Lakers Vs. Grizzlies Game 2 Preview: L.A. Has Chance To Go Up 2-0 With Ja Morant Ruled Out
Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

The first-round series between the Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies continues Wednesday with Game 2 at FedEx Forum. The Lakers already stole home-court advantage with their win on Sunday, putting more pressure on the Grizzlies to tie the series heading back to L.A.

Based on their 35-6 regular season home record, it’s possible that Memphis can do exactly that. The Grizzlies only lost two straight home games once during the regular season but played a road game in between those two losses. Therefore, they’ve yet to lose consecutive home games since Nov. 2021.

It’s a tall task for the Lakers, but one that seems reasonable since Ja Morant is missing the game with a soft tissue bruise. Morant suffered the injury during Game 1 when he came down hard on his hand. Morant was pessimistic about his status for Game 2 and admitted he was “in a good bit of pain.”

His absence means a completely different Grizzlies team. Memphis loves to push the pace with Morant and convert off of turnovers — they had 22 points off of 16 Lakers turnovers in Game 1. He’s arguably the quickest player in the league, capable of exploding at any time.

The Grizzlies were 11-10 without Morant this season, most of those games coming in March when he was suspended for eight games. The Grizzlies went 6-3 during that span, including a loss to the Lakers during Pau Gasol’s jersey retirement night.

The Lakers’ defensive focus will have to shift toward Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. Bane had 22 points on just 6-of-18 shooting in Game 1 and has averaged the same point total in 16 games without Morant this season. He will have a majority of the playmaking responsibilities in Game 2, alongside point guard Tyus Jones.

Jackson did the heavy lifting in Game 1 with 31 points, two shy of his playoff career high. The Lakers will likely have a different game plan to contain Jackson on offense. Since Morant is out, Darvin Ham could put Jarred Vanderbilt on him to spare LeBron James’ energy, who most frequently defended him. Anthony Davis is also another clear option, but keeping him on Xavier Tillman as a rover is more beneficial.

On the other side of the ball, the Lakers’ game plan remains unchanged — getting Davis as involved as possible. He had a quiet offensive performance in Game 1 with 22 points, but it’s all the Lakers needed for victory. His aggression on Tillman can force foul trouble and possibly push Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins to switch Jackson onto Davis. If Davis can get the foul-prone Jackson into trouble and on the bench, Memphis’ options on offense will turn limited.

The same applies to the matchup between LeBron and Dillon Brooks, who was hit with three quick fouls in Game 1. Brooks is a high volume, but inefficient shooter that will have more of a green light with Morant out. Getting him into foul trouble limits yet another offensive option for the Grizzlies.

The Lakers have the chance to snatch the series and potentially close it out in Los Angeles with a win on Wednesday. But, as evidenced in the first game, Memphis won’t make things easy.

Los Angeles Lakers (1-0) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (0-1)

4:30 p.m. PT, April 19, 2023
FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA

Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:

PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Austin Reaves
SF: LeBron James
PF: Jarred Vanderbilt
C: Anthony Davis

Key Reserves: Dennis Schroder, Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown Jr., Malik Beasley, Wenyen Gabriel

Projected Grizzlies Starting Lineup:

PG: Tyus Jones
SG: Desmond Bane
SF: Dillon Brooks
PF: Jaren Jackson Jr.
C: Xavier Tillman

Key Reserves: Santi Aldama, John Konchar, Luke Kennard, David Roddy

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