Preview and Chat: The Memphis Grizzlies

Darius Soriano —  January 2, 2011
Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Records: Lakers 23-10 (3rd in West); Grizzlies 14-19 (11th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 111.5 (2nd in NBA); Grizzlies 105.0 (19th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 104.7 (10th in NBA); Grizzlies 105.3 (12th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Grizzlies: Mike Conley, Sam Young, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol
Injuries: Lakers: Theo Ratliff (out); Grizzlies: Xavier Henry (questionable), Rudy Gay (probable)

The Lakers Coming in:  Even with two consecutive wins, it’s still too early to say that the Lakers are back on track.  Philly just pushed this team in a close game into the closing minute and the Lakers still haven’t fully hit their stride where they’re firing on all cylinders.  However, there are encouraging signs and the team does look much better than they did during their losing streak (and even before).  Offensively the team is running its sets with improved focus and results.  The return of Bynum has brought back more ball reversals for easy post ups and have put Kobe in more ball handling situations where he’s shown better explosiveness.  And on defense the team is protecting the paint better which has also led to more aggressive perimeter defense and better rotations on the wings.  So even though turnovers remain a problem and the three point shooting has fallen off, the Lakers look to be improving going into a home-heavy part of their schedule where they should be able to get some traction going.

The Grizzlies Coming in:  Memphis just can’t seem to put a positive run together to get them back at the level they played at last season.  After what looked to be a strong string of 4 consecutive wins in the early part of December, the team has now lost 2 in a row and 5 of their last 7 contests.  Included in that stretch are losses against the Nets and the Kings, the latter game providing one of the crazier endings you’ll see in any NBA game.

Even without the team winning at the rate it would like, the Grizz do have some individual players playing well.  Zach Randolph has been on a tear of late, averaging 20 and 14 in the month of December and putting up ridiculous lines of 35 & 17 and 27 & 16 in his last two games.  Marc Gasol has also played pretty well lately, scoring the ball well and grabbing the rebounds that Zach hasn’t gobbled up.  And even though he missed their last game with a stomach virus, Rudy Gay has continued to put up very good numbers in what is shaping up to be the best year of his career.

Where the Grizz continue to struggle, though, is with their bench.  While OJ Mayo’s move to a reserve role has helped give Memphis a scoring punch off the pine, he’s their only real threat off the pine (and considering the Grizz don’t consistently get production from the guys that have replaced Mayo in the starting line up, they’ve seemingly just swapped out one issue for another).  But outside of OJ, the Grizz just don’t have much of a reserve group.  Former #2 overall pick Hasheem Thabeet continues to struggle and guys like Darrell Arthur, Greivis Vasquez, and Tony Allen give solid contributions but really are replacement level players at their best.

Grizzlies Blogs: Chip Crain and crew do an excellent job covering the Grizz over at 3 Shades of Blue.  Their game preview is up, so check that out here.

Keys to game:  The last time that these two teams faced off the Lakers went away from running their offense to instead play isolation ball.  The result was sloppy offensive play, missed shots that led to run outs by the Grizz, and ultimately a two point loss where the Lakers couldn’t slow Mike Conley’s open court wizardry (yeah, you read that right).  If the Lakers are to have better results tonight, they’ll need to go to the game plan they’ve shown in their past two games where an emphasis on post ups and crisp offense are the story.

So, I expect to see a heavy dosage of Pau and Andrew in the post against Memphis’ front line.  Bynum missed the last Grizzlies game and that left Pau going one on one a lot against a tag team duo of his brother Marc and Zach Randolph.  Getting banged around by those two guys left Pau relatively ineffective but tonight should be a different story with Pau likely seeing a lot of Zach – a defender that isn’t known for being a much of a “stopper”.  And with Bynum showing improved touch and movement around the basket since his return as a starter, I also hope to see big ‘Drew get some post up chances against the younger Gasol, especially on ball reversals where he can use his strength to duck in on the weak side to establish good post position.

After the Lakers look to establish the post, I also hope to see them make some of their outside jumpers.  I fully expect that if the Lakers do go into the post early that the Grizzlies wings will do a lot of digging down off Artest, Fisher, etc to give interior help.  That should give the Lakers good looks from the outside that – if they convert – should give them a decent cushion to create separation from a scrappy Memphis group.

Defensively, the Lakers will need to get a better handle on the Grizz transition game.  A better Laker offensive attack will help with that as less long jumpers and better spacing should create better transitions from offense to defense, but the Lakers will still need to make a concerted effort to get back and build a wall against Conley.  He will push the pace at every opportunity and will try to get to the rim off isolations in the open court or off drag screens with Marc and Zach trailing the play looking to pick off the Lakers guards.  Hopefully, the Lakers big men will be back on D to discourage penetration and help out on those picks.

From the standpoint of individual match ups, the Lakers will need to know where Rudy Gay is at all times.  Coming off his successful Summer with team USA, Gay has really taken it to the Lakers putting up an average of 22 points in their two match ups this year.  His improved mid-range game and ability to go into the post has really aided his efficiency so Artest and Barnes will really need to be on their games with Rudy looking to come back strong from his bout with a stomach virus.

Tonight is a really chance to build momentum for the Lakers.  The Grizz haven’t been playing good ball, so the Lakers should be able to establish their tempo in this game and wear them down over the course of the evening.  If the Lakers can get this win it will set them up to really start to make a push this month, and with other contenders (save the Spurs) dealing with injuries and starting to come back to the pack, the Lakers can potentially start to improve their record in respect to the rest of the league.  So, go out and get a win tonight and look forward to a month where they can live fat and happy with a lot of home games.

Where you can watch: 6:30pm start time over on Fox Sports. For your listening pleasure tune into ESPN Radio 710am.

Darius Soriano

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44 responses to Preview and Chat: The Memphis Grizzlies

  1. This ones for Warren!

    Go Lakers . . .

  2. Does Warren still post here?

  3. If you can, check out the Memphis feed of this game featuring one of the best “Xs and Os” color analysts around: Sean Tuohy.

    I can virtually guarantee that he won’t say “Mr. Khloe Kardashian” even once, let alone two dozen times like Sean Eliot did during the Spurs game.

  4. @2, robinred, He has this year, but not to much anymore since Kurt left, which is to bad because I always like what he has to say.

  5. Its January and we are playing the Grizz… Somebody rub some rabbits’ feet on both of Bynum’s knees.

  6. @5. I’m praying to the FSM…ramen

  7. I missed the SA/LAL game, but did Sean Eliot really refer to LO as “Mr. Khloe Kardashian”? How incredibly unprofessional!

  8. @3, 7. And also classless…smh

  9. anyone know of a live stream for the game? go la!

  10. @ 3 & 7

    You got that right Abides….Elliot is one of the worst homers on League Pass games–although the Jazz announcers are worse

  11. @7. Yep, I’m afraid so. He could hardly contain himself he was so pleased with it.

    The Eliots and Heinsohns aside, I enjoy watching the feeds from other teams because it gives a good perspective of how the Lakers are viewed around the league. The main themes: Kobe is great, Pau has a dazzling array of post moves, Bynum is big, Lamar is versatile, and hoo boy look at all the celebrities. No one is talking about Artest this year, since last year they all predicted he would implode.

  12. Don’t even get me started on those a–clowns the Spurs pay to call their TV broadcasts…

    Calling Odom “Mr. Khloe Kardashian” wasn’t even the worst of it; they’re idiot play-by-play guy — don’t know his name, don’t care too — likes to yell “In your face” or “In his face” (something like that; I try to block out the memory) after nothing jumpers go down in the first quarter. He sounded like that cop in the stun gun scene in “The Hangover,” only 1,000x less funny. I had to mute the NBATV coverage after he dropped that twice.

    Speaking of Vegas, some people here still like to call Sean Elliott “Mrs. Stacey Augmon” after the way he got punked by UNLV in the ’89 NCAA tournament.

  13. @9
    I’m going with this one tonight:
    http://atdhe.net/31779/watch-memphis-grizzlies-vs-los-angeles-lakers

    Also, Mr. Anonymous above (post #7) was me.

  14. gracias sedale.

  15. New year, same old turnover problems.

  16. 12

    San Antonio’s announcers call the game like small-timers. Always taking cheap shots at opponents and celebrating every big play like it’s the NBA Finals. Lame.

  17. Lethargic start for LA

    I’ve also been comparing each team’s tv crew, and Utah and SA has to be the worst in terms of being fair and unbiased. The Laker crew does a good job in calling out the games, appreciating good basketball and even being objective and fair on the calls even if doesn’t favor the Lakers

  18. Another pathetic half. Shocking.

  19. Well, at least Bynum is active. Not sure what Kobe was doing on that last posession. A couple of lazy passes led to quick points for the Grizzlies. If the Lakers sharpen their focus they can actually win this game.

    Also, I would love to see Bynum get to eight blocks.

  20. All jokes aside, which team played last night? It looks as if we’re still Hungover. Too many turnovers & not enough energy (Drew being the lone exception). Hopefully, this isn’t one of those games in which we just feel as long as we keep it close enough, we’ll be able to pull it out @ the end. Then end up Losing, alas the Pacers game from a couple of weeks ago.

  21. Energy is a problem, but focus is a bigger one. Without the turnovers, this game would be much closer (or the Lakers may even be in the lead). The fact that the Lakers have been lax with their passes and suspect with their decision making is really the issue.

  22. Down by two, LA playing that dangerous game of cat and mouse. This might work against Memphis, but bad habits form with this effort. The good teams will have us for lunch with this type of disregard for details.

  23. No production from Artest and Fisher for games now. What the hell is going on?

  24. I really don’t get it. How does down 2 get to down 15 so fast?? the turnovers are killing them. And they just look lazy & slower than their opponents.

    It’s so disheartening to watch back to back champs consistently put out this type of play. Sigh.

  25. This team is unbelievably bad. I’m sick of people using the excuse energy and focus. Those are more or less abstract excuses. This team just doesn’t play good basketball on either end of the floor. If they do play well its only for a few minutes or a half at most. I just want to know when is Phil ever going to get the blame for the lakers overwhemingly underperforming.

  26. As painful as it was to watch Skyline, looks like that was a slightly less worse waste of time than this game. It’s OK to panic now, Laker fans. This is just a bit too reminiscent of 2004.

  27. Memphis always plays LA tough, this was one of the upcoming games I had marked. Dallas drops a couple of players and the LA way rears its ugly head with the second seed in the west up for grabs.

  28. Joel, I agree with you. Add in the fact that they don’t seem to even care that they’re bad, well, this is what results. And Phil probably cares the least, as evidenced by him always just sitting there like an f-ing corpse, so he’ll probably never get any of the blame.

  29. the only thing worse than watching this game would be attending the game. flushing the money just down the drain would be a greater pleasure than watching the lakers mailing the game in.

  30. Just woke up. Wow.

  31. 2004 was completely different. This is reminiscent of 2003. Any team with energetic and talented guards thrashes our guys on every possession.
    Outside of Kobe we have no slashers, so teams play like the suns or celtics do against us – a basic zone and it works. Every turnover equals points for the other teams, and the lakers are making terrible passes to each other.
    Anybody worry about bringing in two career journeyman (Blake and barnes) and notice that when they play it’s often very sloppy and shows no real offensive threat.

    Sigh. We’ve been blown out a lot this year.

  32. How does the starting small forward play 24 minutes not score any points? Really? I am amazed at this. And the crazy thing is both teams shooting percentage was roughly the same. The number of free throws taken by each team was close to equal as well. Still Memphis took nearly 20 more shots than the Lakers.

    I guess that is what happens when you force turnovers and play at a quicker pace. I don’t even know what to say about this team anymore.

  33. What a terrible way to start 2011…Looking at the schedule, I’m beginning to worry that this team, as poorly as they’re playing right now, will struggle to stay .500 in January. Games against OKC, Dallas, Denver, Utah and Boston to close out the month. These blowouts are getting really old…just like our team looks right nw

  34. It seems a combination of things are at work–age, lack of athleticism, Kobe’s hands, mental fatigue, and improved competition up and down the West.

    Pau and Andrew only got 17 shots tonight as well.

    Time to forget about HCA, table playoff thoughts, and take it a game at a time–for the team, and for the fanbase, IMO.

  35. Lakers Live showing an ugly and revealing graphic: 1-3 in last 4 home games, all losses by 16+ points and since starting the season 8-0, team has gone 15-11 (against the a very weak schedule)

  36. So for someone who didn’t watch the game, what I gather from reading everyone’s comments is that Bynum was the only bright spot for the team?

    The stat that concerns me is Memphis with 30 Assists, LA 13. Unfortunately I think the Lakers have become far too predictable on offense, everyone knows the ball is going to Kobe or Pau primarily and they will live with letting everyone else beat them.

  37. The turnovers and steals killed us the greatest tonight. The Lakers seem to be just giving the games away in these blowouts, which are getting kind of old about now. I mean, if we are going to lose, can we keep it under ten points or so. I am still happy about the last two wins though.

  38. The things that this team has been able to get by with over the years is finally catching up too them. I love the back to back chips, a down year could be expected at some point.

    I believe the knob on the faucet is finally broke, no turning it on or off when its convienent. The maximum effort LA seems to have to play with too get a win is very disappointing. If this team cant bring its B or C game to the table and win, this is truly going to be a long year.

  39. I did not even watch the game because my girl was over, but she fell asleep, I go on nba.com expecting to see a nice Laker win, and wow, can’t believe the Lakers got blown out by another bad team, and on their homecourt. Yes, it is panic time Laker fans. This team has major issues. You know, its not really the Lakers bad play that bothers me as much as the other Western conference teams, they are truly very good. I watched the Spurs, Dallas game on TNT, and the level of play that game was a lot higher than what we have seen from the Lakers. Of course we have already got blown out by the Spurs and the Heat. I am sorry positive Laker fans, but it is hard for me to believe this team can just flip the switch and play better come playoff time. This is not the same team last year. They are older, and can no longer just rely on talent to just get by teams, the West is too tough for that. I am not saying they don’t have a shot, but I just don’t think it is likely they are making it out of the west this year.

  40. although i am a laker fan, and follow their games online (after they have completed) i rarely watch them play until the playoffs. why they are able to charge so much for tickets when they play so poorly is a mystery.

  41. Wow, and I thought this was going to be an easy win, although Thorpe’s tweet about TO’s sounded an alarm.

    But… as much as this game sucked…

    I look forward to a very constructive and informative discussion on FB&G.

  42. The #1 thing I notice is just a general lack of energy, which leads to the inability to get easy baskets, loose balls, and stopping the other team from getting easy baskets and wide-open 3 point shots.

    Kobe losing a step is understandable but the last few games shows he still has something left in the tank. What on earth, though, is going on with Pau? Is his hamstrings still bothering him? It shouldn’t be his minutes, they haven’t been bad since Bynum returned. Any theories welcome.

  43. IMO, the Lakers play poorly whenever Pau is not assertive at fighting for position and not aggressive once he gets the ball. When that happens, the team doesn’t go inside-out and either throws up contested long jumpers, or Kobe goes into iso-mode. What should happen when this occurs is that the wings should look for Drew and see if he can wreak havoc down low. However, at this point Drew doesn’t quite have his legs under him, and I would imagine the coaching staff just wants him to concentrate on defense and rebounding.

    The optimist in me thinks that the knee that Drew injured in January 2009 (the Kobe collision) is healthier now than it has been since that injury. Remember, not only did he suffer a moderate tear to his MCL, but he also tore his meniscus, which was never repaired until July 2010. He played the entire ’09-10 season with a slightly torn meniscus, and aggravated the injury in the first round of the playoffs against OKC. Drew regaining his “beast mode” ability is the one wild card in our favor. Let’s hope it occurs.