Los Angeles Lakers (25-16) at Memphis Grizzlies (24-16)
5:00 PM PST, March 13, 2012
FedExForum, Memphis, TN
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Grizzlies Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Mike Conley
SG: Tony Allen
SF: Rudy Gay
PF: Marresse Speights
C: Marc Gasol
Key Reserves: SG O.J. Mayo, GF Quincy Pondexter
Both the Lakers and the Grizzlies are coming off three-point victories. The Lakers prevailed in a gritty slugfest over their arch rivals, the Boston Celtics. To everyone’s surprise, Kobe drew up a game winning play for someone other than himself and Andrew Bynum delivered with the game winner over Kevin Garnett. On the same night, the Grizzlies squeaked out a three-point win over the Denver Nuggets. Mayo hit a key three-pointer with under a minute to go and the Grizzlies hung on for the road victory. Both the Grizzlies and the Lakers are very evenly matched. However, the Lakers have struggled on the road, so who will prevail tonight?
Frontcourt: Pau Gasol will face off against younger brother Marc, who is the starting center for the Grizzlies. Marc continues to improve in his fourth season, and he’s emerged as a force to be reckoned with in the post. He blocks two shots per game and nearly averages a double double. Marc has the body to go toe-to-toe with center Andrew Bynum. Replacing the injured Zach Randolph, Speights has stepped in and performed admirably.
Backcourt: The Grizzlies have all the pieces that make up a complete backcourt. Conley is their ball distributor, Allen is a defensive specialist and Rudy Gay is a scorer. Enjoying the best year of his early career, Conley leads the team with seven assists and 2.5 steals. He is the catalyst and main ball handler for this offense which allows Rudy Gay to play off the ball. Gay is a borderline All-Star talent who is never shy about taking big shots. He has an above average midrange game and can also create his own shot. Tony Allen always draws the assignment of guarding the opposing team’s best backcourt player, and he has proven that he can go shoulder to shoulder with the best. Off the bench, Mayo is the sharpshooter of the bunch who loves to score from beyond the arc.
Keys to Lakers’ Victory:
Andrew Bynum as the Focal Point of the Offense – Good things will happen for the Lakers if they decide to run the offense through Bynum. For the month of March he’s converting 65 percent of his shot attempts. He absolutely needs to touch the ball every time the Lakers are on offense. As great as Kobe is, he’s been forcing too many shots in traffic and trying to take on opposing defenses on his own. It’s unacceptable that Kobe sometimes attempts more shots than Bynum and Gasol combined. Marc Gasol will be a great test to see how far Bynum has really come. The Lakers need to get him the ball early and often.
Take Care of the Ball – The Lakers will need to zip their pockets and lock away their valuables since the Grizzlies are a team full of thieves. They lead the NBA with 10 steals per game. My one criticism of Bynum is that he doesn’t pass out of double teams very well, which is why his turnovers have spiked recently. Kobe could also cut down on turnovers if he didn’t force the issue so often.