WHERE: Staples Center in Los Angeles, California
WHEN: 9:30 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH: Fox Sports Southeast/ 92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS- Mike Conley (Out, Left Heel), JaMychal Green (Out, Right Knee), Wayne Selden Jr. (Out, Right Quad)
LOS ANGELES- Lonzo Ball (Out, Shoulder), Brook Lopez (Out, Ankle), Brandon Ingram (Questionable, Quad)
MEMPHIS- Tyreke Evans, Andrew Harrison, Dillon Brooks, Chandler Parsons, Marc Gasol
LOS ANGELES- Jordan Clarkson, Kentavius Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Andrew Bogut
The Grizzlies continue their five-game West Coast trip heading to Los Angeles quickly after a late night in Phoenix. It will be their second contest of the season after the Lakers took down the Grizzlies 107-102 back in early November. The Lakers are coming off a home loss to the Timberwolves on Christmas Day. For Memphis, they’ll be playing following a embarrassing loss last night to the Suns. After one of the worst ways to lose I have ever seen in the NBA, it’ll have to be a quick turnaround for this Grizzlies team.
Unfortunately for Coach Bickerstaff, with Mike Conley out, this matchup will be very different from the one last November. Lonzo Ball will also be a no-show, in addition to Brook Lopez who went off last game. Now, some new faces have shown up for Los Angeles as of late such as Kyle Kuzma and Julius Randle.
A road back-to-back is not an easy task for any team, but playing in the Staples Center brings the best out of everyone. With the next game not til the 30th in San Francisco, the team will be excited to give it all in front of an LA crowd then going out in the city after the game. It will hopefully bring out the best from certain players. I’m looking at you Chandler Parsons.
Here are two things to note before tonight’s matchup:
The Lakers Rookie Class
The Lakers are a fun, young team that has shown to be a tough game for anyone that comes into the Staples Center. They do not have a 2018 draft pick, so they have no reason to lose games this year. Specifically, we’ve seen this from the encouraging development from their rookie class. Everyone knows Lonzo Ball (who luckily will not be playing), but the real sneaky talent has been from Kyle Kuzma and even some hard producing minutes from Josh Hart.
Josh Hart has not quite found his stride on this team. With Brandon Ingram starting in front of him, his minutes have been restricted from the beginning of the season. However, when he has had his opportunity on the floor, he gives you the same intensity on both sides as we saw with him at Villanova. If Ingram is out, he may get his shot against the Grizz.
As for Kuzma, he is the real deal. Kuz has a shot at Rookie of the Year, and he wasn’t even the top pick from the Lakers. He is averaging 18.1 points and 6.7 rebounds this season without being a real factor in the first few weeks of the season. Once given his opportunity, he shined.
If the Grizzlies go small without Green, Parsons is going to have a struggle on the defensive side of the ball with the explosiveness from Kuzma. Bickerstaff is going to have to have a strategy for him without Parsons because Wright will not have a chance to stay in front. It will be very fascinating to see how Memphis schemes against Kuzma.
Controlling the Paint
With Brook Lopez out, Gasol should feast against the Lakers roster. Bogut is not a threat that other bigs could be. Gasol will be wanting to make up for his uncanny late-game turnover last night. Even as Kuzma is a threat offensively, he is an undersized 4 that should not affect a Marc dominating night.
Marc Gasol, without JaMychal Green, has all the space to himself especially in a small ball lineup with Parsons at the 4. He will be heavily relied on for the rebounding in tonight’s game.
Another player who can help in the paint is Brandan Wright. Personally, after last night, I believe he should never be allowed to walk on a basketball court again, but I guess he can help out on the boards against an undersized Los Angeles lineup. After his cold corpse left was on the court in Phoenix, he needs to redeem himself and quickly. He could easily do this by putting up big numbers tonight.
My prediction is that the Grizzlies will lose this one at the Staples Center. The Lakers have been playing like a different team in these past five games. They haven’t always been pulling out the wins, but the team has competed against the best teams in the league.
Plus, the Grizzlies have just looked lost. The way the team lost last night against the Suns will not be forgotten about by game time. Also, Kobi Simmons being a big part of last night’s loss minutes wise says a lot. The team just doesn’t have it to compete each night, tonight will show that. I see Chandler Parsons having a big night for him, but the contribution will not be enough.
Spread: N/A. After a close game all the way through, I see the Lakers pulling away at the end. They are just playing better basketball. The Grizzlies may have a fun night out after, but it will not be before taking another loss on the season.
Los Angeles- 113, Memphis- 102
Stats provided by NBA.com