WHEN: 7:00 PM CST
WHERE: FedExForum, Memphis, TN
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Jaren Jackson Jr. (out, knee), Justise Winslow (out, back), Grayson Allen (out, hip), Brandon Clarke (out, quad)
LOS ANGELES: Danny Green (questionable, hip), LeBron James (questionable, groin), Anthony Davis (probable, elbow)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, De’Anthony Melton, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Jonas Valanciunas
LOS ANGELES: Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, JaVale McGee, Anthony Davis, Markieff Morris
This is a very interesting segment of the Memphis Grizzlies schedule for the 2019-20 season. We are now in the final stretch of the season, with many teams in hopes of reaching the playoffs, including the Grizzlies. After a trade deadline that included some roster shakeups, and a few days off due to the All-Star break, this Grizzlies team looked confident to continue unexpected success in the second half of the season.
That has not evolved exactly to plan so far. Losers of five straight post-All-Star break, the Grizzlies have not looked very good at all. Chalk that up to some unfortunate injuries to key members in Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke, and new faces learning their roles, yet there are still key elements to the Grizzlies play right now that just look off. On top of that, the schedule has not been friendly in the slightest, with this game being the second time Memphis will face the Lakers in eight days, and games against the Rockets and Clippers also in the mix.
Consider that against a Lakers team that has won seven in row, the latest without LeBron James, this team is trending in a much better direction that the Grizzlies. This Lakers team is finally built to win after years of missed expectations. There are not many flaws to this team, literally built to be unstoppable, but for this matchup it is possible LeBron will still be sitting, along with sharp shooter Danny Green. Perhaps those absences will translate into a better opportunity for the Grizzlies.
It’s a little early to press the panic button for this roster that has so much promise. But one thing that is clear without JJJ and Brandon Clarke on the floor: the ball sticks more than usual. This Memphis team has been so fun to watch because of the unselfishness, the addiction to the assist, and that has gone missing. It is also reflected in their scoring numbers that are down to start the second half. This team is at its best when they are playing up-tempo and sharing the ball. They will need that in large portion against the Lakers.
There are so many new faces on the roster right now as well, assets like Gorgui Dieng and Josh Jackson that are doing their best to learn the flow. Alongside those are G-leaguers getting an opportunity to play because of the injuries: Yuta Watanabe, and John Konchar, for example. These guys will especially benefit from an assist friendly play style, one that will inevitably provide easy looks for all involved.
As mentioned, this team is best when the pace is elevated. Much different than previous Grizzlies team, head coach Taylor Jenkins has implemented a fast-paced, run-n-gun offense that is electric and exciting to watch. Often the Grizzlies are just trying to outscore the opponent, which has worked in their favor in the first half of the season. The addition of the new faces has slowed this a bit, but will be imperative to maintain for this team to be successful, especially against the high octane Lakers.
The Lakers are great in transition as well, a team filled with high-flying dunkers and assist gurus. They love to play up-tempo, but under control. The Grizzlies have to be strategic about picking spots to run, and seeing where the half court setting is more beneficial. The Lakers are great at both, but with LeBron and Danny Green sitting, there could be opportunity to push the pace in the Grizzlies favor.
Morant and Brooks Duo
Dillon Brooks, for all his terrible decisions, played really well last night against the Kings. He has become the go-to scorer for this team when a bucket is needed basically any other time outside the fourth quarter. When the fourth quarter hits, that’s Ja Morant time. These two play well off one another and understand when the other is hot. Both are great in transition, with Brooks being the better shooter overall. They have taken on the offensive leadership roles, and thrived for the most part, until the last 10 or so games.
Brooks has to learn to pick his spots better, often he tries to take over the game at unwarranted times. Against this Lakers team, they can torch you for bad decisions in just a few possessions. Both young scorers will have to control their emotion and make the best plays for the Grizzlies, it is imperative both have good scoring games to keep this game within range.
The Lakers are so good. Even without LeBron, this team is scary. They’ve proven they can win without him, and this Grizzlies team is really struggling without JJJ and Clarke. I see the Memphis struggles continuing unfortunately, they will continue to weather this storm. Morant and Brooks will both have decent games, but will ultimately fall short.
Lakers 127, Grizzlies 111