Iâ€™m happy Memphis is so bad. For purely selfish reasons, Iâ€™m glad they picked this season to go from the playoffs to the worst team in the NBA â€” it means I may get a close-up look at Durant or Oden. Memphis is one of two teams (the Lakers the other) already committed to the 2007 Summer Pro League in Long Beach. They also are going to have a lot of ping-pong balls in the draft lottery hopper. So the chances are good I should get to see one of the two up close at the Pyramid come July.
And maybe Kobe will swing by the Pyramid and talk to Durant. For the first time.
The Lakers miss the synthetic ball. Injuries, sminjuries. The ball is the problem. (Good work Nate and Goo.)
Offense shouldnâ€™t be a problem. The Lakers should be able to score plenty tonight â€” Memphis is the worst defensive team in the NBA. They give up 109.3 points per 100 possessions, and as bad as we think (or know) the Lakers are defensively this season the Griz are 4 points worse per 100 possessions. They allow teams to shoot 52% (eFG%) against them. They donâ€™t defend any position on the floor well. Or look at it this way: last meeting between these two teams the Lakers put up 118 points, without Lamar Odom.
This is one team Kobe could get 50 on fairly easily, but itâ€™s also a team where he may not have to.
But will the Lakers play any defense? The Lakers lost that last meeting because they let the new up-tempo Grizzlies score 128. Seven Memphis players scored in double digits, led by Mike Miller and Pau Gasol with 25. As a team Memphis shot 53% in that game and took control in the third quarter never to look back.
In the last two Laker wins, they have done it in spite of allowing opponents to average 122 points per 100 possessions. Think about that â€” the Griz are last in the NBA this season at 109. The Lakers need to shore up the defense starting tonight and stop counting on Kobe to bail them out with offensive fireworks.
Other Grizzlies to watch. Outside of Gasol and Miller there are really only a few Griz playing well this season â€” super rookie Rudy Gay (who has moved into the starting lineup), Hakim Warrick and, on offense at least, Chucky Atkins. Now, they are all starters, after them the drop off is pretty dramatic.
No Brian Cook. His ankle isnâ€™t right, so he will sit. Because if every Laker was healthy at the same time it would be the seventh sign of the apocalypse.
Things to look for: Odom had 21 against the Griz earlier in the season, but was injured for the last game. Look for him to bounce back. He also should get plenty of minutes with Cook out.
Defense is a team thing, but a couple things we should hope to see: 1) Donâ€™t let Miller shoot uncontested threes, he is pretty mediocre from the midrange but deadly from the three, in the last 10 games shooing 34.7% from three (40% for the season); 2) There isnâ€™t a lot of spots to push Gasol to where he canâ€™t score and heâ€™s hot lately shooting 55.6% in the last 10 games, but he shoots a lower percentage from the right block/baseline side than the left.
This should be a night the Laker bench, the depth that was so key earlier in the season, starts to make resurgence.
It would be nice to get an early lead and get some key guys rest with another game tomorrow. But a win is the key.