Preview & Chat: The Memphis Grizzlies

Kurt —  January 31, 2009

Andrew Bynum of the Los Angeles Lakers
Records: Lakers 36-9 (1st in the West) Grizzlies 11-34 (13th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 114.1 (1st in league) Grizzlies 101.8 (29th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.0 (6th in league) Grizzlies 109.4 (24th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Grizzlies Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, Darrell Arthur, Marc Gasol.

The Lakers Coming In: It seems to have taken half the season, but Andrew Bynum is back. JonesontheNBA (another guy we miss, but law school will do that to you) said it well in the comments:

It’s safe to say Drew is finally fully healed. Just as little as a few weeks back Drew was still having trouble elevating and finishing around the rim. I wonder what clicked all of a sudden for him, because he’s back to catching lobs, actively moving on both ends, and finishing with authority.

I still wonder how much of that was confidence, both in himself and his knee, compared to a physical problem. Whichever it was, it is in the past now, and suddenly the Lakers have a true high post/low post game that no team in the NBA is going to be able to match. (Who is closest? Boston, probably.)

Right now the offense is clicking, and last night they scored at will on Minny. They should be able to do that again tonight.

The Grizzlies Coming In: The Griz come in having lost 11 in a row. They canned the coach they brought in just last year and replaced him with one apparently not loved by the players. It’s a tough spot for a franchise that has some talent on the roster. Over at 3 Shades of Blue they are already doing mock drafts.

The problem of late is that talent isn’t scoring much. And not efficiently. Of the team’s five leading scorers, none is shooting higher than 46.7% in the last 10 games. O.J. Mayo, who had a fun battle with Kobe last time these two met, is shooting just 44% (eFG%) and 32% from three in the last 10. Rudy Gay’s numbers are not much better.

The one guy playing pretty well of late is Mike Conley, who since being inserted into the lineup is shooting 47.6% from three and is getting four assists per game. He’d have more if his teammates would hit shots.

While the offense is struggling, the defense isn’t exactly shutting people down, either. It’s a bad combo.

Keys To The Game: These two teams met during the Lakers December swoon, and it took Kobe Bryant heroics to pull out the win. Bynum played a poor first half, as did Ariza and others. Today, the two teams are on very different trajectories.

There are no games in the NBA where you can just roll out the ball and win, but if the Lakers show up focused this should be a comfortable win. It would help to get a nice early lead and take the confidence out of Memphis.

Once again, the Lakers have an advantage inside. Arthur cannot stop Pau, and Bynum should be able to get points on the other Gasol if he continues this run of play. The Lakers need to pound the ball inside to start, establish the middle and that will open up shots for Fisher and the others spotted up at the arc. Oh, and that Kobe guy.

Their offense is pretty heavy on the pick-and-roll (well, at least it was under the old coach, I haven’t seen the new coach yet). Gay and Mayo can get in the lane and cause a lot of problems if you let them, but they are not good jump shooters. Go under picks for a change. Dare them to shoot from the outside.

Where you can watch: 5 p.m.,, KCAL 9 here in Los Angeles and League Pass and the usual spots nationally.