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Memphis Grizzlies vs. Los Angeles Lakers MLK Day Game Preview

The Grizzlies are back playing on this important day, as they should be. Can they beat the young Lakers?

Memphis Grizzlies Host MLK Holiday Brunch Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

WHO- Memphis Grizzlies (13-28, 8-13 home) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (15-27, 6-13 road)

WHERE- FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee

WHEN- 4:30 PM CT

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN- TNT, FOX Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis

Injury Report-

LOS ANGELES- Brandon Ingram (Questionable, ankle), Lonzo Ball (Questionable, knee), Larry Nance Jr. (Probable, cut)

MEMPHIS- Mike Conley (Out, heel), Chandler Parsons (Out, knee)


LOS ANGELES- Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Brook Lopez

MEMPHIS- Tyreke Evans, Andrew Harrison, Dillon Brooks, JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol

Usually when two teams with below a 36% winning percentage meet up in the middle of January, very few people care or pay attention. Two bad squads, two paths to the NBA Lottery, two sides already playing out the slate as the NBA heads in to the second half of its season.

But this is no ordinary game. Not in Memphis.

Today the Grizzlies take the court against the Lakers on a very solemn occasion. From FOX Sports Southeast on their coverage for the game-

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, January 15, FOX Sports Southeast will deliver seven hours of MLK-related coverage within the Grizzlies telecast. Featured content will include NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA President Michele Roberts touring the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, a guided tour of former NBA player and current FOX Sports analyst Mike “Stinger” Glenn’s robust historical civil rights art and literature collection in Atlanta, and live look-ins to the National Civil Rights Museum as well as The King Center and Ebenezer Baptist Church, also in Atlanta.

In addition, the network will have live coverage of the Grizzlies’ Earl Lloyd Sports Legacy Symposium at 3:00 p.m. CT, prior to the Grizzlies telecast. Hosted by FOX Sports Southeast’s play-by-play announcer Pete Pranica, the symposium will feature WNBA and NBA greats Swin Cash, Penny Hardaway, Sam Perkins and James Worthy.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Memphis means more.

It is the site of the assassination of Dr. King 50 years ago. It is the location of the National Civil Rights Museum, made in part by the Lorraine Motel where he was slain. It is where the past of the civil rights movement meets the present in so many ways. The scars of Jim Crow and segregation are still very visible in Memphis. Whether it is in a statue coming down or a city struggling to quiet crime and economic issues, the struggle and pursuit of King’s dream is more clear in Memphis than just about everywhere else in this nation.

So when the Grizzlies don their “I Am a Man” uniforms today, it isn’t a statement of style.

It is a lesson in the economic injustice that King was so passionate about at the end of his career. It is an example of living history, of a movement of people that is lived on in the sons and daughters of those who sacrificed so much. And it is a passionate statement of the work that is yet to be done, both in Memphis and the country at large. The power of this day and what it represents cannot be overstated.

It is more than a game. The totality of the day is a remembrance of where we have been, and a powerful reminder of where we must continue to march toward in order to make a better country for our children and those yet to come.

This is about far more than basketball. But here is what Memphis must do to win the basketball game that is the thing people will tune in to watch.

Keep LA Off the Boards

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Lakers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Lakers are the top rebounding team in the entire NBA at 46.7 boards per contest. They are especially good at offensive rebounding, where they are 4th in the Association with 11.2 per contest. This is a problem for the Grizzlies, who ranks 29th overall in the NBA at 39.9 rebounds per game and defensive rebounds in particular at 31.1 per game. If the Lakers are able to establish their dominance on the glass the Grizzlies will not get many second chance rebounds, and they will be giving LA far too many for them to win.

Keeping perimeter players like Lonzo Ball (7 boards per game) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (5.4 rebounds per game) will be especially important. It’ll be a long night for Memphis if they can have their way around the rim cleaning the glass.

Make Them Take/Hope You Make Some Threes

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Lakers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the talent of players like KCP, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma, the Lakers rank dead last in three point percentage at 32.8%. Yes, someone is worse at threes than Memphis (34.9%, 27th in the NBA). The key, however, is in how poorly the Grizzlies defend the three compared to the Lakers. Memphis allows 37.6% conversion from beyond the arc, 27th in the NBA, whereas the Lakers only allow 34.3%, which is 3rd in the Association. The Lakers use their length and athleticism well to challenge long-range jumpers, whereas the Grizzlies...well, they don’t.

Knowing that the Grizzlies are driven by dribble penetration (Evans) and skilled big play (Gasol), the Lakers surely will try to collapse on these two. When they move the ball, they bet they can plant to react outside on open shooters, knowing they have the skill to pull it off and the Grizzlies don’t have the shooters to make L.A. pay. Memphis needs the JaMychal Green’s, James Ennis III’s, and Dillon Brooks’ of the world to have big games on the perimeter.

The Prediction

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Lakers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Grizzlies are 2-4 in their last 6 MLK Day Celebration games, and the Lakers are more skilled than Memphis is at this time with both Conley and Parsons out due to injury. But this game will come down to the fourth quarter, and the Grizzlies have the better players in those moments at this time in Marc Gasol and Tyreke Evans. Neither team will shine too brightly in this battle of bad basketball teams, but the veterans will grind their way to a win at home.

Come for the game, but get in a bit early to watch the total televised event. The schedule is below. It is well worth your time- the Grizzlies do a remarkable job with the symposium and all the weekend events building up to this important day.

Memphis 103, LA Lakers 99

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