Preview & Chat: The Memphis Grizzlies

Kurt —  November 6, 2009

Mike Conley of the Memphis GrizzliesRecords: Lakers 4-1 Grizzlies 1-4
Offensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 102.8, Grizzlies 109.0
Defensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 101.8 Grizzlies 117.7
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, DJ Mbenga
Grizzlies: Mike Conley, OJ Mayo, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol

The Lakers Coming in: Tonight is going to be entertaining — for fun I want to see the Lakers go small, run with the Grizzlies, score plenty and win by creating turnovers and easy baskets. I would love to see a starting lineup of Fisher, Brown (or Vujacic), Kobe, Artest and Odom, although I bet Phil goes a little more traditional and starts Mbenga for Bynum (because it should match up better with the size Memphis has up front). Still, at points the Lakers will go smaller and if it works it will be interesting.

One of the ongoing discussions in the comments so far this season has been this: Clearly the Lakers are not firing on all cylinders, and some issues like the weak bench play could become big problems in repeating as champions. How worried should we be?

I’m more in the camp with what JD Hastings said in the comments.

One of the biggest benefits of being defending champs is that there doesn’t need to be as much anxiety the next year. The team has proven what it can do. It wants to get it done again, but getting to that stage of the season intact is the most important part of that. Right now is the preseason for the Lakers. Games count, but making sure the little things are in order is worth losing a game or two in November.

Other teams tearing it up right now don’t have that. They all have something to prove. The Celtics need to prove they belong back in the forefront of everyone’s consciousness. The Magic need to prove they deserved to be in the finals. The Cavs need to prove they aren’t trending backwards. The Nuggets are trying to prove they are in the top echelon of teams.

All of them need to focus on these things to frame their mindset for later in the season. The Lakers just need to worry that they get healthy and understand everybody’s role. And they have a lot more to adjust to right now than just replacing one starter. Bynum’s increased role, Pau’s (and now Bynum’s) absence, Kobe’s increased post game… these are all elements being worked in. In addition to the fact that a lot of the team focused on resting through the summer and there’s a lot of cobwebs to work through.

If the team is still struggling with OKC in March, or go 0-6 against the big 3 in the East, then I’ll worry, but for now this is part of the joy of winning- letting all the other contenders battle to see who will be our challenger.

The Grizzlies Coming in: Remember how before the season started he mocked the Grizzlies saying they had a collection of ball hogs who would average three assists per game? Well, so far this season, they have assists on 50% of their baskets, 24th in the league. The Lakers are 23rd at 50.1%. I’m not finding that as funny now. (The team in last? Deeeeeetroooit Baaaasketball.)

The Grizzlies can score. OJ Mayo can shoot and create, Rudy Gay can slash, Marc Gasol can shoot a jumper (not as well as his brother, but not bad) and Zach Randolph has always been a scoring machine on the low block. They all are efficient scorers and they can get to the line. They are putting up points and might put up more if Mike Conley was playing better. Part of the reason for the success is they get their shots close to the basket — they are shooting 11.4 threes per game, six fewer than the league average (the Lakers average 16.2). They get close to the basket to shoot.

To beat the Grizzlies you need to score a lot of points — fortunately that has been very easy to do. They are disinterested, disorganized and disheveled at that end of the floor. There is no other way to put it.

Kelly Dwyer over at Ball Don’t Lie added this point about Zach Randolph:

I need to say this about Zach Randolph – he’s trying. He’s still really, truly, bad on defense. But he’s working his tail off, he’s obviously in better shape, and he’s thinking team-first. We knew he wasn’t a lost cause, based partially on how he worked his way back from microfracture surgery. Still, it needs to be pointed out. Randolph is trying.

Blogs and Links: I will be at the game tonight and participating in the ESPN Daily Dime chat, commenting here, and tweeting. Oh, and I may try to look up and see some of the game if I can fit it in.

Three Shades of Blue not only is a quality blog, they may be the only NBA team blog to ever have a one-on-one with their team GM and with team dancers. Now that is access.

Keys to game: Who doesn’t want to see DJ Mbenga and Hasheem Thabeet matched up on each other? The ultimate battle of offensive ineptitude. That is going to be the match up of the night. That or Kobe/OJ Mayo. One or the other.

Both of these teams benches have flat out sucked this year. The one that sucks less tonight will have a big advantage. Iverson — as unhappy as he is — provides them a scoring spark, someone from the Lakers needs to be that kind of spark.

The Lakers are going to score tonight, if they can keep this anywhere near a taco-friendly score on defense (giving up less than 100) they should win handily. That means turning Mayo and Gay into jump shooters — Mayo shoots 59% close to the rim, 42% from 16 feet out to the arc, for Gay it is 71% down to 42%. Normally I’m not a huge fan of the vague “points in the paint” stat but tonight it could be telling.

The other thing the Lakers have to do is crash the defensive boards — opponents are grabbing 32.8% of their missed shots, the highest rate in the league. Marc Gasol and Randolph can board and score inside, the Lakers need to not allow this to happen. This has to become a team focus, not just tonight but for the season.

Where you can watch: 7:30 start on Fox Sports, plus likely all sorts of feeds on the Web.

to Preview & Chat: The Memphis Grizzlies

  1. Comment for Warren! 🙂

    I am very excited that I’ll be able to see the game from tip-off tonight. Go Lakers!


  2. I’ll take a “W” with no injuries to our guys (or the Memphis guys for that matter) and that’s good enough. I don’t care about tunrovers. I don’t care about any rebound disparities. I don’t care if one of the Girzzlies has a career night.

    Being 5-1 with all of our guys healthy is all I care about today.

    Also, it would be nice to see the Lakers have some fun out there. They have looked a little dismayed lately. A nice up tempo game should get their juices flowing.


  3. Thanks for the shout out, Kurt!

    I hadn’t realized the assist issue before. I’ve seen analysis of some of Drew’s problems in this area, but would be interested to hear more about what’s causing it. Kobe’s dimes are down, though on a lot of his post up possessions all 4 guys are on the other side of the floor. Do they need to reposition themselves to cut around him? Is everyone just working so hard to establish their own offensive games that they’re putting off the passing? When this team is at its best, it should be putting up assist numbers with the best in the league. I’d like to hear more about this phenomenon from some of the tape watchers here.


    • Re: The assists being down on the Lakers: It is down somewhat, the Lakers were 57.7% last year (percentage of baskets that came off an assist), 50% this year. I think two things influence this. First, no Pau Gasol, the best passing big man in the game. Second, going to the post more, the Lakers are passing out of it less. That is not just a Bynum thing, Kobe will pass out of the post but not as often as on a drive (it seems to me).


  4. Good cover for Warren there Mimsy.

    I just want to point out that so far the one time I posted first in a game thread, Lakers had a blowout in hand. Just saying 🙂


  5. WhiteLightnin’ November 6, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    I dislike the comments that are panic-laden and agree that the beginning of the season is a time for adjustments and that there is no trophy for best team of November.

    First, games in November still count towards overall record and HCA. Second, a gold-lined path is not automatically bestowed upon the reigning champs; being reigning champs makes it harder to win because everyone wants to beat the champs. Third, one of the reasons the team was able to reach (and succeed in) the Finals last year was because the bench was able to contribute valuable minutes and the starters had ice on their knees by the fourth quarter. This allowed for fresher starters towards the end of the season even though the bench became less and less effective as the season progressed.

    Point is, if the starters continue to average 40+ minutes a game I don’t see how the team repeats. Lamar coming back will help the bench, but he can’t do it all, he will need some help.

    For that reason, I look forward to this game because it will force reserves to have increased roles and hopefully put their mark on the game (plus I just really want to see Mbenga bang and Ammo try to dribble). I embrace the ride of the season, but reject it if it ends in injuries and fatigue due to too many minutes. No one wants to see that, its not fun and not even competitive.


  6. Re: # 6

    Kurt, plus when the ball does come out of the post some of shooters are not knocking down the shots. And as others have noted, Bynum as not become a master at hitting the cutters just yet.


    • One thing not really mentioned in the preview: Mike Conley is a turnover machine. If Fish/Farmar/Brown can get on him, they can force turnovers and create easy buckets going the other way.


  7. Are people even making cuts to be hit at this point? Is this something of a chicken v. egg situation? These are the little things I feel will get much better over time. Kobe, having picked up a lot of these post moves may be favoring the shot to ensure he’s got the moves down- something I think Bynum gets into also- but once they’re comfortable with their offense, maybe they work the passing into the repetoire…

    Thinking about this, my general impression of our offensive sets this year are kind of chaotic. Spacing seems off, the defenses seem very collapsed (all this coming from images in my mind at work). So I wondered if our offensive efficiency as a whole was off.

    Sure enough, we’re in the lower half of the league, behind even Cleveland. Our defensive efficiency is actually pretty good (though again, it’s behind cleveland, so according to these #s, we are off to a worse start than the Cavs we’ve been laughing at).

    Last year I think our offensive efficiency was ~112. Now barely 100. That’s not Laker basketball. Part of it is obviously Pau’s absence, but part of it is just what we’ve all noticed- the rust and lack of flow.

    If anything, this gives me hope because the team is just too good to be this bad on offense for a full year.

    Though I agree completely with everyone bemoaning the heavy minutes our starters are logging. Something has to change there. But let’s see if we can get LO in there before freaking out.


  8. AI came into LA last year with Detriot and had what was probably his best game. He is a tough cover for Fish, but may not end up matched up with him, as he is coming off the pine.

    I want to see the Lakers try to post up the Grizzlies wings. Mayo and Gay both seem too light in the pants to handle Ron and Kobe on the block. Start down there and it’ll open everything up


  9. AI came into LA last year with Detriot and had what was probably his best game. He is a tough cover for Fish, but may not end up matched up with him, as he is coming off the pine.

    I want to see the Lakers try to post up the Grizzlies wings. Mayo and Gay both seem too light in the pants to handle Ron and Kobe on the block. Start down there and it’ll open everything up


  10. robinred, great feel-good article. makes me go into hero-worship mode, whenever i hear about greats acknowledging and working together.

    Lebron-Kobe would be fun too, but that’s beyond longshot… i’d settle for LeBron-Wade and see how they do against Kobe-Artest. Kobe must get pumped up for that defensive matchup. 😉


  11. lebron may have just had the best first quarter ever, 19 points 3rebounds and 5 assists, 8 of 9 shooting, crazy


  12. Lebron is absolutely torching the Knicks in MSG tonight.


  13. Bynum and Gasol will be back soon (next week), so I don’t think the Lakers should worry about the other top guys getting burned out. I think the real problem to worry about is the play of Farmar, Brown, Vujacic, Walton. What happened to the “bench mob”?


  14. I’m betting the over/under on Kobe tonight will be 61. The current circumstance is a perfect motivator for Kobe. He’s needs to score 27 more points than AI to move into the 16th spot of overall career leaders in points. Lebron is going off at MSG with 21 points so far in the 1st half and will probably end with a triple double. The Lakers more reliable 2nd and 3rd options are out. The bench has lost confidence in their game and everyone else’s confidence including Kobe’s, which means he’ll just shoot more. A young up and coming guard in Mayo is playing on the other team. Yeah I think it’s the perfect storm for Kobe to go off. I hope he’s efficient in doing it and doesn’t hurt himself doing it.

    If he doens’t go off then that’ll just mean that the bench is doing their part and is playing well. Let’s hope. I think I’ll set my dvr to record just in case. This should be fun.


  15. Thanks for covering… but since we no longer are the 2007 Lakers, oh wait, no Gasol or Bynum tonight, we are 🙂

    Kobe has 45 points marked on his statline… that along with his 4 steals, 5 rebounds and about 3 assists (since he will look to score more).

    Ron will have a good offensive night (fingers crossed) due to Lakers lack of inside presence… look for him to post Gay alot tonight.

    Please DJ, give us one of those 7-block nights…

    Lamar Odom will have a nice time covering PF tho I still think he will have foul trouble rotating on Pau’s lil’ brother… that guy is some kind of a player… now I wanna grow to 7’0 tall and have my family name changed to Gasol.

    The good thing about having Conley on the other side is that Farmar won’t have problems with his size or quickness… go Farm boy !!! I still want you over Shanwow… 😉

    Machine Machine Machine… I think Hollinger has the best nicky for Vujacic this season… SASHA-RAPOVA. That’s just cool. Ever wonder why he and Marko Jaric gets the best gals? Must be nice to be Eastern-European these days…


  16. Get me out of the moderation Kurt… =p


  17. Sitting watching pre-game warm ups and Pau looks good. Doesn’t seem to be favoring his leg at all. At least he’ll be back soon. I just wish it was tonight.


  18. Cannot believe I am rooting for Suns


    • Putting up a new post in a sec, but the pregame notes are that Phil says (basically) that DJ is getting the start, but that Artest will get time on Z-Bo, too. Look for the Lakers to throw a lot of looks at Memphis, but I wonder if you go small do you force Memphis to adjust to you.


  19. Ha, ha. I’m watching the Suns beat the Celtics too. Very nice. Let’s hope it sticks.


  20. God bless the Suns.


  21. I knew the Suns would improve when Shaq left! Good to see them doing better. 🙂