Preview & Chat: The Memphis Grizzlies

Kurt —  February 1, 2010

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Records: Lakers 37-11 (1st in West) Grizzlies 25-21 (10th in West)
Offensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 109.3 (9th in league), Grizzlies 110 (7th in league)
Defensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 102 (2nd in league) Grizzlies 110 (25th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Grizzlies: Mike Conley, OJ Mayo, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol

Before you do anything else, run to the local church and light a candle for Andrew Bynum’s knees tonight.

Happy Pau Gasol Day. It was two years ago today that the Lakers traded Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie’s contract and two picks to Memphis for Gasol. Since that day, the Lakers are 142-41 with Gasol in the lineup and have been to the Finals both years, winning once. While that trade is not as lopsided as once thought, is there anyone who would spend more than a second thinking about whether or not to make that trade again?

Lakers Coming In Sunday’s win in Boston may have been the closest thing to a signature win the Lakers have had this year. But the NBA schedule is an unforgiving mistress and now the Lakers have some tough games where they need to show that is not a fluke. Darius put it this way in an email:

I’d really like for the team to build on the momentum that they’ve established on this trip. There was a comment in one of the threads that spoke of our schedule up to the all-star break and there are some doozies still left to play before the rest comes (Memphis, Bobcats, Spurs, Portland, Utah). I’m not saying that the team needs to win all of those, but it would be nice to not be content with a win over the Celtics and get some wins against some other pretty good teams.

What will draw the headlines tonight — Kobe is 29 points away from passing Jerry West as the leading scorer in franchise history. That watch is in full effect tonight.

Grizzlies coming in: This team is good — good enough to be a playoff team in the West and good enough to have won 7 of their last 10. They are not consistent because their defense is not consistent (or is consistently bad), but they have a good offense and on any given night can beat anybody. Last week I caught part of them just outplaying Orlando like it was nothing.

That starts with All Star Zach Randolph. Deserved All Star. Randolph was always one of the best scorers in the game from the left low block, he was almost unstoppable. But he cared not about anything else on the court, or so it seemed. But this year his game has evolved, he has matured as a player. He is shooting a higher percentage than ever in his career, in part because he is getting nearly two more shots per game at the rim than before. He is getting to the foul line more. He is better on the boards (and a much improved offensive rebounder). He’s even playing some defense.

Combine that with the good Marc Gasol in the post and the athletic Rudy Gay at the three, and you have an athletic front line.

Grizzlies blogs Three Shades of Blue is quality

If you read one thing today, read this from Kelly Dwyer. (Well, technically it would have to be two things since you read this.) The man is a legend for a reason.

Keys to game: This is a brutal back-to-back for the Lakers — the emotional high and physical game in Boston, followed up by a lot of travel to take on a team that can score a lot of points and has some quality athletes. On the last game of the road trip. If the Lakers come out flat, they will get run right out of the building.

One thing Memphis has that Lakers fans wish they saw more of was two big men playing well off each other. The Laker defender of the big on the weakside has to be aware, they run little flash in plays near the hoop that are precise. The Lakers bigs need to be mentally ready to be physical again tonight.

The Grizzlies guards can get a little shot happy and not feed the bigs, and they will pretty quickly break out of their offensive sets to run isolation plays. They get away with it because Mayo and Gay are great athletes, but the Lakers can stymie them with good help defense and talking on the court.

Offensively, the Lakers should score plenty against a not very good defensive team if they run their offense and not settle for the first available jumper. Also, this is a battle of PGs who have not played great defense of late, if one of them can take advantage of this it will be a big plus.

Where you can watch: 5 pm start on Channel 9 in LA. Plus, ESPN radio 710am.