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Memphis Grizzlies vs Los Angeles Lakers Game Preview

Friday night in LA could be a historic night for the Grizzlies

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Memphis Grizzlies v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

Memphis Grizzlies (31-13, 11-10 road) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (20-25, 11-11 home)

WHEN: 9:00 PM CT

WHERE: Crypto.com Arena— Los Angeles, CA

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis

INJURY REPORT:

MEMPHIS: Ziaire Williams (Questionable Danny Green (Out, knee)

LOS ANGELES: Anthony Davis (Out, foot), Lonnie Walker IV (Out, Tendinitis), Austin Reaves (Out, Hamstring)

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:

MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams

LOS ANGELES: Dennis Schroder, Patrick Beverly, Troy Brown Jr., Lebron James, Thomas Bryant

The Memphis Grizzlies have been on a roll and look to win a franchise record 12th consecutive game as they travel to face the Los Angeles Lakers for the first time this season. Two of the league’s top 10 scorers, James (29.3 PPG - 6th) and Ja Morant (27.4 PPG - 10th), face off in a game between two teams that are on different trajectories. While the Grizzlies have been surging after a skid in late 2022, the Lakers have lost three of their last four after a promising stretch before the new year.

This matchup was one of the more exciting last season and left us with some of the best moments and highlights of the year, including this block from Morant that still doesn’t seem real.

Here are some key trends, matchups, and players to watch for as the Grizzlies start their road trip.

Keep Playing Grizzlies Basketball

Strong defense leading to fast breaks or interior scores has been a recipe for success in each of the last two seasons for Memphis, and this stretch has been no different. The Grizzlies’ 11-game winning streak has come through playing their usual brand of basketball. During the stretch, the Grizzlies lead the NBA in defensive rating, rebounds, fast break points, and points in the paint while being second in both steals and blocks. Against a Lakers team that gives up 53 points in the paint per game (25th in the NBA), look for the Grizzlies to play inside-out basketball.

On defense, the Grizzlies have the best rating in the NBA overall after being ranked 20th through mid-November. Since the return of Jaren Jackson Jr., the Grizzlies have grown into a defensive juggernaut. Jackson Jr. is averaging over three blocks per game, which would lead the NBA if he met the criteria for games played, and also leads the Grizzlies in steals with 1.1 per game. He has become the frontrunner and betting favorite for defensive player of the year and has been the catalyst for the Grizzlies’ success on that end of the floor.

Slowing down LeBron

LeBron James just turned 38 years old, but he is in the midst of the 4th highest-scoring season of his career. Part of that is because of the overall scoring boom in the NBA, but seeing someone average nearly 30 a game 20 years after they were drafted is ridiculous. He’s also been on a tear lately, scoring 35, 48, and 32 in his last three games, respectively.

Dillon Brooks has been one of the best wing defenders in the NBA this season and will force Lebron to work for his buckets. However, when it comes to James, all you can really hope is to slow him down. His big scoring games don’t always result in wins, as the Lakers are still only 9-9 when James scores 30+ points this season, but slowing him down is the first step to a win for the Grizzlies.

Grizzlies Starters are finding their groove

During the early season, one of the biggest questions was how the Grizzlies would look with a fully healthy starting five, and they have not disappointed. Since Desmond Bane’s return on December 23rd, the Grizzlies are 12-2, and all five starters have averaged double-figure scoring during their win streak. It took a few games for them to click together again, but now that they are firing on all cylinders again, the Grizzlies look very tough to beat fully healthy.

Overall, the Grizzlies have been the better team all season but have struggled on the road to start the season. The Lakers have also been known for getting into close games this year, so don’t be surprised if it is within a few possessions down the stretch. If that is the case, Memphis is 12-5 in clutch games this year, while LA is just 10-12.

Final Score: Grizz 129 Lakers 124

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