WHEN: 9:30 PM Central
WHERE: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: NBATV/Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant (Ankle, Probable), Kyle Anderson (Calf, Questionable)
L.A. LAKERS: DeMarcus Cousins (Out, Knee), Talen Horton-Tucker (Out, Foot), Kyle Kuzma (Out, Ankle) Rajon Rondo (Questionable, Calf)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Jae Crowder, Jaren Jackson Jr., Jonas Valanciunas
Los Angeles: LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Avery Bradley, Danny Green, JaVale McGee
Without a doubt, this past Sunday will likely be a memorable day for the Memphis Grizzlies for the foreseeable future thanks to Taylor Jenkins’s first win, a buzzer-beating shot that the Grizzlies had not experienced in more than a decade, and a breakout performance from Ja Morant rarely seen before for a rookie. It was a wonderful experience for everyone associated with the Grizzlies, and hopefully will be the first staple moment of many this season for what many feel is a special group of young players.
As fantastic as Sunday was, it was just the third game in an 82-game schedule. While hopefully the team can keep some of their momentum going from the thrilling win over the Nets, reality awaits them in Los Angeles as they visit the Lakers Tuesday night. Following the roster’s first encounter with one of the elite players in the league in Kyrie Irving, the Grizzlies get a double does of superstars in LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
A big reason for the Grizzlies’ victory over the Nets was a second half effort that matched an effective first half. In each of their first three games, the Grizzlies held the lead going into halftime. Unfortunately, versus the Bulls and the Heat, the Grizzlies offense ran into a wall while the defense wore down. While the defense continued to struggle against Brooklyn, the offense found its consistency. A dominant fourth quarter performance by Morant, efficient scoring from Dillon Brooks, and excellent support from the Grizzlies’ bench was the difference in the end.
Obviously, the Lakers present the biggest test for the Grizzlies so far this season. Simply put, the Lakers season has gone about as expected through their first three games. Their opening night loss to the Clippers proved the Lakers’ lack of quality depth could be an issue in future Battles for Los Angeles. However, their dominant defensive performances in victories over the Jazz and Hornets reminded everyone the Lakers are a title threat due to their potential on both ends of the court. In the majority of their games this year, the Lakers will feature the best two players on the court. As the rest of the team generates more chemistry and consistency around LeBron and AD, wins will likely come in bunches.
Without a doubt, the Grizzlies enter tonight’s match-up as a significant underdog. However, if they can get significant contributions from several unexpected sources again tonight, they could pull off an early season upset.
Here are a few ways the Grizzlies can improve their chances of leaving LA with a victory.
A Good Defensive Quarter
Through three games on the young season, the Grizzlies have allowed at least 23 points in each quarter they have played. While the Grizzlies pace of play (4th in the NBA) has contributed to high scoring efforts so far, the Heat, Bulls, and Nets have scored at will against Memphis. Now facing the immense talent of the Lakers, the Grizzlies must find an answer quickly to limit their production for at least one quarter Tuesday night.
It is very likely James and Davis will produce at their elite levels, as they will most nights. For the Grizzlies, the key is preventing another source of offensive production from emerging, especially from the perimeter. The Grizzlies have allowed six guards to score 20 or more points so far this season, including two in each game. If the Grizzlies are allowing 60-70 points a night from their opponent’s back court, victories will be few and far between. To have any chance of pulling off an upset against the Lakers, the Grizzlies must contain their perimeter shooting.
Through three games, both the Lakers and the Grizzlies are in the bottom five of the league in three point attempts. However, the Lakers are shooting 35.6% from three, while the Grizzlies are shooting 30.9%. While the Grizzlies can make up for the difference in long distance production due to averaging nine more offensive possessions per game, the Lakers interior defense with McGee and Davis will make life tough for the Memphis bigs.
As a result, the Grizzlies will have to find success shooting the ball. Brooks has been the only relevant source of converting jump shots beyond ten feet so far this season. It seems that the Grizzlies will need a significant scoring effort from one of their reserve guards, such as Tyus Jones or Marko Guduric, to have a relevant chance at winning tonight. With avenues to the rim likely difficult to find, success from beyond the arc and in the mid-range will be critical.
Feature Jackson Jr. and Morant
On the season, Jackson Jr., Valanciunas, and Morant have combined for 31, 36, and 41 shot attempts. The Grizzlies offensive ratings have been 90.2, 98, 113.6. Naturally, as the Grizzlies have featured their best offensive options more, the teams offense as a whole has improved immensely. That focus must continue Tuesday night.
As mentioned above, the Grizzlies will need quality play from their supporting cast, especially from their guards. While that means the Grizzlies must make more shots from the perimeter, Memphis should still trust their best talents getting high percentage looks. The Lakers will be one of the tougher interior defenses Valanciunas and Jackson Jr. face all season. However, if the they can get looks at the rim and at the line, it will help the offense remain consistent. With Morant likely finding it harder to get to the rim in half court sets as well, his passing and mid-range production must be top notch tonight. That includes limiting turnovers and displaying decisiveness on the move.
It is very unlikely that tonight’s result will top the amazing performance from two days ago. This will likely be one of the Grizzlies’ lowest chances at winning on the season. However, if they can continue to be consistent with their offensive execution, they can create chances. The Grizzlies simply need to remember the early Christmas gift they earned on December 23rd, 2018 when Jackson Jr. had one of his breakout performances as a rookie. That performance included hitting the game-sealing three over LeBron.
It should be a fun time for Morant and Jackson Jr. to again perform on one of the marquee stages in the NBA. Even if the result will likely be a loss, good production from the Grizzlies’ dynamic duo will make it a successful night. If the Grizzlies’ bench can again support the starters with quality minutes, the game should at least be closer than many may expect.
Lakers 115, Grizzlies 105