WHEN: 9:00 PM CT
WHERE: Staples Center - Los Angeles, CA
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: ESPN/Fox Sports Southeast/NBA League Pass/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Brandon Clarke (Out, calf), Jaren Jackson Jr. (Out, knee), Sean McDermott (Out, shoulder), De’Anthony Melton (Out, shoulder), Killian Tillie (Out, foot), Justise Winslow (Out, hip), Jontay Porter (Out, G-League Assignment), Desmond Bane (Out, Personal)
LOS ANGELES: Anthony Davis (Day-to-day, Achilles), Alex Caruso (Day-to-Day, hand), Jared Dudley (Out, calf), Kostas Antetokounmpo (Out, knee)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Grayson Allen, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Jonas Valanciunas
LOS ANGELES: Dennis Schroder, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma, Marc Gasol
The Memphis Grizzlies will travel to Hollywood to take on the Los Angeles Lakers for a national TV spectacle. Is it because they want to showcase one of the brightest young teams against LeBron’s Lakers? Or do they want the world to see the young, brash Ja Morant take on the King? Or did national TV think it’d be a time they could embarrass the Grizzlies?
Let the speculation run in your head. Nonetheless, the Grizzlies are getting on national TV, and that’s always a celebration.
And don’t think towards the latter, as the Grizzlies played the Lakers close in their 2 matchups earlier in the season — without Ja Morant. The first game is misleading, but they were in the game until LeBron turned it on in the 4th quarter. Then, the Grizzlies only lost by 2 the second game.
With Ja Morant back in the fold for this Lakers matchup, what must happen for the Grizzlies to keep it competitive?
Slow down the Supporting Cast
I could say to slow down LeBron James, but we have 18 years worth of evidence that suggests it’s a hard task to complete. There is a group of players that could be slowed down, and that’s the players around him.
The Grizzlies must prevent anyone around LeBron from having a big night, whether it’s Montrezl Harrell, Dennis Schroder, Kyle Kuzma, or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Those four players mentioned can get hot quick. Schroder was one of the league’s most electrifying bench players last season. He’s still adjusting to playing with LeBron, as his scoring averages and shooting percentages are down, but he’s still capable of a hot shooting night to carry the Lakers. The same goes for Caldwell-Pope, who’s shooting a sizzling 44.4% from 3. He’s going to get looks from the gravity of LeBron, but the key there is to make sure he’s not firing with volume and to close out hard to alter his rhythm.
If Anthony Davis is out, that surely means more scoring opportunities for Harrell and Kuzma. The Grizzlies have to make sure their interior defense is good, as Harrell is remarkably efficient there. With Kuzma, he’s really the only non-LeBron that can create at 3 levels, and one of good size too.
A hot shooting night from any of these 4 could spell trouble for Memphis.
Win the non-Gasol minutes
Marc Gasol is one of the best interior defenders in the league...still... and Grizzlies fans know his transcendent impact on that end.
This season, Valanciunas has shot 37.5 percent from the field with Gasol on the court. The percentages aren’t as great without him, as it’s at 45.5 percent with Gasol on the bench, but that’s probably a byproduct of the Lakers having Anthony Davis too.
If the Lakers don’t have Davis tonight, they need to make sure to attack the paint with Valanciunas to get him going, and the best opportunity to do so is with Gasol on the bench. As the Grizzlies are shorthanded at the moment, Valanciunas is a valuable resource of offense, and an off shooting night from him wouldn’t be good for Memphis.
Post-ups would be a tad difficult, even against someone like Harrell with physicality and a good low center of gravity. However, he’s a mediocre defender in the pick-and-roll. If Ja Morant and Valanciunas could get going there, it could be a good night for the Grizzlies.
It’s hard to gauge a team playing shorthanded and against the defending champions. The Grizzlies though have to work with what they got, and who knows... it’s the NBA where anything can happen.
Can the Memphis Grizzlies stop the Lake Show and steal a win in Hollywood? We’ll see, and also the world will see because they’re actually on national TV.
Prediction: Lakers 110, Grizzlies 102