Preview & Chat: The Memphis Grizzlies

Kurt —  March 28, 2008

Records: Lakers 49-23 (3 seed); Grizzlies 12-33 (drafting third, most likely, plus the 27th pick from LA)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 114.1 (3rd); Grizzlies 106.3 (22nd)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 106.7 (6th); Grizzlies 113.2 (28th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Lamar Odom, Ronny Turiaf
Grizzlies: Mike Conley, Mike Miller, Rudy Gay, Hakim Warrick, Darko Milicic

Lakers notes: After a sub-par effort two nights ago I expect a little more out of the Lakers tonight. The Lakers without Gasol are an inconsistent bunch, but with the season winding down two bad games in a row, two games with a lack of effort, would be very frustrating.

If you haven’t seen it, Pau Gasol talked with the paper in Memphis and said, basically, everything is better in LA except for the barbeque restaurants. (Via True Hoop.)

Gasol is expected to run again tomorrow, but the smart money is on him coming back next Wednesday.

Javaris Crittenton will be back tonight and should get some burn, which will be good to see. I liked what we saw of him, although he may always have been better suited to an offense other than the triangle. He’s averaging 16 minutes a game but his poor shooting (41% eFG% since the trade) limits his scoring. That said he has had a 17 and 22 point game in Memphis. The jumper is what he needs to spend the off-season working on.

Kwame Brown will be back in town as well, but he has been a DNP-coaches decision the last four games. I wonder what the market will be for him as a free agent this summer? Certainly not $9 mil a year, but who will take a $2 mil a year flier on him? I just think someone will because size and bulk are hard to find, but if I did it (not for the Lakers, but in general) it would be a one-year deal with a team-option for one more.

The Grizzlies Coming In: The big news today for Memphis is off the court — their local minority ownership has had to give back some of their shares to majority owner Michael Heisley. Check the comments out over at Three Shades of Blue, they are turning red over this.

Then there is the rumor that ownership would dump first-year coach Marc Ivaroni for Larry Brown if he wants the job. I don’t really like that move — not because I dislike Brown, the guy can coach and has improved teams everywhere he has been (he even got the Clippers to the playoffs). He stresses defense, which is good. But to me he is the wrong coach for a rebuilding process — you need a coach willing to make mistakes with youth and Brown is a guy who wants to give veterans heavy minutes. His rigid control many not allow the young core of the Griz to meld into a cohesive unit over a couple of years. I don’t think it’s a terrible move, but not one that I would make.

On the court, the Griz are 3-7 in their last 10, but a couple guys are starting to heat it up. Mike Miller (who should play a bigger role this summer in Beijing) is scoring 17 a game and is shooting 57.8% (eFG%) in his last 10, plus 40% from three. Warrick is shooting 53.5% and is scoring 16 a game.

Rudy Gay is leading the scoring in the last 10 games, but he’s taking a lot of shots to get his 18 a game, shooting just 45% and getting to the line 3.5 times per game. If he wants to shoot the three-ball, let him — 19.6% in the last 10.

In a sign of just how bad their inside play is, Miller is the leading rebounder for the team the last 10 games from the guard position, averaging 7.7 per game.

Keys To The Game: There is a fantastic position-by-position breakdown of tonight over at the Grizzlies Blog Three Shades of Blue.

After one of the Lakers worst performances of the year, in comes one of those young and athletic teams that tends to give the Lakers problems (the Lakers won by 1 last meeting). I tend to talk Xs and Os more than the amorphous “effort” here, but tonight priority number one needs to be focus and effort. If the Lakers come out with another Bobcats-game effort, they will lose this one going away. Run the damn offense and D-up.

The Lakers need to focus that defense on Warrick, Miller and Gay, they are the biggest offensive threats. Make Conley a shooter. If Darko beats you with an offensive explosion, so be it. But force the big three to pass and contest their shots. And don’t sag off Miller beyond the arc — Kobe cannot gamble off of him for the risky plays he seems to be in love with again.

We already know Mike Miller can get under Kobe’s skin — he needs to keep his head about him tonight.

Even without Gasol and Bynum, the Lakers should be able to dominate inside tonight. Odom and Turiaf need to post up, the offense needs to run through them inside out. Also, this is a good team to penetrate the lane against as they have nobody who defends the rim well. If the Lakers win big in the points in the paint — and get some offensive boards — they should win going away.

Where you can watch: The game is at 7:30 pm on both Fox Sports here in LA and on League Pass.