With the awful month of December behind them, the Los Angeles Lakers came into 2017 hoping to turn things around. Though they were unsuccessful in getting a win over the Toronto Raptors, the late comeback and fight the Lakers showed was reminiscent of the early-season squad that started off 10-10.
Now the Lakers look to take another step and get back in the win column when they host the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies earned a hard fought 103-100 victory over the Lakers about a month ago, but both teams were missing a lot of players.
The Lakers were without D’Angelo Russell, Nick Young, and Larry Nance Jr., while the Grizzlies were missing Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons, Zach Randolph, and Vince Carter. Needless to say it will be a much different look for both teams this time.
The Grizzlies have a well known backcourt of Mike Conley and Tony Allen. Conley has long been considered one of the league’s most under-appreciated point guards and he is enjoying another great year, averaging 18.3 points and 5.5 assists while shooting a career-high 43 percent from three-point range. His amazingly quick return from a back injury showed his toughness and he is the leader of this Memphis team.
Allen doesn’t offer much of anything on offense, but remains one of the league’s top on-ball defenders. His energy and hustle can change a game and he will likely take on the defensive responsibility of whichever Lakers perimeter player is hot at that time.
The Lakers should be very familiar with Troy Daniels after he scored 31 points in the last meeting. An outstanding shooter, the Lakers can’t allow him to get hot again. Veteran Vince Carter also plays a big role for the Grizzlies as he has morphed from a high-flyer to a shooter and playmaker as he has gotten older.
Nick Young and D’Angelo Russell carried the Lakers against the Raptors, even though they failed to get the win. Young has been on fire the past couple of weeks, breaking the Lakers record for three-pointers in an eight-game span with 36. He is now hitting over 44 percent from deep on the season and his hot shooting has been one of the few consistencies for the Lakers recently.
Russell meanwhile, enjoyed one of his best games of the year finishing with 28 points, four rebounds, five assists, and no turnovers. Luke Walton believes Russell is finally feeling more confident in his knee after his injury earlier this season and the team will be looking for him to keep up his recent aggressiveness on offense.
The familiar bench duo of Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson remains an extremely productive one though they both struggled against Toronto. They were a combined 4-16 from the field but are always a threat to go off on any night. Williams nearly singlehandedly defeated the Grizzlies with 40 points in the first matchup.
Marc Gasol has been the centerpiece of the Grizzlies for a few years now and many consider him the best center in the NBA. Even though he sprained his ankle against the Kings, Gasol is expected to play tonight which means Timofey Mozgov will have his hands full trying to contain the Spanish big man who can do everything.
Chandler Parsons and JaMychal Green join Gasol in the frontcourt. Parsons was Memphis’ big free agent signing this summer, but still hasn’t gotten past the knee injuries that have plagued him for much of his career. He has only recently returned to the lineup, but is on a minutes restriction.
Green adds some youth and athleticism to the Memphis lineup as well as the ability to stretch the floor. He currently leads the Grizzlies with 7.7 rebounds per game and also hits 37.1 percent of his three-pointers.
Zach Randolph has thrived in his role as a sixth man for this Grizzlies team and is still the bruising force he has always been. James Ennis is the typical ‘3-and-D’ wing and will likely play a big role with Parsons still limited.
Julius Randle continues to be one of the Lakers best all-around players. Even though he shot the ball terribly against Toronto he made an impact elsewhere, finishing with 15 points, nine rebounds, six assists, three steals, and two blocks. His play and energy is crucial to the success of the team.
Luol Deng has slowed down in recent games after seemingly figuring things out. He is averaging less than five points on 30 percent shooting in the last three games. Meanwhile Mozgov’s primary role will be trying to contain Gasol. With the Grizzlies having a lot of size up front, Mozgov could see a few more minutes than usual.
The Tarik Black-Thomas Robinson pairing was extremely successful for Luke Walton on Sunday and he will surely go to it again against the Grizzlies. The two combined for 21 points and 18 rebounds and their energy and relentlessness on the glass was outstanding. Brandon Ingram continues to have struggles shooting the ball, but does everything else to help the Lakers when he’s in the game.
Three Keys To Victory:
Push The Pace
Memphis gives up the second fewest points in the league and their halfcourt defense is stout thanks to Allen, Conley, and Gasol. The Lakers need to get out in transition and get easy buckets because points will be hard to come by otherwise.
Play With Heart:
On Sunday the Lakers showed glimpses of that early-season team that never gave up and fought until the end every single game. They had gotten away from that in the midst of this losing streak, but against a physical, hard-nosed team like Memphis, they can’t allow themselves to lose that fight or it will be a long night.
Don’t Create Another Star:
The Lakers have had a bad habit of allowing role players to have career nights against them. Troy Daniels scored 31 in the last game. They can’t let someone like Daniels, JaMychal Green, or Andrew Harrison have a big game, otherwise it will likely be another loss.
Los Angeles Lakers (12-25) Vs. Memphis Grizzlies (22-14)
7:30 P.M. PST, January 3rd, 2017
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet, NBA TV
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Grizzlies Starting Lineup:
PG: Mike Conley
SG: Tony Allen
SF: Chandler Parsons
PF: JaMychal Green
C: Marc Gasol
Key Reserves: Zach Randolph, Vince Carter, Troy Daniels, James Ennis, Andrew Harrison
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Nick Young
SF: Luol Deng
PF: Julius Randle
C: Timofey Mozgov
Key Reserves: Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram, Lou Williams, Thomas Robinson, Tarik Black