Preview & Chat: The Memphis Grizzlies

Darius Soriano —  January 8, 2012

Records: Lakers 5-4 (7th in West), Grizzlies 3-4 (10th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 104.2 (14th in NBA), Grizzlies 98.5 (25th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 100.4 (10th in NBA), Grizzlies 102.1 (14th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Matt Barnes, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Grizzlies: Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Rudy Gay, Dante Cunningham, Marc Gasol
Injuries: Lakers: Derrick Caracter (out), Josh McRoberts (doubtful); Grizzlies: Zach Randolph (out), Darrell Arthur (out), Hamed Haddadi (questionable)

The Lakers Coming in: Win one, lose one. Win two, lose one. This is the nature of a team that’s still a bit more up and down than we’d all like. On most nights, their big three gives them exactly what they need and with the help of a role player or two it’s enough to win. On other nights, those role players don’t step up and the team loses. And then there’s those nights where one of the stars either does way more than expected (see Kobe’s last game) or doesn’t perform well at all (see Kobe’s 2nd game vs. the Nuggets) and the game goes according to that performance. I think we’re getting to the point where the team needs that 4th player to step up night in and night out but trusting any of the role players to consistently be that guy is difficult considering the inconsistent nature of their games. What’s more likely is that a different guy will play well nearly every night and hopefully that’s enough.

What would help this team is for McRoberts to get healthy and back in the lineup. Yes, he’s only a role player but his absence has been glaring. First, he’s athletic and helps the Lakers on the glass and as a finisher, both in fast break situations and as a slasher in the half court (not to mention as an offensive rebounder). Second, his presence means that Murphy can go back to being LA’s 4th big and not be the primary back up to both Gasol and Bynum. Against the Blazers, for example, Murphy played 27 minutes and was a -14 on the night. Against the Warriors, he was better in his 23 minutes of action, but I’d still prefer his minutes be around 15 per night to maximize what he brings to the table.  This isn’t to dig on Murphy, who has been a pleasant surprise this year (especially for his work on the glass and how he at least tries to protect the rim on defense, even if that only means giving a hard foul). However, this Laker team knows what it’s like not having enough big man depth and how that can wear on them as the season advances. McRoberts getting back will help all the other Laker bigs, not only because his game complements theirs, but because his minutes will give them a needed rest. Here’s hoping he’s back soon.

The Grizzlies Coming in: The Grizz were last year’s darlings, returning to the playoffs for the first time since Pau was there and making noise by taking out the #1 seeded Spurs in the first round. With that success came expectations for this season, but things haven’t quite gone their way as injuries have hit them hard. When you combine that with the team now being a known commodity no longer overlooked by other teams, their lives are simply more difficult this season on a night in, night out basis.

For a closer look at the Grizzlies, Chip Crain from the Grizz site 3 Shades of Blue answered a few questions about how this team is coming along so far considering all that’s happened to them. Below is our exchange:

FB&G: The Grizzlies have been hit hard with the injury bug, first with Darrell Arthur and now, even bigger, with Zach Randolph. How’s the team responded to these injuries? Who’s stepped up? Who still needs to?

3 Shades of Blue: The Grizzlies suffered a tremendous blow when Zach Randolph went down with a partially torn MCL. Not many teams have the luxury of talent to lose an All NBA player and still continue winning. The Grizzlies are no exception. Darrell Arthur only added to that weakness. However the return of Mike Conley helps tremendously but it may not be enough against the taller frontline of the Lakers. Newly acquired Marreese Speights needs to show more than he did against Utah for the Grizzlies to be able to hang with the Lakers size.

FB&G: Looking at Rudy Gay’s numbers, he doesn’t seem all the way back to the form he showed last season before his injury. What’s been his biggest issue this year?

3 Shades of Blue: His biggest issue has been letting the game come to him especially on the offensive end. Gay tried too hard the first few games to make his mark felt and it hurt his numbers and the team. He’s been playing more under control lately and that has helped. He seems to be back physically but mentally is another question.

FB&G: OJ Mayo is always a player of interest for Laker fans due to his Southern California roots. How would you describe his performance this year and do you think he’s a long term player for the Grizzlies considering he’s always popping up in trade rumors?

3 Shades of Blue: Mayo has been up and down this season. He started off terrible with rumors of his being traded floating around. Mayo is not likely long for Memphis since his next contract will likely price the Grizzlies out of the running for his services. Too much money is tied up with Gay, Randolph and Gasol to pay a backup big money and Mayo will likely command a lucrative deal this summer.

Grizzlies Blogs: As mentioned, 3 Shades of Blue has all the insight and coverage of this team that you’ll need. You can find their game preview here.

Keys to game: The hype surrounding a Lakers/Grizzlies matchup always centers around the Gasol brothers going head to head. It’s pretty rare that brothers get to face off, even rarer when both are fantastic talents that can both impact the game the way that Pau and Marc can. That said, this is a game where Pau can make his imprint and will be a key to the contest.

As mentioned above, Zach Randolph is injured as is his primary backup. Pau will be matched up against Dante Cunningham, and should be able to work him over on offense by going at him early and often. Pau’s been great at taking (and making) his mid-range jumper, but tonight I’m hoping he goes more to the post to take advantage of the smaller Cunningham on the block. Pau’s been one of the most efficient post scorers in the league this year but with Bynum back, his chances down there have diminished, as big Drew has feasted at the front of the rim. Tonight, though, those roles could inverse and the Lakers would be better off for it. Pau should get ample touches at the left block where he can both get his own buckets and dish to teammates when the help comes. And trust, if matched up one on one with Cunningham, the help will come.

Featuring Pau doesn’t mean that Kobe and Bynum shouldn’t also get their touches, but the Lakers must be smarter about it tonight. Kobe’s facing one of the premier wing defenders in the league in Tony Allen and will need to pick his spots more carefully, working less in isolation and instead moving off the ball, by using the screens that his big men set for him. If Kobe can get Allen in a trail position coming off picks, he can then get him off balance easier and either get off his jumper in space or use Allen’s aggressiveness to fake him out of position where getting into the paint is easier.

As for Drew, he’ll be banging against the big body of Marc and will need to use all facets of his game, not just relying on his brute strength to get his position. Bynum will need to run hard to the front of the rim and make Marc run with him and then use his size advantage to pin him close to the rim. Bynum will also need to use his quickness to duck in on the weak side and move off screens well to get the ball. Once Bynum makes the catch, he should enjoy more single coverage than he did against Portland (it will be hard to help off Pau and Kobe) but he must make his decisions more quickly and not hold the ball to let the D shift in his direction. Either move quickly to shoot or make the correct pass earlier in possessions so that the Lakers end up having to force shots against the shot clock.

On defense, the Lakers have a “big 3” of their own to contend with. That moniker may be a bit generous here, but Conley is the type of quick, all court point guard the Lakers struggle with. He’ll push the pace in the open court, use the P&R in half court sets to get into the lane, and flashes an improved jumper if you go under screens/sag off him to deny his penetration. The Lakers must mark him early in possessions, try make him change direction when he’s attacking in the open court, and make him shoot jumpers (regardless of how improved he is in that area).

As for Gay, he’s struggled with his jumper lately, but is still dangerous when working 18 feet and in, when he can elevate for his mid-range J or get all the way to the rim to finish with power. He’s also dangerous in the open court and can run to the rim or to the arc, so Matt Barnes will need to track him judiciously and not lose him, ever. Get caught ball watching and he’ll slip back door for a lob or work his way off a pick to make a catch, and then attack hard and shoot his pull up J going to his right hand.

And then, of course, there’s Marc Gasol. He’s the linchpin of the Grizzlies’ O, working the elbow as a facilitator when he’s not on the block getting his own baskets. He has the ability to knock down the mid-range J and has a great feel for hitting his teammates when they break open, so Bynum will need to pressure the ball and make him uncomfortable whenever he makes a catch at the elbow. In the post, Bynum will need to be smart and not go for any of the fakes that Marc will utilize on any possession. Bynum simply needs to use his body to deny position and then play him straight up while challenging shots without fouling. This is within Bynum’s comfort zone on D, but that doesn’t mean he can just coast. His head will need to be in the game both as a primary defender and in help situations.

Overall, on defense, the Lakers’ approach should be to force the Grizz to shoot from the outside. The Lakers finally face a team that struggles with the three pointer more than they do (Memphis 30th in the league in 3 point shooting), so they must prove they can knock down shots before the Lakers change their D and treat them with respect from the outside. So, I’m hoping that wing defenders help down on the post, close driving lanes by having help defenders with a foot in the paint, and that they close out under control and invite them to take jumpers.

Where you can watch: 6:30pm tip time on Fox Sports West. Also listen live on ESPN Radio 710am.

Darius Soriano

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71 responses to Preview & Chat: The Memphis Grizzlies

  1. Brown was talking at Land O Lakers about trying to stabilize the rotation:

    It is a McMenamin piece.

  2. Interesting to read the comments on the site mentioned above. They are way tougher on MWP asking to amnesty or release him and begging Walton to retire. They mostly all agree that management has done a poor job putting this team together. Other the the big 3 , we must except that there is not one of the remaining 9 that would get minutes for most NBA teams.

    See I am not so bad.

  3. Ken,
    McRoberts, Blake, Barnes, and Murphy would all get solid minutes on almost every team. But clearly Fisher and newly fat MWP are not rotation players in the NBA. Inp still think Artest who has been in great shape for most of his career can progress as the playoffs approach. But Fisher hasn’t been an NBA player for a few years and now is 37. To be honest… I feel bad for the guy. He is the kind of warrior that is going to have to be dragged off the court… And so far nobody cares about him enough to do the dragging.

  4. Physically, Ebanks might be the best match-up against Gay, I’d be happy to see him get some playing time tonight. Maybe play World Peace at the 4 a bit if McRoberts can’t go and give some of those minutes at SF to Ebanks.

    With a very weak Pacific Division, all the Lakers have to do to be a top 3 seed in the west is stay ahead of the Clippers, the Warriors, Kings, and Suns probably won’t finish over .500 if I had to guess. So in this short season, a home game against the Grizzlies without their All Star PF is a good chance to claw towards that no. 1 spot in the division.

  5. Lakers get a break catching Grizz w/o their best player Zeebo. So they should easily win this game at home. And they need to win at home, so far the road is proving to be difficult (0-3 so far). Also, I’m looking forward to see the latest challenge for Bynum, facing a big young talented & skilled center in Marc Gasol. At 26 years of age, Marc (7’1, 265 lbs) is averaging 14 & 10 to Bynum’s (age 24, 7’0, 285) 20 & 16. I want to see if Bynum can be a defensive presence yet stay out of foul trouble while facing a big center who’s a major part of the offense.

  6. BigCitySid: Good points. A) Should be an easy game, which makes it a must W B) Let’s see if Drew plays like #2 overall.

    robinred: 90’s: So in other words we weren’t winning, but we had a plan at the end of the decade. The part where we were totally lost with an unretiring Magic and a defiant Nick was the part to be avoided at all costs.

    Tonight’s game: Expecting a W, however if things turn a little sour, then please hold the Kobe bashing to a minimum. It is “repetitive” and “tiresome”.

  7. 3

    I don’t think you want to use ESPN commenters as your standard here…

  8. The schedule is brutal so sticking to the geezers you trust versus developing the youth is going to lead to fatigue and an early playoff exit. Who knows if the Lakers will be able to upgrade the guard rotation or whatever needed spare parts but they have the opportunity to build their stamina.

    Ugly basketball thus far has meant no blowouts so the garbage time has taken the form of blowing 3rd quarter leads to Portland and not being able to drop the hammer on Golden State until the final horn.

    I had thoughts that MWP would benefit from being away from the triangle as Blake has but him coming into a short season out of shape has really soured me more than his offensively offensive play. Maybe it’s a Queens thing.

  9. Here is my forecast, MWP will improve his game in the next few weeks, perhaps by February and he will be a big help in D and rebounds. On Walton, it is a lost case or consider it as bad debts in accounting parlance. I would suggest they activate Morris and let Luke dress in street clothes. Morris and Goudelock are rookies who may be pron to be making mistakes, however they can compensate it in assists. Lakers need energy players coming from young turks and enforcers in defense and that will be the role of MWP and Barnes.

  10. Even without Z-Bo this team is still dangerous. I don’t really think this will be an “easy” game. Memphis is a pretty athletic on the wings. That will be a real issue for our guys. Plus, Marc is no slouch. Bynum will actually have to defend his own man tonight. Let’s see how his stamina holds up when he is called to defend his man and patrol the lane. I think they can get the W. I’d like to see Ebanks get some burn tonight. They will need him to help deal with Gay, Conley, and Mayo. Should be a good game. If our guys limit Memphis’ transition points, take good shots, and limit turnovers they should get the win.

  11. McRoberts is out for tonight’s game.

  12. We need McRambis back ASAP. I think we are badly missing his energy, even if his contributions aren’t always in areas that are measurable (i.e. stats).

  13. lakers seem more organized offensively. yay.

  14. So good to see Murphy being more involved as a scoring threat. His outside shot is too useful a weapon to waste.

  15. artest doing more with less.

  16. The SF (Artest) misses a shot and both guards get beaten downcourt for a layup?

    I love seeing Mike Brown call an immediate TO when crap like that happens.

  17. i spoke too soon. artest with 2 very bad 3s leading to transition baskets.

  18. Pau with the behind-the-back pass, on the dead run, to Bynum for a layup. This guy is insanely skilled.

  19. Did you see the reaction of Mike Brown after that showtime play by Pau? He looked at his assistant coaches and seemed to say “who needs CP3?”

  20. KB has got it all going on tonight

  21. Turnovers are only thing keeping Memphis in this game. So annoying.

  22. I feel like its groundhog day with those easy layups off of turnovers. Every time I turn around Conley is laying it in uncontested.

  23. good half but could have been a lot better if we were more carefull with the ball

  24. Good half from all. Except?

    Fisher.2nd game with no points and 3 bad turnovers. It actually getting sad to watch him try to play.

    And if course Metta World brick. Now shooting 7% for 3’s.

    Come on Brown stop putting bad players on the court!

  25. What a contrast from Friday Night’s 1st Half. Playing with much more energy and the shooting has been on point tonight. If not for the turnovers, we’d be up by 20 or more … Good to see Blake & Murphy playing to and not shying away from their skill-set, which is shooting. A well balanced attack. So far.

  26. At what point do we consider Drew’s FT% a problem?

    We are 4-10 from 3 pt distance. That will keep us out of the cellar in that dept (over of all teams – Memphis)

  27. Good first half. Not so good start to the second half. Murphy seems to be slotting in well.

    The offense seems more balanced, but as noted by others, turnovers are hurting.

  28. Man… Fisher is such a liability out there.

  29. 2 more Fisher turnovers. Sad!

  30. Bynum’s FT% is a problem just like D. Howard’s FT% is a problem

  31. that kobe contest on tony allen’s 3 was ridiculous.

  32. Glove- yes you are correct; now if he adds annual defensive player of the year awards and rebounding titles – they will be twins : )

  33. Is it me or does someone have to draw blood for Kobe to get a foul?

  34. Big Three are all playing well – this is what we need

  35. Barnes has shown why he should have been starting every game last season over Artest (other than his injury time of course). He may be inconsistent offensively but his energy and hustle make up for that.

  36. just started watching, but Bynum hasn’t been able to do anything against Marc Gasol since I’ve been watching.

  37. This is a turnover fest. 22 now

  38. Barnes with a huge block and gets the layup

  39. Thank goodness for Matt Barnes.

  40. It’s such a breath of fresh air having Mike Brown put the starters back in when the bench was giving away the lead. Too many times last year Phil gave the bench too much of a leash and it cost the Lakers several games.

  41. This is embarrassing.

  42. im not one for sweeping statements but i think we can stick a fork in Fish and MWP

  43. And as soon as I post my comment Brown takes out Fisher due to his poor turnovers. Standing ovation for Mike for putting basketball over politics.

  44. This is getting comical – we are up to 24 now. Hard to win at -17 on TO’s

  45. You simply cannot under any circumstances say that Derek Fisher is better than Darius Morris.

    Fish is like a washed up but extremely proud fighter. He will never quit, and it is up to his corner (or coach, in this case) to put and end to this embarrassment.

  46. As mentioned by several commentors, Matt Barnes is really gettin’ it in … Lookin’ more n more like the player we had b4 the injury last season.

  47. If you consider Blake as the true “Should be” starter at PG and look what the starting five has done, they have played a pretty great game from top to bottom. The bench hasn’t contributed enough with the exception of Murphy hitting a few shots.

  48. Good win

    Lakers8884: agreed – let’s go with Barnes and Blake, and the big 3. Everyone plays 48 : )

  49. Interesting what a non-Triangle offense will do to Kobe’s stats – even at age 33. Perhaps this gives some pause to those who tout MJ’s and other players stats as reasons for their superiority. Kobe in a non-triangle, Shaqless offense would have been putting up some pretty sexy numbers back in the day. His assist numbers, for one, finally reflect his great passing ability, and its my opinion KB would have been a triple-double monster in a different offense. But in the end, the wins are the only stats that count, and Kobe has the rings.

  50. Barnes did a really nice job on Gay tonight. Gay got 19, but it took him 19 shots to do it, and LA wasn’t giving Barnes much help. In fact, overall the D wasn’t too bad tonight. When you factor in all of the points MEM got on run-outs off of turnovers, LA’s half-court D was stellar.

    But, man…..when will the TO parade end? Tonight was just the comically-worst of what has been a series of turnover-fests.

  51. How can management pretend to want to win? Fisher last two games 0 points and 8 turnovers! You really think Morris could do worse! There is really not one PG out there to help! Metta 4 points in last 3 games! Really Mitch!

    Barnes, Kobe and Blake shot great but you can’t beat many teams with 27 TO and the worst starting guard in the history of the NBA. Or the WNBA?

  52. The turnover issue stems from having a new offensive system despite having the same set of players. The triangle has been part of the team of this group for the past 4-5 years and now these set plays are just so foreign to them. As long as they are playing good defense, they will be in games for the first part of the season. Let’s just hope Kobe gets them out of trouble for the most part.

    I’ve been a Fisher supporter for the past decade or so. But I must say his time as a starter is up and the Laker management need to find a starter or someone who can effectively split time with Blake (preferably someone who has a different skill set than Blake–creator, who can regularly split defenses and get to the hoop). That is also the biggest need of the team, another player who can create aside from Kobe

  53. A win is a win but I’m proud to see three players with double doubles. Bynum, Pau, and Barnes had points and rebounds plus Kobe had 9 assists, so there were almost four.

    It’s so obvious that the Lakers need another person who can create their own shot, one who can penetrate ALL THE WAY to the hole and cause matchup problems, and a backup for Kobe. We need help badly.

  54. 51. Ken– Okay, so Mitch has control of the rotation? Plus, Mitch tried to trade for one of the best point guards in the league. They know the team’s weaknesses, and I’m sure they’re trying something.

  55. If we’re still going to be seeing Fish play, he’s more effective with the starting unit. He just should not be playing more than 18-20 minutes per game, except on those rare occasions when he resembles an average player and can thus play 24.

  56. That Pau no-look behind the back wrap around pass to Andrew for the dunk, was sick!

  57. Blake should be starting, Morris should be backing him up, and Fish should be the 12th man.

  58. Funky be right!

  59. who will bash kobe when he is playing like this. Very good game, 26 pts on 11-22 fg, more importantly was the 9 ASSIST. It seems that all of the bashing against Kobe is working after all.
    The team just need to get familiarize with MB offense as to lessen the TO. Cant wait for this team to face the Heat.

  60. Well, I actually missed most of the game, busy setting up my character for Star Trek Online MMO, but I went through the comments to see what happened during the game, and I had to look at the score again, we won. But, you would not think so, by the conversations here on FB&G. Since I did not really see the whole game, I guess I should say nothing.

  61. Re: Morris. It is not that Brown doesn’t like playing rookies (Glock gets some pt, even over Ebanks right now). Rather, I think Fisher simply does well in practices because he has played in the league for 15 years, and know every play. The Lakers don’t currently place a premium on fast break ball so Morris’s greatest asset is unused and his biggest weakness ( half court play and shooting) are magnified. Morris may be a role player next year, but that wily vet Fisher will continue to muscle the rook. I wish Morris would get some run but it’s not like we are blowing out teams to get the rooks time to play.

  62. The turnovers are unacceptable. However, the rebound differential tonight largely erased the impact of the turnovers. Pau and Drew should be in double figures on boards just about every night. If they can get a different player in the 8+ rebound range each game to go along with Drew and Pau good things can happen for them. If they can clean up the offense AND continue to rebound well, then some REALLY good things can happen for them.

  63. I am counting on us winning the next three in a row, for a total of 5 straight before we go into the brutal portion of the schedule.

  64. I think that I better understand why Phil employed the triangle, now that I see what happens when the Lakers employ the Cleveland offense.

  65. Fisher has no business even playing a backup role anymore.

  66. 60

    Somehow I doubt a few message board comments are influencing the way Kobe plays the game…

  67. Sharky H Towers January 8, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    60/67- The whole Kobe criticism is ludicrous. So many people just wait to pounce on the guy. There’s some bad decisions made at times from Kobe. The Denver game was bad. But honestly the dude should get a pretty fair amount of rope. Especially from Lakers fans.

    Lakers fans have by and large embarrassed themselves in the last few weeks. Considering what the franchise has faced this season things are pretty good. Does the franchise have issues? Yes. But as fans people need to keep the criticism contructive and try and be a little less… entitled. Won’t happen I know. But I’ve come to expect more from the lurkers of this site.

    Anyway… besides the obvious PG position issues, what the hell should this team do with Metta? He might be a throw in with a larger trade if we take back an equally bad contract. Metta is salvageable if he were in a different locale… Seriously… I mean I sort of believe that… Why are you laughing?

  68. @60-People here dont wait to pounce on Kobe. There is no hate for Kobe. People just generally notice what is obvious. Even Darius has written something about it. How would you constructively criticise a very bad performance of Kobe in a game??? Do you say, ” in this game kobe has good shot selection, he select to shot them all”. Isn’t it funny.
    People criticise because we think there is something that can be improve. Even how great Kobe is, there is still room for his improvement.
    We are all fans here and that includes you. So could you please constructively criticise your fellow fan!

  69. @ Sharky:

    I agree that some of the Kobe criticism has gone a bit too far, but, having read most of the threads lately, I think most of the Kobe-criticism has not been of the “geez, Kobe needs to realize he just can’t get it done anymore,” it’s been of the “geez, Kobe is tough and we respect him for playing through yet another debilitating injury, but how about working in the post and other spots from 18 feet in rather than jacking threes with a sore wrist:” variety. To his credit, Kobe has adjusted these past few games, and even though he is still shooting a high volume of shots, they are from places better-suited to his current condition.