After a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Denver Nuggets on Sunday night, the Los Angeles Lakers will seek to avenge the loss by upsetting the Western Conference leading Memphis Grizzlies. Memphis narrowly defeated the Lakers, 107-102, a few weeks ago in a very uncharacteristic shootout. The Lakers’ frontcourt neutralized Memphis’ frontcourt duo, but ultimately came up short due to defensive lapses in the backcourt and second unit. Los Angeles will seek to end their two-game losing streak as the rotation continues to be diminished by an alarming series of unfortunate injuries.
Frontcourt: The most underappreciated, underrated superstar in recent memory and the motor that keeps this Memphis Grizzlies team atop the Western Conference is the 7-foot-1, 265 pound Spaniard Marc Gasol. Formerly a second-round pick of the Lakers, Gasol was originally perceived as a project that needed massive overhaul to even evolve into a competent role player. Never did we once think that Marc’s peak years would eclipse those of his brother Pau’s in such a drastic manner. Memphis is exponentially better with Gasol on the floor as he has quietly emerged into a legitimate offensive threat logging multiple 30+ point games through 14 games this season, leading the Grizz to a league best (12-2) record. Defensively, he’s been the catalyst to a top 5 ranked defense allowing a mere 92.4 points per game.
At the power forward, Zach Randolph has endured a wildly consistent 2014-15 campaign scoring in double figures in all 14 games and recording a double-double in all but five. In his fourteenth season, ZeBo has managed to wreak havoc year after year since his game is not predicated on high-flying, above the rim action but rather a ground and pound style Memphis seems to have adopted as a whole. Though he prefers to operate within the paint, Randolph has proven to be a capable mid-range shooter if need be, similar to his fellow front court mate, Marc Gasol.
The most critical piece to the Grizzlies’ is undoubtedly their veteran ball hawk Tony Allen. A former member of the 2008 Boston Celtics title team, Allen has made a nice living off of his premier defensive skills, most recently holding James Harden to six points on 1 for 8 shooting in 34 minutes. Allen is a tremendous liability on offense though, so the Lakers must look to exploit this major flaw to force head coach Dave Joerger to bench him.
Backcourt: Who knew a career nomad like Courtney Lee would reinvent himself the way he has in this brief stint in Memphis? His production began to crumble last season in Boston, diminishing his trade value to nearly nothing. The Grizzlies acquired him mid-season in a swap for Jerryd Bayless and he played 49 quality games to finish out the season, starting in 47 of them. A full training camp with his new teammates clearly paid dividends as Lee has evidently found a comfortable home in Tennessee. His efficiency has skyrocketed averaging nearly 14 points per game on 54.1% shooting from the field and an incredible 61.1% from three.Lee is the Grizzlies’ most dangerous offensive threat.
Mike Conley’s unimpressive numbers simply do not capture the true impact he has on his team. A former fourth overall pick, the point guard has slid under the radar of casual NBA fans since he arrived on scene in 2007. His strength is his versatility as he’s a solid on-ball defender in a league chock full of elite point guards, while his scoring and knack to facilitate nearly go unnoticed. Many NBA stars yearn for attention, but not Conley. He truly thrives off of success alone and any outside praise is just a bonus.
Keys to Victory:
Swaggy P: It was no coincidence that the Lakers won back-to-back games upon Nick Young’s return from injury. When the ball is moving properly, Young and Kobe Bryant create a dual threat on each side of the court and actually play surprisingly well off of each other. The always outspoken Swaggy P said he’s “got to demand getting the ball more himself toward the end,” after the team deferred to Kobe down the stretch vs. the Denver Nuggets on Sunday. With the Swag Wrap still intact, Young will have to find a way to be productive on both sides of the floor, and alleviate some of the pressure weighing on Kobe’s shoulders.
Boxing Out: Something as elementary as correctly boxing out is vital to winning an NBA game, especially against a Grit-N’-Grind team like the Grizzlies who will eat the Lakers alive on the boards. Randolph and Gasol will have an impact on the game no matter what. The key is just to limit that impact by eliminating easy opportunities that manifest from rebounds.
Carlos Boozer: No, that is not a typo. Carlos Boozer will actually play a prominent role in a Lakers victory if he is in fact healthy come game time. Boozer has dealt with a nagging sore shoulder, which forced him to sit out of Sunday’s matchup vs. Denver and is currently listed as questionable for tonight’s game. Although he’s been outright embarrassing defensively, Boozer has turned in some impressive games scoring-wise. Facing a defensive juggernaut like the Grizzlies, Boozer’s offense becomes that much more important if the Lakers plan on pulling off an upset.
Heading into tonight’s game, the Lakers are seven-point underdogs against the Grizzlies according to Sportsbook.ag.
Memphis Grizzlies (12-2) at Los Angeles Lakers (3-11)
7:30 PM PST, November 26, 2014
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: NBA TV / TWC SN
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Nuggets Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Mike Conley
SG: Courtney Lee
SF: Tony Allen
PF: Zach Randolph
C: Marc Gasol
Key Reserves: PG: Beno Udrih SG: Quincy Pondexter C: Kosta Koufos
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Jeremy Lin
SG: Kobe Bryant
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Ed Davis
C: Jordan Hill
Lakers Practice: Byron Scott Compares Kobe Bryant To Chris Paul