Preview & Chat: The Memphis Grizzlies

Kurt —  March 3, 2009

Records: Lakers 48-12 (1st in the West) Grizzlies 15-43 (13th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.9 (1st in league) Grizzlies 102.4 (29th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.5 (6th in league) Grizzlies 109.4 (20th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Grizzlies Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, Darrell Arthur, Marc Gasol.

The Lakers Coming In: Phil Jackson said what pretty much everyone had seen lately — the Lakers are a tired team. A week of home games with some long breaks should help them recover a little this week, but they also just have to fight through it. Every team gets this.

But the question is are we just talking about tired with our guard play of late, where every guard not named Kobe has struggled. Kwame a. weighed in on this in the comments.

One thing that I am concerned about is D-Fish and his shot. It is kind of reminiscent of last year when he got off to a great start, kind of leveled off in the middle of the season and struggled late. I fully trust Fish to be productive in crunch time and play hard-nosed defense, but he was really giving us a boost earlier in the year with his early offense. We need him to be a weapon and that is why it is so important that Jordan (or Sasha) be able to EFFECTIVLEY spell Fish so Fish only plays about 28-30 minutes a game. If not, he may be too tired when we really need him. It’s a delicate balance for Sasha and Jordan because both guys are confident dudes and this has translated into them feeling confident in their abilities and a willingness to take some questionable shots and passes. The coaching staff has to find a way to encourage them to play with confidence, but more importantly to play smart and efficiently. These next two games should help with that process, but they must be able to translate that on the road (like they have shown already this season, i.e. at the Cavs).

Darius added to this:

I am concerned though with Farmar and Sasha and the point you’ve made before about them not playing as well together. You’re spot on that Sasha’s numbers were best when Jordan was injured and I’m wondering how Sasha can get on track with the consistency that he showed last season. One thing I can say about this whole situation that I also feel is affecting Sasha is Ariza. Again not that these guys have issues with each other, but their roles on the team are in direct competition. First, unlike Sasha, Ariza has tremendous chemistry with Farmar. Those guys look for each other constantly and usually hook up for one highlight play per game (as a matter of fact, that turnover the Kurt illustrated in the body of this post was Farmar looking for a slightly trailing Ariza). Second, Ariza is now our closer at SF. Last season, that was Sasha’s role (not at SF, but at SG with Kobe playing SF). Now, it’s really rare for Sasha to close a game. Phil has seemingly decided that Ariza’s contributions on defense and decent shooting trump Sasha’s decent defense and (supposed) stronger shooting. Although with Sasha shooting so poorly this season, you really can’t blame Phil for going this route.

One other guy that has gone ice cold is Luke Walton, who in his last three games has averaged 5.3 points on 36.8% shooting. He needs a couple easy baskets to get going.

The Grizzlies Coming In: Memphis is really not playing well, having lost seven games in a row and driving fans nuts. Here’s a recent quote from Three Shades of Blue:

Memphis is struggling and struggling in a big way. Rudy Gay and Hakim Warrick don’t seem to be pleased with Lionel Hollins or the Grizzlies front office and you can’t help but suspect this has something to do with Kyle Lowry being traded. That is a huge part of the Grizzlies attack. Defensively the youngsters are routinely getting beaten to the paint and that is especially noticeable at the point where Mike Conley seems unable to stop dribble penetration despite his incredible speed and his backup, Marco Jaric, can’t throw the ball in the Mississippi River since getting married to Adriana Lima. It is still too early in the season to contemplate the team throwing games so they must really be this bad. That isn’t encouraging.

OJ Mayo seems to have hit a wall — in his last 10 games he is shooting 41% eFG% and 31% from three (he is getting to the line about 1 more time per contest).

Marco Jaric has not made one shot since he eloped with a supermodel. Not one shot. On a basketball court.

Chris Mihm will not play tonight, he continues to have ankle pain after getting increased minutes since the trade to Memphis. I just feel bad for the guy. But it shows why keeping him would not have helped our front line out.

Keys To The Game: Keep Andrew Bynum healthy. No, he is not playing tonight, but any time Memphis is the opponent that will be my top concern.

The Lakers need to re-establish some focused intensity in their game, not looking tired but looking like a team that can take care of business. The next two games against struggling teams are a chance to do that and get some rest before heading out on the road. What I hope to see is not a Lakers team playing to the level of the competition, but one that is focused and ready to get to work.

This is a game where the Lakers more aggressive defense can really work — Mayo and Gay are great off the dribble but not great (yet, at least) at setting up teammates. The Grizzlies offense is about isolations and pick-and-rolls, ones often with little passing. The Lakers need to be smart and contest the shots those two put up and not let them just get into the lane.

Fun matchup in the paint with the Gasol brothers going at one another. Marc is a solid player, but Pau is far more skilled and should be able to get his points. How much Pau scores though is not really the point, with his passing the Lakers triangle offense looks better when the ball goes through Pau.

Remember a year ago when we were talking about all the great young point guards Memphis was stockpiling? Not so much now. Fisher should be able to control Conley and get into the paint on drives. I rarely say run the pick and roll with Fish, but this might be a night to try it.

The Lakers cannot turn the ball over, that leads to breaks and easy points for an athletic team. Smart passes and good ball handling will lead Memphis to be over-aggressive in going for steals, opening up cuts and kick-outs for good looks. Just take care of the ball.

Where you can watch: 7:30 start on Fox Sports and all the usual places.