Lakers Film Breakdown: How To Attack The Grizzlies Defense
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve made it, Lakers Nation. It’s finally time for some playoff basketball. This means it is time for the third and final film breakdown previewing the highly anticipated matchup between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Thus far, we’ve broken down the Lakers’ difficult tasks for game-planning for Ja Morant and the Grizzlies’ offense.

In this breakdown, we will dive into how the Lakers can attack the Grizzlies’ defense that ranks ninth since the All-Star break and third overall on the season.

Stats

When diving into the Grizzlies’ four factors since the All-Star break, they grade out pretty well but have some apparent weaknesses. Since the All-Star break, the Grizzlies rank 10th in Opponent EFG%, eighth in OPP TOV%, 18th in OPP FT Rate and 21st in OPP OREB%. The good news for Lakers fans is that the Lakers have been the best team in the NBA at getting to the free-throw line. The Lakers also rank 10th in OREB% post-All-Star break. However, the bad news is that the Lakers’ effective field goal percentage is in the middle of the pack, and the Lakers rank in the bottom ten throughout the league in turnover percentage.

From a box-score standpoint, this series might come down to those things. Can the Lakers limit turnovers that led to their downfall during their Feb. 28 matchup when they had 26 turnovers? In the two Lakers wins against the Grizzlies, L.A. combined for 22 turnovers. Also, can the Lakers’ offense continue to turn things around and attack the very opportunistic Grizzlies’ defense? The Grizzlies, in my opinion, after diving into the film, have some apparent weaknesses that the Lakers can target. With that being said, let’s dive into the film.

Grizzlies Post-Defense

The Grizzlies’ defense, I’d argue, is elite. The way they can help off on the perimeter to stop any dribble penetration and still closeout on shooters is phenomenal. They do an incredible job with their post-up defense as well. However, as long as the Lakers have scouted well, they should be able to attack the Grizzlies post-defense and how they like to help.

When looking at the Grizzlies’ defense, they have a massive tendency with how they play post-ups. They rarely allow you to go one on one from the post. Instead, they will try to influence the post-player baseline and send the double baseline and “Zone Up” everywhere else. They will send the double on the catch, and occasionally, they’ll send the double on the drive.

In this clip against the New Orleans Pelicans, the Grizzlies send the double baseline when Jonas Valanciunas receives the post catch. CJ McCollum messes up the spacing in this play. If McCollum stays in his original position when Naji Marshall makes a “45” cut into the lane, David Roddy would have to choose between giving up the layup or the corner skip three.

This clip against the San Antonio Spurs shows how the Grizzlies can trap baseline on the drive. On the Zach Collins drive toward the rim, Jaren Jackson Jr. leaves his man to help at the rim. This is part of what makes Jackson so special and why he is the current favorite to win the Defensive Player of the Year. However, Collins does a great job finding Spurs rookie Jeremy Sochan, who knocks down the open 3-pointer. To add another potential element to this play, Malaki Branham could have screened his own man on the Collins drive to not even allow a closeout.

If the Grizzlies get a matchup they don’t like in the post, they’ll aggressively “front” the post while loading the help on a potential pass. When Rui Hachimura posts up the more undersized Tyus Jones, Luke Kennard is ready to help and trap after the entry pass from Dennis Schroder. Troy Brown Jr. does a great job making the “45” cut into the lane collapsing the defense before making a dangerous pass behind his head to Austin Reaves. Reaves somehow saves the pass before finishing acrobatically at the rim.

The Grizzlies do an excellent job with their post-defense; however, if the Lakers gameplan the right way and make the appropriate counters throughout the series, Anthony Davis should be effective operating from the post.

Grizzlies Ball-Screen Defense

So much of the Lakers’ offense depends on their pick-and-roll game effectiveness. The Grizzlies do an excellent job at trying to collapse the lanes and force kick-out passes on the wings. The Lakers must get creative with trying to get to their ball screens. Whether this is by using “Empty” pick-and-rolls, Spain pick-and-rolls, or “Wedge” pick-and-rolls, to name a few. Lakers must continue to be diverse in how they use their playbook.

This clip shows an “Empty” side pick & roll with Schroder and Davis. On the Schroder drive, Kennard’s job is to stop the drive and force the kick-out pass. He does just that; however, this allows for Reaves to be wide open from three, and he knocks down the shot midway through the first quarter.

Later in the same game, the Lakers go to their “Horns Out Double Drag” set. Malik Beasley ghosts the first screen popping out to the corner. This flows into a ball screen between Schroder and Davis. Kennard once again tries to help and force Schroder to pass it out to Reaves. However, this time Schroder throws a great lob pass to Davis, who finishes. Although this play technically isn’t an empty side ball-screen, it effectively works as such. Due to Morant guarding Beasley and the shooting threat of the latter, you’re now forcing Morant to be a decision-maker defensively. He either has to decide to tag on the roll and effectively leave Beasley open. Or he stays attached to Beasley and leaves Davis open for the lob.

If the Grizzlies decide to run their drop coverage defensively, this would be a great counter. The Lakers run their “Double Drag Oklahoma” set, which is excellent at attacking drop coverage. Xavier Tillman, guarding Davis on this play, is sagging off in the paint. Davis turns and rescreens “Oklahoma” action here and Beasley gets a good look for three. Since Tillman has to step up to get somewhat of a contest on Beasley, we could have seen Davis get shot out of a short roll if he were to roll after setting the screen.

The Lakers will have their work cut out for them if they want to win this series, however, if they gameplan the correct way. Then, along with making the necessary adjustments, the Lakers will be in good shape.

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