their athleticism and size to disrupt and disturb the offensive flow of the Lakers. The Grizzlies need to play within themselves, limit turnovers and ensure that the Lakers cannot play the pace they want to. If Memphis controls the tempo, they will win.

Stay on Shooters

The return of Tony Allen, while it has been nice to see him back, reminds me of issues from the first Lakers game this season. The Lakers will launch from three point land, whether it is Jodie Meeks, Wesley Johnson, Kent Bazemore or a number of their bench players. Jodie Meeks went OFF against the Grizzlies in November, scoring 25 points including five 3 pointers made on the night. It took a Herculean effort from Zach Randolph for the Grizzlies to salvage a victory.

Fast forward to the end of February, and the Grizzlies would be wise to learn from past mistakes. If the Lakers are going to beat you, make them do it inside the arc. Allowing open three point shots to these Lakers will not end well for Memphis.

The Prediction

Especially after the tough loss in Charlotte last Saturday the Grizzlies need a strong week. A strong start would be beneficial to going on a run, especially heading into Oklahoma City on Friday night. Memphis will ride Zach Randolph and the bench energy of Tony Allen and James Johnson to a big win at home.

Memphis 104, LA Lakers 93