Memphis Grizzlies (3-4) at Los Angeles Lakers (5-4)
6:30 PM PST, January 8, 2012
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Fox Sports West, NBA League Pass Channel 760
Radio: 710 AM (English), 1330 AM (Spanish)
Grizzlies Projected Starting Line-Up:
PG: Mike Conley
SG: Tony Allen
SF: Rudy Gay
PF: Dante Cunningham
C: Marc Gasol
Key Reserves: G O.J. Mayo, F Sam Young, G Jeremy Pargo
The Lakers continue their three-game homestand tonight as they welcome the Memphis Grizzlies to town. The Lakers have traded wins and losses over their last four games; recently defeating the Golden State Warriors 97-90 on Friday night behind Kobe Bryant’s 39-point effort.
Frontcourt: The season is still young, but it has already been unkind to the Grizzlies bigs. Just a week ag, the Grizzles lost star forward Zach Randolph to a torn MCL that will keep him out of action for 6-8 weeks. This news coming after they lost fellow big man Darrell Arthur for the season. Starting in Randolph’s place is Dante Cunningham, a journeyman playing for his third team in just his fourth season in the NBA. Cunningham is not to be relied on for point production; he averages just 4.9 points per game. It is yet to be known whether the Grizzlies may bench Cunningham in favor of newly-acquired Marreese Speights, who was acquired from the 76ers. Speights too is not much of a scorer; averaging 5.4 points last season.
Shove those two to the side, and you find the threats of this Grizzlies squad. First is Rudy Gay, who’s shooting percentage is down from 47 percent in 2011 to just over 41 percent this season. As a result, his scoring average has dropped from 19.8 points per game to 16.0. But do not expect that to hold up throughout this 66-game season; Gay is an explosive scorer if not guarded properly. Then there is Marc Gasol, Pau’s younger brother. The younger Gasol has been quite streaky this season. Against All-Star forwards Kevin Love and Carlos Boozer, Gasol was held to just 14 points. In the five other contests, he is averaging 16.8 points per game. On the defensive end, Gasol is blocking 2.3 shots per game; up from 1.7 last year.
Also on the bench is Sam Young, who provides 7.7 points per game, but can score at will as evidenced by his 20-point effort against the Kings on Tuesday night. Lastly in a minimal role, the Grizzlies will shell out about 10 minutes, or so to Quincy Pondexter.
Backcourt: The ever-so-quick Mike Conley mans the point in Memphis. Conley did not start in his last game against the Kings, but came off of the bench and was impressive; scoring 14 points in just under 23 minutes. Conley is responsible for a third of the team’s 17 assists per game (27th in the league). If at full speed for tonight’s contest, which many expect him to be, he will be a matchup nightmare for Derek Fisher. At his side is Tony Allen, who historically has been a defensive problem for the Lakers. In his second season with Memphis after leaving Boston, he is averaging 9.9 points per game, thanks in due part to his red-hot shooting that has seen him score 41 points on 14-of-17 shooting (82 percent)
The supporting cast includes O.J. Mayo from USC, who many expected to be a high-impact player. He is still averaging 9.1 points per game coming off of the bench. Following Mayo is Jeremy Pargo, who started in Conley’s place against Sacramento. Pargo, a rookie out of Gonzaga, has slowly seen his minutes decline after shooting just 25 percent in his last four games. This is to be expected from the rookie.
- The Lakers lead the overall series against the Grizzlies by a margin of 44-16.
- Marc Gasol’s rights were traded to the Grizzlies in exchange for older brother Pau.
- Pau is averaging just 15.9 points per game against his old team; his second-lowest average against any team (15.6 against the Hawks).
Keys to a Laker Victory:
– Keep Pressuring the Offense
The Grizzlies fold under pressure. They shot just 19% against the Bulls last Sunday; a 40-point loss. Then there is their most recent defeat against the Jazz, where the Grizzlies bench shot just 22% resulting in a nine-point defeat.
– Make Conley Work
The ankle is getting better, but is still fresh. If he gets knocked out of the game, the inconsistent rookie Pargo will replace him. Any sort of inconsistency will knock away any momentum that the Grizzlies may build.
– Let Kobe Lead the Way
Kobe is unconsciously hot, and must be permitted to do as he wants so long as he remains productive. Kobe took 14 free throws, and made 12 of them. The more fouls he draws, the better the result for the Lakers.
Prediction: Lakers 101, Grizzlies 87