WHEN: 5:00 PM
WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/NBA League Pass/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Grayson Allen (Questionable, ankle), Ja Morant (Out, ankle), Jaren Jackson Jr. (Out, ankle), Justise Winslow (Out, hip), Xavier Tillman Sr. (Questionable, Patella), Killian Tillie (Out, hamstring), Jontay Porter (Out, knee)
Los Angeles Lakers: Kentavious Caldwell Pope (Questionable, Ankle), Alex Caruso (Out, Health and Safety Protocol), Lebron James (Questionable, Ankle)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP:
MEMPHIS: Tyus Jones, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Brandon Clarke, Jonas Valanciunas
LOS ANGELES: Dennis Schroder, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Lebron James, Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol
The great author Jim George is credited with coining the phrase, “It is not how you start that is important, but how you finish!” This is a famous adage that can be applied as a form of inspiration in many aspects of life, especially when it comes to sports. Well, with nothing but respect to Mr. George’s wonderful mindset, I offer a modified version of this great proverb when it comes to the Memphis Grizzles:
“A really good start will slightly increase the hope that you will have a positive finish.” - Me (...unverified.)
All joking and credentialed memorable quotes aside, the Grizzlies have to feel pretty good about the fact they are 2-3 despite all the injuries they have experienced. Furthermore, the fun thing about the Grizzlies is that you do not have to wait a long period of time into their games to realize what the likely outcome will be.
In the two games that Memphis has won, they have ended the first quarter up by four or more points. In fact, outside of the game against the Celtics, the Grizzlies starting lineup has looked better than their opposition in four of their five games so far this season. Though the Grizzlies starting lineup has unfortunately seen many different variations due to injuries, the starters for Memphis have more often than not created an advantage for Memphis.
This is verified by the fact that the trio of Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, and Jonas Valanciunas have been highly successful when playing together this season. As a trio on the court, they have a positive NET rating of 12.7. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that of all three-man lineups that have played more than 100 minutes together so far this season, this trio has the fifth best DEF rating in the NBA. That certainly has been a necessary revelation for this Grizzlies team with their best players unavailable.
The overall improvement of Anderson, the consistency and rim protection of Valanciunas, and never-ending effort of Brooks has certainly shined through over five games. These developments will certainly be needed over the next two games, as the defending champions make a visit to Memphis for two games. And while Lebron James and Anthony Davis always capture the headlines, in Memphis, the attention will be drawn to the return of another starter for the Lakers and beloved son of Memphis, Marc Gasol.
While it may be hard to believe, this will be the first time Gasol has returned to Memphis since he was traded nearly two years ago (dern you COVID-19). Obviously, Gasol has certainly found success for himself, whether it be in the form of winning championships or creating YouTube passing clinic videos. Regardless, without a doubt, if the Lakers are at full strength, they certainly will be the favorites, even on the road.
Logically, considering injuries and overall talent, the Lakers are the favorite in this game. However, there are a few ways in which the Grizzlies can certainly improve their chances to win. Here are the avenues in which Memphis can pull off an upset:
WIN THE TURNOVER BATTLE
So far this season, the Lakers are below average in turnovers committed (19th) and turnovers forced (27th). If Memphis can have another night where it is able to find close to 30 or more assists, that certainly plays into their favor to find success. In their two wins this season, Memphis is +12 when it comes to points off of turnovers. If the Grizzlies can create a bit of defensive disruption like they did in the latter minutes against the Nets and against the Hornets, it certainly will be to their advantage.
PASS THE BALL
The Grizzlies are now 27-20 when Taylor Jenkins’s approach on the offensive end gets 26 or more assists. Memphis is 9-21 otherwise. The Grizzlies need to pass the ball with confidence to win this game. If the Lakers are at full health, they obviously have the advantage when it comes to creating their own shots. Any advantage the Grizzlies can find in that area will certainly work to their favor. The difference for the Grizzlies comes down to the efficiency of their passes. If Memphis can exceed 28 or more assists, their chances to win certainly improves.
If LeBron and company play, the Grizzlies certainly are at a disadvantage. Therefore, the Grizzlies best advantage is keeping Anderson, Brooks, and Valanciunas on the court as much as possible. The improved bench play of Gorgui Dieng and Desmond Bane has certainly improved the Memphis approach as much as possible. If Tyus Jones and Brandon Clarke can continue their impressive play, that will certainly improve the Grizzlies chances. However, with Gasol, Davis, and James, I expect LA to at least guarantee one win. With that in mind. I will side on logic to predict the final score with Memphis having a better chance in the second game.
Final Prediction: Lakers 117, Grizzlies 110