The Los Angeles Lakers can potentially go a perfect 4-0 on their first road trip of the season, but they’ll need to defeat the Memphis Grizzlies for a second straight time in order to do so.
In order to lighten travel in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, the NBA has scheduled teams to play back-to-back games against one another in the same city. The Lakers first did it against the San Antonio Spurs and now are completing a set with the Grizzlies. They’ll face the Houston Rockets in the same scenario later this month.
“It’s pretty odd for the regular season but nothing we haven’t seen before for all the guys who have been to the playoffs, which is everyone on this team,” Anthony Davis said. “That’s how we’re treating it. It’s mini playoff series throughout the season.”
Playing a team two games in a row legitimately changes the strategy of how to approach each contest. This was seen in the prior two-game stretch where the Spurs were able to make adjustments, leading to a much closer matchup the second time around.
L.A. will try to avoid that against the Grizzlies, who are absolutely battered with injuries. So much so that they were able to use the roster hardship exception to sign Tim Frazier to a short-term contract. He’ll be with the Grizzlies for Tuesday’s game.
The Grizzlies will be without Jaren Jackson Jr., Ja Morant, Jontay Porter, Killian Tillie, Justise Winslow and John Konchar. The Lakers, on the other hand, have listed Alex Caruso as out for the fifth consecutive game due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope also is not playing.
Caldwell-Pope practiced Monday and said his ankle was much improved and despite not quite being 100%, hoped to return against the Grizzlies.
Regardless, the Lakers should have an advantage over a Grizzlies team that is simply trying to survive until they get their stars back in action. They won the first matchup with relative ease, 108-94, but will need to put their foot on the gas in the second game to avoid any potential upset.
With Caruso and potentially Caldwell-Pope out of the lineup, L.A. can lean on their big men to carry the team. Davis, Montrezl Harrell and Marc Gasol all played great games on Sunday, and they should be able to use the Grizzlies lack of depth and consistent size to their advantage.
The Lakers are in the middle of one of their easiest stretches of schedule, meaning now is a perfect time to pile up the wins. After Tuesday, they’ll return home to play the Spurs once more, followed by the Chicago Bulls.
Lakers (5-2) vs. Grizzlies (2-4)
5:00 p.m. PT, Jan. 5, 2021
FedEx Forum, Memphis, Tennessee
TV: NBATV, Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: LeBron James
SG: Dennis Schroder
SF: Kyle Kuzma
PF: Anthony Davis
C: Marc Gasol
Key Reserves: Montrezl Harrell, Wesley Matthews, Markieff Morris, Talen Horton-Tucker
Projected Grizzlies Starting Lineup:
PG: Tyus Jones
SG: Dillon Brooks
SF: Brandon Clarke
PF: Kyle Anderson
C: Jonas Valanciunas
Key Reserves: Gorgui Dieng, Desmond Bane, Grayson Allen, Xavier Tillman
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