Preview and Chat: The Memphis Grizzlies

Darius Soriano —  November 30, 2010

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Records: Lakers 13-4 (2nd in West), Grizzlies 7-10 (11th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 115.5 (1st in NBA), Grizzlies 104.6 (23rd in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.8 (11th in NBA), Grizzlies 106.1 (12th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers:Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Grizzlies: Mike Conley, Xavier Henry, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol
Injuries: Lakers: Andrew Bynum (out), Theo Ratliff (out); Grizzlies: Acie Law (questionable)

The Lakers Coming in:  Right now, you’d be hard pressed to find many people that think the Lakers are playing well.  Two straight losses will influence any person’s thoughts on the matter, but really it’s a bit more than that.  The Lakers just aren’t clicking on either side of the ball and have regressed in certain areas where this team looks like past versions of itself.  Recently the outside shooting has gone cold (hello last season) and the defense continues to look mostly average with only occasional moments of high level play (hello 2008).

Don’t get me wrong, 13-4 is fantastic considering that Bynum has been missing and the Lakers bigs have been put in a position to play heavy minutes with Ratliff also out and a rookie PF the only player with legitimate size on Phil Jackson’s bench.  But there can be a greater commitment to doing the little things better for longer stretches and putting more effort into defending and rebounding than what the team has shown in recent games.  Putting in that effort will lead to wins when shots don’t fall or when the offense is flustered by strong defenses (like vs. the Pacers).  Kobe and Phil said as much after Sunday’s game, so hopefully the Lakers will start to do those things tonight.

The Grizzlies Coming in:  The Grizzlies are a bit of a middling team right now.  Coming off of last season’s improved play, they’ve stagnated some and are having a hard time taking that next step forward from feel good story to playoff team.  They’ve won 3 of their last 4 games (including a win over the Heat) but just had a disappointing road loss to the Cavs in their last contest.  This is the latest example of a team that hasn’t quite found a formula to win each night and may be pressing some as they try to rediscover some of last year’s magic that can be then taken to the next level.

One difference you’ll see at the opening tip is that Coach Lionel Hollins has moved OJ Mayo to the bench in favor of starting rookie swingman Xavier Henry.  This move has given the Grizz a punch off their bench but has taken a play maker out of the starting lineup and it will be interesting to see if this is a long term move or something done to simply shake up a team that’s looking for a spark. 

Grizzlies Blogs: Chip Crain and Co. are doing very good work over at 3 Shades of Blue.  You can read their game preview here.

Keys to game:  The last time these two teams played the Grizz were without Zach Randolph so tonight’s contest will provide a different look with the Grizz finally back to full health.

With Randolph a sure go, the Lakers will need to concentrate on defending the interior against the dual threats of Zach and the younger Gasol.  Both Zach and Marc have good inside/outside games and will try to bully Odom and Pau on the block with post ups on some possessions and pull them away to the high post and short corner on others.  Both Pau and Lamar will need to be active in denying their bigs the post position they desire while also respecting their jumpers by closing on them hard and making them put the ball on the ground.  When the Grizz big men do drive the second layer of defense must be there to step up and help because both players are crafty around the basket and can score if given angles to get their shots off.

Where the Lakers must also do well against Zach and Marc is on the boards.  Both Memphis big men have a nose for the ball on the offensive glass and thrive off grabbing rebounds that can be put back up for easy baskets.  So, Pau and Lamar need to bring good activity to the glass, find their men, and then attack the ball.  If they stand and watch they will be beat to the ball and it will mean second chance points for Memphis.  I’d actually like to see the Lakers guards help more on the glass rather than leak out looking for outlet passes after the shot goes up.  I’ve mentioned this in the past, but the Lakers may be the worst team in the league at closing down the FT line and grabbing those rebounds that kick out to that 15 foot mark.  Many of times the Lakers guards are either too sucked in to the paint or drifting away from the rim into open space.  Tonight, they’ll need to stay home and help on the boards and secure those long bounces or Memphis will make the Lakers pay on their second and third attempts at scoring.

The other player that really needs to watched tonight is Rudy Gay.  In the first game between these two teams, Rudy had a fantastic scoring night when he poured in 30 points through a diverse offensive attack.  Rarely did he settle for the long jumper, but instead attacked off the dribble and posted up for turn around jumpers that were taken in rhythm.  When Rudy did fire from deep, he made his shots – finishing 3 for 3 from downtown.  Tonight you’d expect that Rudy wouldn’t be as hot, but the Lakers will need to defend him better by making him work harder to catch the ball and then forcing him to his left hand and then better contesting his jumper when he steps back.  I’d also like to see the Lakers trap him more in order to prove that he can be a play maker when the defensive pressure increases.

Offensively, the Lakers biggest advantage lies with Kobe on the rookie Henry.  He should be able to have his way with Henry both in the post and by attacking off the dribble after operating from the triple threat.  If and/or when the double teams start, Kobe can then start to look more for his mates as slashers against big men that don’t move that well defensively.  On a side note, the Grizz have Tony Allen on their roster but didn’t use him much to guard Kobe in the first meeting, instead using their best defensive wing on Artest and Barnes.  If Henry get lit up early by Kobe (which is a distinct possibility) expect to see more of Allen on Kobe than we did in the first game.

The other offensive key is limiting turnovers.  Memphis leads the league in opposition turnover rate, forcing turnovers on over 16% of their defensive possessions.  The Lakers have been better at taking care of the ball lately, but have been known to get turnover happy at times this year.  If they do give up the ball to this team, Conley and Gay can get easy baskets in transition and it also puts the Lakers’ defense in scramble mode as they try to change ends and find their man while still defending the advancing ball handler.  So, the Lakers will need to be patient on offense and just work the ball around by running the offense.  No need for risky or forced passes.  Instead move the ball onto the open man and then cut/screen hard in order to free up another teammate.  This will lead to open shots, even against a defense that’s in the top half of efficiency on that side of the ball.

Where you can watch:  5pm start time out west on KCAL.  Also listen at ESPN Radio 710am.

Darius Soriano

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98 responses to Preview and Chat: The Memphis Grizzlies

  1. For Warren!

    I’d say we win by 20+ and start clicking on all levels again, getting good production all around, riding the high of not going on a 3-game skid or…continue the struggle and are in for a 2-3 point game all night long. Now Z-Bo is back, he could give us some trouble, and we all know Marc plays well against his bro.

    Hopefully Kobe brings it on the rook the same way he does for Mayo.

  2. found myself wondering, (or wanderin’ down memory lane), remember back in the summer of Ronnie and Sasha’s free agency? and we let Ronnie walk, so we could save enough money to sign Sasha?

    of course, who knew? who would guess that Ronnie would continue to be a strong (big man) presence in the middle (well, we all knew that)
    but who would have guessed that was the best we’d ever see of sasha?

    now, while we are big time short on big men, wouldn’t it be nice to have a time machine, and go back and do that deal in reverse?

    I am wondering though, could we trade Sasha for Ronnie, straight up? does it have to wait for a trading deadline, or can trades happen mid season?

    I know I’m flirting with being edited, but this is just a more “in general” question, and dreaming… it’s not really a trade question. (so I hope you let it fly)

  3. Hopefully we can get back on track tonight after blowing a 19 pt lead and going on to lose a close one to the Jazz and then reverting back to Lakers teams of the past by playing down to the level of competition and losing at home to the Pacers (R u serious). One thing that I’ll be watching closely tonight is how aggressive Kobe comes out considering the fact that we’ve lost 2 n a row and he’ll have a pup guarding him at the outset. On another note, good to hear that Drew is a couple of weeks away from returning to action. As I’ve stated previously, our success this season (more so than n previous seasons) is predicated on his health. Anywayz, let’s get it tonight because we have a tough 1 tomorrow ‘gainst Houston.

  4. chris h,
    Good grief – this again. At the time the front office correctly calculated that Ronnie was going to be overpaid and didn’t want to get involved in that.

    We have won two championships – what are we doing rehashing old decisions?????

  5. #3. I’ll let this slide since you put all your caveats in there. Theoretically, this is not a viable trade because Sasha makes too much money (oh, the irony). However, if the contracts did match, this trade could happen right now as there aren’t any timeline restrictions on either player since Ronnie was not a FA signee by the Knicks this past Summer OR since your question involves a straight up 1 for 1 trade (there may have been restrictions if said Knick was combined with other Knicks to make the trade work legally from a financial perspective).

  6. However, after saying my due in #6, I must say that Craig W. makes a good point. Just remember who made those key FT’s in game 7 last year. Every player has some value and hindsight will always prove that mistakes are made but it’s how the team performs in the end (while dealing with those mistakes) that matter most. I’d say the Lakers have done pretty well for themselves.

  7. Plus, Ronnie was a fouling machine when he was a Laker. I mean, if I recall correctly the guy could hardly stay on the court for that reason.

    Hey, if we are going to indulge in pointless retrospectives, who could the Lakers have drafted instead of Bynum?

  8. The Lakers could’ve drafted Yaroslav Korolev instead of Bynum. The Clippers took him 12th ….

  9. MICHAEL ZARABI aka ZERB November 30, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    #8 granger , david lee , monta ellis

  10. We couldn’t have gotten Granger at #8 cuz Bynum went at #10.

    David Lee – meh.

    Monta Ellis? Well, that guy IS amazing. But, it’s an apples to oranges kind of thing.

    I think the FO made the right choice.

  11. Z-Bo is going to hurt us this game. At least 25 and 15 is my guess.

    Love this sibling rivalry.

  12. Jesus, Craig, no need to jump down my throat.
    take a chill pill.
    all I was saying is, we need a big man, and Ronnie would have been a good fit.
    and Sasha is a redundant bench warmer now.

  13. That second block on Kobe was worth it to hear the phrase “a second gay block!”=) I know, I know…I’m infantile.

    Let’s hope that those two fouls on Marc mean that Pau can get more than his normal three minutes of rest this game.

  14. I think the Grizzlies with a healthy Z-bo are better than people realize. I’ll be happy to get the win regardless of margin. My biggest worry right now is the grind that Gasol is under without a back up, I’m wondering if Artest can guard Randolph a bit.

    As a side note I really like OJ Mayo as a future player in the league. A tall PG who can shoot and defend. Reminds me of Ron Harper

  15. More graceful finisher at the rim in traffic – James Worthy or Ron Artest? Discuss. 🙂

  16. Can someone explain to me what I’ve missed thus far. Just got home from work…

  17. Defense not great & Grizz 4/4 from 3, Kobe going off

  18. Where’s Lamar today? We haven’t seen this type of game from him this season until now.

  19. Refs not the reason why we’re losing, but they’ve screwed us on more than a few calls

  20. The officiating has been very inconsistent. I didn’t say bad… I’m saying inconsistent. Very.

  21. So what’s everyone’s take on the 1st half? Kobe’s shooting went down a bit (did he miss his last 6 shots of the half?), and Lamar hasn’t seemed as agressive as we need. Any other thoughts?

  22. The offense has been inconsistent and a little too much Kobe who appears to be in hero mode. Lakers doing a good job rebouding but have too many turnovers in a row that hinders the team from going on a run

  23. we just don’t look fluid and efficient like we did at the beginning of the year and the defense is absolutely not moving at full speed

  24. The Lakers need to establish the post. Give Pau the ball and have him go to work or hit cutters/shooters. Seems like the Grizz aren’t fronting him, so it shouldn’t be that hard.

    We reaaally miss another big. It isn’t as obvious tonight, since the Grizzlies’ front line is also really depleted – but still.

  25. Right now Kobe seems content on shooting when he’s only semi-open and his teammates seem content on allowing it. This is where Phil can easily give his talk about “leaving Kobe on an island”, because they’re just passing to him and not doing much else to involve themselves in the action.

    Also, the Lakers lack of offensive flow is allowing Memphis to get out in transition and operate against a D that’s not set. When the game is strictly half court for the Grizz, they’re only okay at getting a decent shot. But when they’re in the open court they’re getting a good look nearly every time down even if it’s only on a delayed break. If the Lakers show patience on O it will help their D immensely.

  26. This is getting really pathetic. Where’s the D????

  27. Grizzlies this quarter: one 3-pointer by Conley, one jump shot by Gay, and five buckets in the paint.

    Also, Kobe has missed seven consecutive shot attempts after starting 6 for 10.

  28. Bynum, come back soon. Our interior defense is making me cry sad panda tears.

  29. I thought this team ran a fairly complex offensive system known as the triangle, designed to create imbalances on the court and easy shots. I guess I was wrong.

  30. Really rough stretch here. Not getting stops, turning the ball over, and missing three pointers. Not a recipe for success.

    It’s times like this I start the whole “one game out of eighty two” mantra….

  31. terrible and frustrating to watch, the Lakers deserve to get their butts kicked and the grizz are obliging

  32. I hear that if you contest opposing shooters, it increases your chances of a defensive stop. Crazy talk, i know.

  33. Kobe 7-21 midway through the 3rd………come on kobe! Stop thinking about being MVP!!!!! Let Pau enjoy his moment! We all know we’re nothing without you!

  34. 14 TO’s to 3 for the Grizzlies. There’s your problem.

  35. What is up with Pau’s offensive efficiency? Can anyone tell me why he is shooting 3-11?

  36. Second time tonight Blake gave the foul at the end of the quarter. Nice heady veteran, although you might also say that the Lakers bench had his back on the one closing the 3rd, so the assistant coaches were surely yelling at him.

  37. I know Pau needs rest, but a surfeit of minutes alone doesn’t explain 3-11 shooting.

  38. Did the Grizz really only commit 1 foul that entire quarter? Or am I misreading something?

    And Simonoid, you are on the money with that TO count. Every time it looks like LA are about to put something together, we cough up a string of turnovers. And Memphis only has 3 steals, so a LOT of those turnovers are self-made. Travels, offensive fouls, etc.

  39. Lakers played a very poor 3rd quarter. Pretty lucky to be down 5 considering Kobe was in misfiring gunner mode and Pau still hasn’t found an offensive groove.

  40. One game out of 82, AusPhil, one game out of 82.

    So true, every time I get excited about a run coming, it’s travel on Artest, off-arm hook on Barnes, etc.

  41. Pau’s misses have been mostly tips and the like. He’s not receiving the ball in good positions, and it’s not his fault this time – he’s been open a ton of times.

    Phil hasn’t been too pleased with Ron’s decision making the last couple of games..

  42. The Lakers just love playing from behind lately, they need to stop digging themselves into holes

  43. bless my heart, the Lakers actually got a call

  44. Case in point: Pau has now received the ball in good positions 4 times, 3 of which resulted in wide open threes.

  45. Grizzlies get called for their second foul in the last 16 or so minutes of play…

    But I would still say that execution on both ends is what’s keeping LA behind here. Like Darius was saying earlier, a lot of Kobe’s misses are “left on an island” misses, and the general flow of the offense has been poor.

    Even Shannon seems to be coming back to earth the last few games.

    Still, the deficit is only single digits with more than 8 minutes to go.

  46. Good to see a little bit of patience on offense.

  47. Where’s the D….all open jumpers out of fear for dribble penetration.

  48. Great D there by Fisher. He man’d up on Conley and forced a bad decision.

  49. And surprise, surprise…Pau totally abuses them once he finally receives the ball;)

  50. Even more of a surprise – we go away from the postups and Lamar misses an iso J.

  51. This team needs defensive stops badly

  52. We’re yet to win a close one this year. Let’s see if the team can reclaim their 4th quarter mentality.

  53. Why take Shannon out of the game I don’t get it?

  54. So is this karma, that I enjoyed the recent Heat losing streak a little too much, so now one week later I have to watch the Lakers lose to the exact same teams in the same order?

  55. I have an unreasonable certainty that Bynum would not allow all of these easy driving lay-ups.

    Knock someone down.

  56. Why double Zach Randolph that far out?

  57. I can’t believe Mike Conley of all people has destroyed this team tonight, embarassing

  58. That karma argument has some merit…

    LA has certainly made Conley look like he’s worth the extension Memphis gave him. Unconscious scoring.

  59. Uhhhhhhhhh.

    I don’t get it. Why can’t they get a stop or 2? Defense!

    Thank gawd Artest made that 3.

  60. That was a very pretty finish by Kobe, and Marc Gasol should have knocked him down…

    But that was a pretty finish.

  61. Lakers8884, because we’re getting exploited by Gay at the other end and Artest is the only one with a realistic shot of defending him.

  62. this is it. the lakers need to get a stop after the break. just one stop, a rebound, and a made shot. don’t care if it’s a 2 or 3. just make it.

    3 in a row this early is not going to be good.

  63. Ron screws up 2 games in a row

  64. Jeez…it seems like every game these days ends with Ron fading for a three.

  65. What happened on that last possession? I couldn’t get a feed to the game

  66. JD, one game isn’t decided by a single play. The entire team didn’t play too well tonight, and the Grizzlies couldn’t miss at times. One game out of 82, like AusPhil said. We’ll live.

  67. Ugggghhhhhhhhhhh!!! 2nd time that kobe pass to artest for last shot that did not work out. why did he hesitate? he did that the last time too and then dribbled around a little aimlessly and threw up that terrible 2.

  68. We had timeouts there did we not…?

    Definitely time to be thinking 1 of 82, and look for some big improvements in coming games. And every time I see a PG get another layup, I look forward to Bynum’s return. Longing to see Pau back at PF.

  69. I’d bet a can of pop that the next time we have the chance for a game tying shot, Kobe’s taking it for himself.

  70. it’s a good thing that we have 4 bad teams coming up to fix our shiz, because the way we’ve been playing we are NOT beating Chicago at their place Dec. 10th 🙁

  71. Come on AusPhil, we’re famous for not calling timeouts at the end of games. Phil Jackson trusts the team (well, basically he trusts Kobe) to get a good look before the opposing defense can set in.

  72. Absolutely pathetic final possession. Just gut wrenching. The bad decision making bug strikes again.

  73. It seems like our early success perimeter shooting has been a hidden curse – in that we’ve been going to it far too often in our last 3 losses and longballs that were falling before now aren’t.

  74. Seriously, the Lakers seem to be regressing lately while teams like San Antonio and Dallas are improving. They should be feasting on these mediocre teams because the schedule really hasn’t been too tough recently.

  75. i think i prefer barnes in for the end then artest. i think that worked out for the lakers in the earlier games.

    i prefer shannon and barnes in closing games then artest and fish.

  76. Lakers lose another close game. Every loss has been by 6 points or less. Lakers need to end this streak tomorrow

  77. Forget playing for HCA in the finals, we need to be playing for HCA in the West and lagging behind this early in the season is pretty troubling

  78. Simonoid – Yes indeed he does trust the team, although I thought after the Indiana game…

    But anyhow.

    Good point from kehntangibles too – I definitely feel like we’ve developed a little too much love for the 3 after all the early success from deep. It makes us look unbeatable when we make them, but the last few games have shown how quickly it can turn the other way. We were at our best tonight when Pau got good position, or when Kobe was drawing fouls.

  79. 79. Seriously I have been thinking that same thing, Dallas and San Antonio look really darn good (Dallas doesn’t even have Beaubois back yet). When was the last time the Lakers were behind in the Western Conference race? The season they got Pau from Memphis?

  80. 62, Rudy’s 14 points don’t seem that killer to me, and it’s not like he’s handling the ball, ever.

    You can see that Artest’s consistent struggling is really starting to get to him. Twice now he’s hesitated on potentially game-altering shots, and twice he paid for it. He’s played solid D and he made a big three right before that play, but his consistently poor offensive play to start this season has really started to get to him.

    The bench really kept us in the game (mostly because the Grizzlies have no depth), and our starters just got out-worked by the Grizzlies starters. Lakers played well to get back into the game after being down 13, but key mistakes really hurt them. Kobe had just jacked up a horrible three a couple possessions before that, so he probably had that in the back of his mind that he didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. He also probably knew that he wasn’t likely to get a foul call to decide the game, so that’s why he made a poor pass out to Ron in the first place.

    Barnes and Artest both had pairs of momentum crushing turnovers on separate occasions, with mundane mistakes like dribbling balls off their feet or mishandling the ball.

    Our team did show some life late in the 4th quarter; we can only hope that they start to show it for the other 3.5 quarters.

  81. I see what’s happening.

    Phil’s sandbagging so he doesn’t have to coach the All-Star game.

  82. Zephid, I agree seriously if I were Phil I would really start questioning having Artest in games late when it’s close. Let’s all be honest he plays solid defense but he isn’t as incredible at it as everyone makes him out to be, more than anything his offensive struggles have really hurt the Lakers. I would rather have Shannon play (he is athletic enough to contest shots on defense) or even Barnes play in crunch time, they offer more to the Lakers as a whole, or at least this season so far they have.

    I don’t know if it will happen but when they added Barnes this offseason I really felt like halfway through the season that if Artest wasn’t playing well that Barnes would become the starter. At this point I don’t think it’s a bad idea, Artest can shoot as much as he wants with the bench

  83. Difference of the game IMO was the Grizzlies being able to put hands in faces when we shot and bother ball handlers while the Lakers let them shoot uncontested time and time again. Incredibly poor execution which made me want to stop watching.

  84. @85 – Bingo. I can live with the opponents just making great shots. These guys are all professionals, and they have the talent to do that. But when you’re just lackadaisical about contesting jumpers or dribble penetration and give up the easy look, that’s what kills me. I know they’re pacing themselves for the playoffs and they’ve been through all this before, but there’s something to be said for maintaining good defensive habits so that flipping the proverbial switch in May isn’t such a big adjustment for our guys.

  85. The sky is falling. No three-peat. All is lost.

  86. Igor, the sky is not falling, but something is certainly not right. I cant remember the last time this team lost 3 straight games, and 2 of them were to teams middle of the road teams. Bynum can’t be the only valid excuse for it, the team as a whole is just lacking something.

  87. Lol, I’m pretty sure Igor was using sarcasm. Anyway, I’ve definitely noticed the “take every opponents best shot” syndrome going on this year. I’m okay with these losses, hopefully the team will get some good lessons to takeaway. I have to say though I’m a bit concerned at how lost the team looks sometimes late in games. Either way, bring it on Houston!

  88. Yes, teams playing their A games have a lot to do with it. On the good side, the loses have been close, which means even when we have sucked, we have always had a chance to win. They will figure it out.

  89. Thanks Matthias. I’m afraid most Laker fans will have to be reminded throughout the season that our last three-peat team (2002) didn’t even finish first in its own DIVISION. I completely discount these losses to not having another big body available. I miss you DJ.

  90. I thought they really had no business being down 2 with the ball on the final possession when you consider how poorly they played for most of the contest. It was a very disjointed performance, the ball movement wasn’t good and they took way too many quick jumpers. They dug themselves a big hole and didn’t really perform well as a team until it was way late and when there really was no room for error.

    and instead of harping on the man, I just hope Artest won’t hesitate as much in the future. he just needs to talk to the psychiatrist and learn how to RELAX again.

  91. Is it too early for a “Fish is awful and washed up and is killing the team as opposing point guards drop 30 a night on his head” comment?

    I think it might not be too early…

  92. I’m so proud of you Lakers fans tonight. I pulled up this forum expecting to see 80 or 90% of the post complaining about the bad officiating and there are actually very few. I guess the bandwagon fans go away in the regular season. Kobe 9 for 25. If Dirk took that many shots he would score60…

  93. Igor: Refreshing to hear that perspective for once. And while I agree with many that the Lakers have been frustrating to watch lately, I’m not worried in the slightest. Like I’ve said before: If everyone’s healthy, I have the Lakers winning the title even if they finish eighth.

    We’re too dominating inside to lose when healthy. Only Boston will present a real challenge. (“When healthy” is a key phrase here though.)

    Final note: After playing 45 minutes tonight, Pau’s now been granted a whooping 9 total minutes of rest in the last three games. Surprisingly enough, he looked slightly more fresh tonight (the few times he got the ball). But that will not last.

  94. You know, I noticed Fisher doing some good things early to mid-game. Decent scoring and some good “OH NO” drives as he somehow bulled his way to a bucket (wish he’d just give up the rock for someone else to dunk..). Yea, he was a bit of a sieve but I’ve noticed even Blake and others having a lot of trouble trying to chase/recover after a high screen. Didn’t really know if it wasn’t enough of a hedge by the big or what, but I was glad to see Fisher have some success on O at least.

  95. Guess 94 is a frustrated Mavericks’ fan.

    We will have to hope Bynum can stay healthy for a awhile this time.