The Lakers are coming off a big win on Tuesday night against the Dallas Mavericks. Since Tuesday’s victory, the Lakers have retaken the final seed in the Western Conference since the Utah Jazz dropped in the standings. To extend the one-half game lead over the Jazz, the Lakers will need to play each of their seven remaining games to near perfection. The bad news is that the Lakers are scheduled to face some tough opponents in their remaining games. The good news is that they are playing in the comfort of home in all but one of their remaining games (in Portland).
The Lakers take on the Memphis Grizzlies tonight, who are having a superb year. Tonight will be a tough challenge for the Lakers, as they continue to fight to secure that eighth and final playoff spot in the West. They will most likely be without Steve Nash again as he is listed as “doubtful.” The Lakers’ offense will be tested tonight against the defensive-minded Grizzlies team. The Lakers have an all-time record of 46-19 against the Grizzlies, with a 25-7 home record against Memphis. The Lakers have already lost the first two match-ups with the Grizzlies earlier this season.
Frontcourt: Marc Gasol only missed two games from that recent abdominal injury that was initially thought to cause him to miss the rest of the season. Gasol has bounced back from that injury, and is still an integral piece to the Grizzlies’ puzzle. On defense, Marc is very physical and isn’t afraid to initiate contact in order to alter a shot. On offense, Marc is versatile like his brother, Pau. He can live in the post or nail mid-range jumpers just as easily. Overall, Marc is averaging 14.4 points and 7.6 rebounds this season. Zack Randolph is playing like the Z-Bo we all know as of late. He uses his 260 lbs. body frame to get position on both ends of the floor to get to his desired spot to attack. He is a monster on the glass, especially regarding offensive boards, which will be a huge area of focus for the Lakers (discussed below in the keys to victory).
The Lakers will see Tayshaun Prince in a Grizzlies uniform for the first time tonight. Prince was acquired by Memphis as part of the Rudy Gay trade at the trade deadline. Prince is not the player he used to be, especially on the offensive end. However, he has been a decent fit to the Grizzlies as a role player. In the last ten games, Prince has posted around eight points and five boards per game. Darrell Arthur might not be a household name, but he did post 20 points and nine boards in the last matchup between these two teams. Arthur typically sees solid minutes off the bench, and posts consistent numbers every game.
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Backcourt: The Grizzlies’ backcourt is very defense-minded, and will potentially give Kobe Bryant and Steve Blake problems tonight. Mike Conley has improved his offensive contribution and remains a good on-ball defender. Conley is hot right now as he has averaged around 20 points and six assists per game in the last ten games. Therefore, it will be key to limit his game tonight. Tony Allen is a defense guy. However, he is averaging 12.0 points and 2.0 steals against the Lakers this season. He has done as good of a job as you can in disrupting Kobe Bryant’s offensive game. Therefore, the best way to approach this matchup is for Kobe to continue his playmaking and shooting mix on offense.
Jerryd Bayless and Quincy Pondexter are solid bench performers that are pretty consistent. Bayless tends to put up numbers in almost every category on the stat sheet, and is capable of having 20+ point games, as he did against New York where he got hot from the three-point line. Quincy Pondexter is getting much more playing time this year, but still tends to struggle with his efficiency. Therefore, as long as the Lakers don’t leave him open, Pondexter can be kept in check. Overall, he is averaging 6.4 points in 21.4 minutes per game.
Keys to Victory:
Get L.A.’s Frontcourt Active: Dwight Howard has only recorded a combined nine points and six rebounds in the two previous games against Memphis this year. In the second matchup in January, Howard only played 14 minutes due to re-aggrivating his shoulder injury. Pau Gasol has posted a combined 19 points and 12 rebounds in these two games. As you can guess, Memphis’ interior defense is excellent, led by Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Their frontcourt defense is physical and frustrating for opponents. Therefore, the Lakers’ frontcourt must match their intensity, and use their high basketball IQ to consistently run a high/low post combination of Pau and Dwight. This will also allow the Lakers to work inside-out and create consistent ball movement, which has a proven track record of success.
Keep Them Out Of The Paint And Off The Glass: Memphis outscored the Lakers 40-24 in the paint in their November 23, 2012 game. In that game the Lakers were also out-rebounded by the Grizzlies 39-28. In the January 23rd game between these two teams, the Grizzlies outscored the Lakers in the paint 60-34 and out-rebounded L.A. 52-34. In addition, the Grizzlies outscored the Lakers in second chance points 27-3. Can you see a trend? To have a chance at victory tonight, the Lakers must used their bigs to keep the Grizzlies out of the paint. This also means that the perimeter defense by the Lakers must stay in front of their man, and not allow their guards to penetrate. Finally, the Lakers need to control the boards, which will also allow the Lakers to control the pace of the game. The Lakers need to be the aggressor from the opening tip to the final buzzer, and not let up in between.
Memphis Grizzlies (51-24) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (39-63)
7:30 PM PST, April 5, 2013
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) 1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Grizzlies Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Mike Conley
SG: Tony Allen
SF: Tayshaun Prince
PF: Zach Randolph
C: Marc Gasol
Key Reserves: G Jerryd Bayless, G Quincy Pondexter, F Darrell Arthur