WHEN: 9:30 PM CT
WHERE: Staples Center in Los Angeles, California
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
SPREAD AND OVER/UNDER: Lakers -11.5, 233
MEMPHIS: Justise Winslow (out, back), Grayson Allen (out, hip)
L.A. LAKERS: DeMarcus Cousins (out, knee)
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Jaren Jackson Jr., Jonas Valanciunas
L.A. LAKERS: Avery Bradley, Danny Green, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, JaVale McGee
So about last night...
Boy, did the defense look rough against the Sacramento Kings. That first half was especially brutal - the Memphis Grizzlies appeared to still be on All-Star Break on the defensive end of the floor. Harrison Barnes lit them up like a Christmas tree to the tune of 32 points. Buddy Hield and Kent Bazemore combined for 38 points off the bench. Memphis did some things well offensively, and the duo of Tyus Jones and De’Anthony Melton kept the Grizzlies around in the face of high-level play from Sacramento. But it wasn’t enough, and the race for the playoffs began with a misstep rather than a leap ahead.
Thankfully, the Grizzlies get a chance to right that wrong on the second night of a back to back against...
LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and the Los Angeles Lakers.
This is why, if you’re hoping for the playoffs for these young Grizzlies, games like the one against the Kings are as close to “must-win” as they can be without putting expectations on them. Because the schedule the rest of the way is brutal, starting especially tonight with arguably the favorites to make the NBA Finals out of the Western Conference. This is a game Memphis is “supposed to lose”, as is evident by the double-digit spread against them. Now, instead of beating Sacramento and feeling OK about a likely 1-3 road trip, the Grizzlies are staring at the real possibility of an 0-4 start after the break...and giving up some ground in the standings. They now have to knock off someone they’re not supposed to.
How can they do it tonight?
Be physical with Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis is the best big man in the NBA, as long as you’re not counting Giannis Antetokounmpo as a big man. He is posting a career high is true shooting percentage (61.9%), three point attempt rate (18.8% of his shots coming from three), and free throw attempt rate (.455) according to basketball-reference.com. He is at or near career highs in net rating (+21), win shares per 48 minutes (.265), and steal percentage (2.2%). He’s impacting the game in a variety of ways, some of which he has never been as effective at as he is right now.
Playing with LeBron James will do that to you.
Despite these points of growth, Anthony Davis is still not a player who enjoys traditional big man play in the post. He would prefer help defense rim protection and utilizing his quickness to being a bruiser on the block, and the presence of players like JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard allows for Davis to stay at his traditional “power forward” position - one that he would prefer, especially considering the fact that Jonas Valanciunas is physically a tougher guy to defend than Jaren Jackson Jr.
The bigs of Memphis have to take the fight to Davis. Whether it’s Jackson Jr., Valanciunas, Brandon Clarke, or Gorgui Dieng, the Grizzlies front court has to find ways to make the game more physical than “The Brow” wants it to be. If they can, it should take him off his spots both mentally and physically and limit the monster that Davis has the potential to be.
Get Dillon Brooks Going
It’s become a bit of a joke regarding Dillon’s importance to the Memphis offense. The truth is, with Brooks as a starter getting big minutes still, he is an important cog to that part of the Grizzlies. When Dillon scores 20 or more points, Memphis is 17-1. They are 11-26 when he scores 19 or less points. He is that vital to what the Grizzlies are doing at this stage of their rebuild.
Ideally? He probably should be a sixth-man type, getting buckets off the bench while playing better defense than, say, a Lou Williams. He’d still be well worth his contract he just signed in that role, and wouldn’t be asked to be more than he is capable of being on a nightly basis. That cavalry isn’t coming until this summer via trade at the earliest, though, so in the here and now Memphis needs to get Dillon down hill at the basket. Easy looks and lay-ups can build confidence, and Brooks is a player that thrives off of that confidence.
The Grizzlies need him. Badly. Here’s to hoping he is back in form tonight.
The first game back from the All-Star Break is hard on any team, but that’s especially true of a group as young as the Grizzlies. The best thing for them is to be back on the court immediately, and against most any other team I would give them a pretty solid shot at a bounce-back victory despite being on the second night of a back to back.
The Lakers, however, are a different monster.
They’re a veteran crew who likely won’t suffer from a half-long break hangover. LeBron James and company will likely attack Memphis from the jump, and while I do expect the Grizzlies to cover (and you should definitely take to over), L.A. likely will not get beat on this night.
L.A. Lakers 124, Memphis 116