Memphis Grizzles (25-21) at Los Angeles Lakers (30-18)
7:30 PM PST, March 25, 2012
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: ESPN, FS West
Radio: 710 ESPN (English)/ 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Grizzlies Projected Starting Line-Up:
PG: Mike Conley
SG: Tony Allen
SF: Rudy Gay
PF: Zach Randolph
C: Marc Gasol
Key Reserves: G O.J. Mayo, F/C Marreese Speights, G Gilbert Arenas
The Lakers look to stay hot at home and continue their stellar play under the newly named starter Ramon Sessions. Tonight they face the Memphis Grizzles in a nationally televised game. The Grizzles come into Staples Center for the second night in a row, after losing by 16 points to the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday. The Lakers will aim to ride their momentum to bump their home record up to 21-3. The Grizzlies are 16-46 all-time against the Lakers, and have a 6-25 record road record against L.A.
Frontcourt: The Grizzles’ frontcourt is back to regular business with the return of Zach Randoplh. Randolph is averaging 16 points and 7.4 rebounds per game on 48 percent shooting in the five games he has played after missing 37 games due to a torn right MCL. Adding power to Memphis’ frontcourt is Marc Gasol. Gasol has had an impressive year and was selected as an All-Star for the West for the first time in his career. Gasol has averaged 15.9 points and 9.7 boards per games on 50 percent shooting this season. Expect Gasol to play most of the game as he is ranked 6th in the league for average minutes with 38.2, three spots above his brother Pau. Rudy Gay, who missed the last match-up against the Lakers, is ranked just one spot below Marc Gasol in minutes averaged per game with 37.8. Gay is averaging 19 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Metta World Peace and Matt Barnes will need to limit Gay’s offense, especially since he is ranked fourth in the league in turnovers per game with 2.6. Reserve Marreese Speights cannot be ignored off the bench. The center/forward averages 8.8 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.
Backcourt: Memphis’ backcourt is less explosive than their frontcourt, especially since the return of Zach Randolph. Mike Conley leads the league in steals with 2.5 and is averaging 13 points and 7.2 assists per game. Now that the Lakers have a credible starting point guard in Ramon Sessions, this match-up should be fun to watch. Tony Allen, who will have the responsibility of guarding and trying to get around Kobe Bryant, is averaging 10.6 points and 3.7 boards per game. O.J. Mayo is coming off the bench this season after slightly dropping in statistics. Mayo is averaging 12 points, 2.2 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 26.9 minutes per game. After rumors heated up and then died regarding Gilbert Arenas signing with the Lakers, Arenas recently landed in Memphis. Arenas has played two games with the Grizzles in which he has averaged two points, two assists and one rebound in 15.5 minutes per game.
Keys to Lakers’ Victory:
Limit Turnovers: Controlling the ball has been a lingering issue with the Lakers this season. However, with a more efficient point guard of Ramon Sessions and with the growing improvement in double-teams by Andrew Bynum, the Lakers have shown some progress with limiting their turnovers. Especially facing the NBA’s leader in steals in Mike Conley, the Lakers need to take care of the ball. During their last match-up against the Grizzles, the Lakers committed 18 turnovers and allowed Memphis to have 24 points off turnovers. The Lakers were only able to force Memphis to commit eight turnovers and 11 points off turnovers.
Fast Break Points: It is refreshing to write about how the Lakers need to increase their fast break game and actually know they have the ability to pull it off. Thank you, Ramon Sessions. In the March 13th game, where the Lakers looked completely lost until they pulled it off in a double-overtime win, the Grizzles had 22 fastbreak points while the Lakers had five. Yes, five. Look for the Lakers, especially their small forwards, to force turnovers and give the ball to Sessions to create fast break opportunities.
Move the Ball: I could honestly go on and on about how Sessions impacts the Lakers, but one of the biggest strengths he brings to L.A. is ball movement. It seems like the rest of the team improves their ball movement when they see the results that occur when Sessions uses it. In Friday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Lakers had 33 assists as a team. Individually, Sessions had 11, Pau Gasol had six and Barnes had six. When the Lakers move the ball efficiently and effectively, the open man emerges and easy opportunities arise. If the Lakers are able to do this, they will have a great chance of sweeping the regular season series against Memphis.