The main difference maker in the NBA playoffs last year depended on if LeBron James was your teams conference. If you were in the East your team would not make it to the Finals. Since the L.A. Bron era in Los Angeles began, it hurts the chances of the Western Conference powerhouse teams. Time will tell during the season.
Sliver Screen and Roll writer Sabreena Merchant discussed the upcoming matchup and the Lakers hot streak.
West…Kareem….Magic….Shaq…..Kobe and now LeBron… what is your take on the Lakers season with the top talent playing for them?
I grew up rooting for the Lakers with Kobe and Shaq, so these last few years have been a little strange with the team having no All-Stars. Having LeBron on the team, especially when he takes over in the fourth quarter of close games, feels a lot like how things used to be. The Lakers definitely have their swagger back, there is a little more energy around the team, and they’re back in the national conversation on a regular basis. That probably sounds a little homer-y, but there’s a reason it’s called Lakers exceptionalism.
What matchups could change the game for the Lakers vs Grizzlies?
On a macro scale, both Los Angeles and Memphis are better on the defensive end, so the challenge will be seeing which team can break through on offense. The Lakers have shored up their defense recently with the addition of Tyson Chandler, but they are still liable to have difficulties against centers who can stretch the floor, like Nikola Vucevic and Nikola Jokic. Marc Gasol could thus be a tough cover for both JaVale McGee and Chandler. I’m also interested in how Kyle Kuzma will fare against Jaren Jackson, Jr. Kuzma is a remarkably skilled power forward, but Jackson is one of the better defenders at that position. The matchup of Kyle Anderson versus LeBron James will likely go a long way to determining how well the Lakers can score against the Grizzlies. Anderson has historically had success against longer wings like Kevin Durant, and looked pretty good against Kawhi Leonard last week, but LeBron’s physicality should create an advantage.
Besides the two stars, this team is stacked with players like Ingram, Kuzma, Beasley, KCP and more. What can the Grizzlies do to slow them down?
The Grizzlies have a ton of big guards, so their best defense is probably clogging the passing lanes and preventing the Lakers’ scorers from even getting the ball. That will be difficult when LeBron is on the floor, because he does the majority of ball-handling, but when Lonzo is running the offense they should try to force him to score instead of letting him distribute to the rest of the bench. The Los Angeles forwards are a little bit quicker than their Memphis counterparts, so the Grizzlies would do well to slow the game down.
The Lakers are off to a strong start, currently in the middle of the Western Conference rankings. What factors including LeBron have been key to the Lakers success?
The defense has been much better than expected for Los Angeles. The Lakers have the 8th-ranked defensive rating in the league, and the third best since they signed Chandler. They contest shots really well at the rim, even though they allow teams to get into the paint a little too easily, and they don’t concede too many 3-pointers. One of the worries heading into the season was that the defensive improvement the team showed last season under Luke Walton would be undone by the offseason acquisitions, but the Lakers have done better than expected on that end, and that’s the main reason they’re winning so many games.
Do the Los Angeles Lakers have a chance to win the Western Conference with LeBron and Lonzo at the helm with their stacked roster?
As long as Steph Curry is healthy, probably not. But I like the Lakers’ chances against just about every other team in the West, especially if Lonzo and Ingram can figure out how to score more efficiently as the season goes on.
The Memphis Grizzlies will face the Los Angeles Lakers on December 8. The game starts at 7:00 pm.
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