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Memphis Grizzlies vs. Los Angeles Lakers: Game Preview

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As 2015 gets under way, the Memphis Grizzlies hope to continue their run of success from 2014 starting with Kobe Bryant & the Los Angeles Lakers.

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
2014/15 NBA Season
vs
2014/15:
23-8 (10-4 away)
2014/15:
10-22 (4-11 road)
January 2nd, 2015
Staples Center- Los Angeles, CA
9:30 PM CDT
Fox SportSouth / 92.9 FM ESPN
Possible Starters
Mike Conley PG Ronnie Price
Courtney Lee SG Kobe Bryant
Tony Allen SF Wesley Johnson
Jon Leuer PF Ed Davis
Marc Gasol C Jordan Hill
2014/15 Advanced Stats
93.7 (27th) Pace 97.8 (7th)
106 (T-8th) OEff 103.9 (T-13th)
101.8 (11th) DEff 110.2 (30th)
49.5 (19th) RebR 48.6 (T-22nd)

INJURY REPORT:

L.A. Lakers- Ryan Kelly (hamstring) Questionable, Ed Davis (nose) Probable

Memphis Grizzlies- Zach Randolph (knee) Questionable, Marc Gasol (Illness) Probable

For more on the Los Angeles Lakers, check out SB Nation's Silver Screen and Roll

The Memphis Grizzlies, by all accounts, had a pretty darn good 2014.

Follow @sbngrizzlies

Don't just take my word for it. Check out this Tweet from Ross Wooden of the Grizzlies -

Pretty impressive stuff, an example of consistent success the likes of which has not been experienced by the Grizzlies up until this point. Behind the stellar play of Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, the steadying presence of Zach Randolph and the rest of the Bears of Beale Street, and the growth of Dave Joerger into a good-to-great NBA head coach, the city of Memphis has a winner on their hands.

Unfortunately, calendar year win percentages do not determine divisional, conference, or NBA championships. Those goals are within the Grizzlies' reach, and December's challenging schedule (11 out of 14 games against current playoff teams) has given way to a supposedly lighter January slate (7 out of 16 against current playoff teams, 8 if you include Oklahoma City at the end of the month). An 11-5, 12-4 or maybe even better month is well within the realm of possibility, further solidifying Memphis' place in the race for their first ever Southwest divisional crown (and the home court advantage in at least the 1st round that comes with it).

2015 begins with a trip out west, first against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Grizzlies have seen the Lakers twice already this season, beating them in both games by an average of 5.5 points. This is the third of four meetings with Kobe Bryant and his crew this season, and even though the Lakers are near the bottom of the Association they can be a threat, especially with the scoring talent that exists on their roster.

How can Memphis start the New Year like the old one ended? Three keys.

1. Keep the Lakers Off the Lines

The Lakers are a top-10 team in the NBA in free throw attempts per game (7th at 25.4) and three point percentage (9th at 36.5%). The weakness of their offense is in their shooting inside the three point line (26th in the NBA at 46.1%), where they have issues converting in a specific area of the court.

LAL Shot Chart

Not very efficient shooting around the free throw line and at the elbow. Defensive schemes funneling ball movement to these spots would be wise use of these shooting numbers by the Grizzlies. Stay home on shooters, rotate properly, and keep the Lakers in situations where they have struggled so far this season.

2. Attack Ed Davis

The Lakers' new starting power forward is a familiar face to Grizzlies fans. Ed Davis, who under-performed (for whatever reason) during his time in Memphis has found new opportunity in Los Angeles, and is so far making the most of it. "Boss" Davis currently boasts a career best 18.46 PER, and is rebounding the basketball well (7.1 in 23.7 minutes per game) while defending the rim and having a career best true shooting percentage of 61.8%.

He is still light in the weight/strength department, and is still not capable of hurting teams offensively from outside the paint. The Grizzlies understand these weaknesses better than anyone; Jon Leuer's face-up game will bring Davis outside the lane, Jarnell Stokes or Kosta Koufos' size would cause issues for Ed, and Davis' offensive skill set is not advanced enough to take advantage of potential athleticism mismatches in the post against those players or even Tayshaun Prince in situations.

He is the Lakers' best rim defender. Get him frustrated and out of the game early, and force Carlos Boozer and others to play more so that the lane can belong to Memphis all night.

3. Control the Boards

How do the Lakers make up for their low two-point shooting percentage? By shooting a LOT. LA is second in the NBA in shot attempts per game at 87.1, and that plus their top-ten PACE rating means faster tempo and shots early in possessions. Forcing the Lakers to play a half-court game and execute offensive sets would mean a lot of Kobe Bryant isolation plays, and a lot of heaves from players like Nick Young. Neither player could be confused for a model of offensive efficiency, so there will be plenty of chances for rebounds. On the defensive end, limiting the inefficient Lakers to one shot possessions will allow for the Grizzlies to dictate the tempo. Offensively, Memphis can garner multiple chances for themselves against a team that is ranked 25th in the NBA in defensive rebounds per game.

The Prediction

This is one of those games that Memphis should win handily, but probably won't. Kobe is a competitor, and even in a down year, his will can lead a team to being competitive against anyone. The Grizzlies will lean on strong performances from Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, as well as another more treat-than-trick game from Tony Alllen against a big name like Kobe, on their way to another win in LA-LA land.

Memphis 103, LA Lakers 95