Preview & Chat: Lakers vs. Grizzlies

Darius Soriano —  December 17, 2013

UDPATE: I now see that Mike Conley has been ruled out of tonight’s game. That changes the dynamics of this game a fair amount, on both sides of the ball. Jerryd Bayless will likely assume the PG role and while he is not as good a player as Conley, he can be an explosive scorer from behind the arc and in creating out of the P&R. Where missing Conley really hurts is on D as he is a pest on the ball and in the passing lanes. The Lakers will need to take advantage of the Grizz missing Conley by pressuring the ball more defensively and looking to attack more off the dribble against whoever Bayless is guarding — especially if he finds himself defending Kobe.

The Lakers are back in action tonight squaring off against the Grizzlies in the final game of their 4 game road trip. The game also marks the team’s fourth contest in five nights and the second in two nights, so if the team looks a little run down, don’t be surprised. The team can still somewhat salvage the trip, however, with a win tonight. That would make them an even 2-2 over that stretch and bring them back to within one game of a .500 mark on the year.

The team’s issues right now are as clear as possible. Missing every point guard on their roster has affected the quality of play on both sides of the ball. The offense is not as crisp on either the first or the second unit and, similarly, the defense is struggling to contain point guards and dribble penetration in general.

Further, missing the PG’s has thrust Kobe into a role that he’s not yet ready to assume at this stage of his comeback. Kobe doesn’t yet have his timing and is not anywhere close physically to the player he was last season. Having him as the primary ball handler has resulted in too many turnovers and a drastic shift into how the team initiates its sets. Rather than running a lot of standard high P&R’s, Kobe is dribbling the ball to the wing and running more side P&R’s to start the offense. This shift is subtle, but important because it changes the angles in which the offense is trying to attack the defense which then affects the types of shots generated by the team.

Also of note is that rather than looking to penetrate out of the P&R (as Blake and Farmar often did), Kobe is slowing his dribble more around the foul line and either looking for an opening at that point or pulling the ball back and looking for post ups for Pau (or shifting his own position after an initial P&R to set up his own post up). As I’ve mentioned in the past, these changes aren’t critical from the sense that the team is suddenly not getting good shots, but they are changes from the way the team was operating before and the result has been an adjustment that has translated to a disruption of the rhythm the team was in before Kobe returned.

But, again, it’s not just that the offense has become too Kobe-centric but rather that the team has been forced to slide Kobe into a role where he is depended on to be a primary creator of offense. The fact that he’s struggled at times to fill this role adequately isn’t so much an indictment of him as it is an unfortunate result of injuries to the point guards and in terms of Kobe’s recovery from his own injury. So, even while the narrative seems to be that Kobe is somehow to “blame” for issues now plaguing the team, a step back reveals that once again injuries have taken a toll on a roster not built to sustain them.

Where this leaves the Lakers entering into tonight’s game against the Grizzlies is, unfortunately, where it’s had them for many of the other games they’ve had since Kobe returned and the injuries to Farmar and Blake occurred.

Offensively, the team will need to be selective in how they attack a ball-hawking defense that would love nothing more than to get some turnovers they can turn into easy baskets. Mike Conley (though questionable with a bruised thigh, should play) and Tony Allen can both be pests in the passing lanes and risky passes – especially the ones Kobe has been tossing out of the P&R – will result in the types of live ball turnovers that hurt.

That said, a more deliberate attack shouldn’t be the default for the Lakers, even if that’s what is most comfortable to them. The Grizz will be without Marc Gasol and while Kosta Koufos has played well in his absence, the team would be wise to attack him and Zach Randolph via the P&R and attempt to get out in front of them in the open court to create baskets in early offense. Key to this will be Kobe looking up to pass ahead, but also on the wings to get out and run when they have the opportunity to do so. Key, however, is that the Lakers actually secure defensive rebounds before trying to get up court. Randolph and Koufos do well on the offensive glass and the Lakers must gang rebound to ensure they aren’t hurt on the glass. The easiest way to give up baskets is via put-backs and spot up jumpers after kickouts, so the Lakers must be sharp in closing out defensive stops with rebounds.

Continuing on the defensive side, the Lakers must try to keep the Grizz out of the paint, both on penetration and through post ups. Conley and Bayless are Memphis’ key penetrators so funneling them towards help is key. When they come off screens (either on the ball or off), the Lakers’ bigs must be responsive and slide to help, even if that means leaving their own man to do so. The back side wings must then rotate to help on Randolph and company to ensure that they don’t get easy position to score.

In terms of the post, the Grizzlies will try to post up multiple players, but especially Randolph and, to a lesser extent, Prince. The Lakers would be wise to help off everyone and make Mike Miller, Bayless, and Conley prove they can hit the three ball before changing their philosophy. The Grizz will win this game if they dominate the inside. If they are allowed to do so, that’s the Lakers’ fault and it is unacceptable. If they win because they are lights-out from behind the arc, the Lakers will just have to tip their cap and go home with a loss.

Where you can watch: 5:00pm start on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.

Darius Soriano

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54 responses to Preview & Chat: Lakers vs. Grizzlies

  1. 1st again twice in a row? Awesome lol. Pretty disheartening loss last night , during the 1st half it looked a bit like 209 with Pau dominating both sides of the floor, then it came back to 2013 in the second half. Missing our entire pg corp is a lethal blow to this team and Kobe being forced into that position so early in his comeback as Darius mentioned is a lot to take even for him but we have no choice. On a positive side i read that Farmar is recovering a lot earlier than anticipated. I know i been on record saying that im not a big fan of his playmaking skills but we really really need him as soon as possible. Good thing is Memphis is hurt and struggling too so lets see if we can bounce back and end this trip 2-2 which would be gravy considering the state of the team.

  2. Kobe looked his age last night. Heard an interview with Shelburne this morning. She was asked if Kobe performance was a concern. She said it was not and that it was due to his continuing recovery from the Achilles surgery.

    I was taken aback by the comment. I think Kobe’s performance last night was a red flag. Until he starts performing like the highest paid player in the league I will remain concerned.

    The FO just made him the cornerstone of the team form the next 2 years. He is the reason we did not go into full Wiggins mode. If he does not perform better we are the definition of mediocrity and would have lost two years that should have been spent on rebuilding. Heck yes, I am concerned.

  3. Dude i hope you are not expecting that Kobe in his 5th game back after a devastating injury and 8 months without playing basketball be a 30ppg guy and be back to his black mamba self. He is human and he still has ways to go.

  4. One mega bummer with Pau is that any time he has a good first half, like last night, he doesn’t tend to bring the same aggression in the second half. Last night may have been a case of the team going away from what was working, but when was the last time Pau was dynamic beginning to end?

    I miss that guy.

  5. Kobe Alert: Let’s get this straight. Kobe did not mess up any chemistry. Kobe’s not the source of the problem. Kobe is the chemistry, he is is the solution, and he is the Lakers. We are down as low a can be, but Kobe still Rules ! Kobe has now moved by Antonio McDyess for 56th on the Defensive Rebound list. His at times over dishing has moved him to within 18 dimes of Sam Cassell for 31st there. He needs just 52 more free throws to get 8,000 for his career (only 2 others have done it). He needs 613 puntos to catch the King Bobcat.

  6. Kobe wasn’t paid $24M to score 30ppg. He was paid $24M to put people in the seats and to get hits on places like this. I certainly am curious just how Kobe will change his game this year, but that is not something anyone is going to be able to figure out until the Laker backcourt is more healthy.

  7. Craig i agree 100% with that, i was talking from a purely basketball point but the bottom line is that either returning to Mamba mode or crash and burn he is going to put butts in seats and make a ton of money for the Lakers, the bottom line is that the Lakers exist to make money. @Mark the Lakers went away from what worked in the second half because Pau was not asertive enough to demand the ball. I know the Hawks made adjustments but if i score 16 in a half they better give me the ball until the other team proves it can stop me.

  8. Whats so concerning about Kobe? Hes recovering from a major injury and is still rusty since he didn’t play in training camp or preseason. You know whats concerning? How the other players on the team has regressed (especially defensively) since Kobe came back. One can argue that the Lakers are missing their pgs, but I don’t believe they will make a huge difference when they come back. I’m starting to believe that the Lakers are really this bad and they are going to be a lottery team come April.

  9. I am sorry but Kobe vision on passes is just terrible. How does the injury relate to passing the ball. 2 to in 3 minutes again.

  10. Gary, seriously? missing Blake,Farmar and im not even talking about Nash our entire PG corp is not a big deal according to you beside the fact that they are true point guards what are their ppg and apg combined? I think that kinda a big deal.

  11. Defense, 48 minutes please!

  12. Sweet Pau. Real Sweet.

  13. Pau with another solid start, we will see. Kobe looking pretty good against a defensive specialist like Allen and have 8 points. Could we be getting a Mamba sighting today?

  14. Got to love Nick. Kind of reminds of a 18 year old Kobe.

    Why does Williams play? Not very good..

  15. @ Ken, i dont mind Williams bc he is a better defender and rebounder than people give him credit for.

  16. Didn’t see Kobe on the bench after he was subbed out. Did he head back to the Locker Room ?

    Never mind, Mike Trudell just answered my question.

  17. Tra
    Yes getting retaped.

  18. Could the Lakers put someone else at the top of the key other than Sacre for the 3 man weave? He is not a threat out thee and he is then out of position for a rebound. Either Nick, Meeks or Xavier needs to be in that position they can then float to the opposite corner of Williams for the corner 3 pt shot.

    Kobe can reduce his turnovers if he makes the game simple, stop trying to make the sublime pass.

  19. Meeks has become worthless yet Mike keeps playing him.

  20. Meeks 6 for 34 last 5

  21. Fern, last season most of us thought that Steve Nash would come back and be the Lakers “savior.” He ended up being a shell of his former self and it could be argued he might have made the team worst. So forgive me if I’m a little wary that bringing one or two players back (farmar, blake) back will make the team exponentially better. I do admit the team will obviously be better since the team needs point guards right now. But will we be so good we will make the playoffs? I don’t think so and I guess that was the point of my argument.

  22. I haven’t checked the +/- data, but after watching the “Kobe games” so far–the eye test suggests that it’s the loss of Farmar and not the return of Kobe that is the problem. 28-13 bench advantage for MEM so far in this one, and I doubt Farmar’s absence is irrelevant on that issue….

  23. Gary

    This team is a .500 team with a starting ZpG. Without they are the 1 and 4 team they have been without.

    Either way without moving Pau and Kamen, who doesn’t exist anymore, this is not a playoff team. Can ‘t make playoffs when you are last in the NBA in defense.

    Unless your in the East of course,

  24. 47-36 LAL advantage over ATL’s bench–loss
    26-21 LAL advantage over CHA’s bench–win
    51-45 LAL advantage over OKC bench (lot’s of garbage so lots of noise in data)–loss
    44-43 PHX advantage over LAL’s bench–loss
    71-20 LAL advantage over TOR bench-loss (weirdest game of the year IMO)

    Early in the year, LAL was relying to some degree on a big bench advantage. That advantage (save for the weird TOR game) has been somewhat less since Farmar’s departure. Kobe’s return has definitely affected the team’s comfort level, but when the bench is out there, they miss Farmar on both ends….

  25. When the bench is in the game, could another player besides Sacre stand at the top of the key for the 3 man weave? He is no threat out there and it takes him out of position for the rebounds. Either Young, Henry or Meeks needs to fill that role, and then float over to the corner for the 3 point shot.

    Kobe could do much to reduce his turnovers just by making the simple pass, and stop trying to make the sublime pass.

    (I posted this earlier, but forgot to add my name.)

    Let’s not let them go on another 16 point run before we call a timeout and make some adjustments.

    Come on Kobe pass the ball ahead, just like that last bucket by Williams, good pass Johnson!

  26. Deja Vu anyone?

  27. Yep weak Pau is back.

  28. Can we trade him now ?

  29. Don’t think that 1 on 3 Kobe clear out is smart right now.

  30. Kobe with a scare holding and rubbing his knee after tumbling to the floor. Looks to be okay but will be something to keep an eye on.

  31. holding the ball above his head and getting it taken by a much smaller player is the defining turnover of the season for Pau. Just too nonchalant with the basketball.

  32. Holy crud Williams is so bad. I am done with this coach who plays this garbage and no minutes for Kamen!

  33. Maybe Kaman could help with the defensive rebounding as the Lakers need help in that area.

  34. AGAIN, bench carrying the starters.

    Don’t put the starters back in the game, Mike.

  35. Anyone know why jordan hill has only played 7 minutes so far? Shawne williams has played 26. Even sacre has played 15.

  36. Gary, Jordan Hill has been in foul trouble the whole game.

  37. my fault i just started watching the game.

  38. He puts Williams instead of Hill?

  39. Ken, I gave up trying to understand Pringles obsession with scrub dub will.

  40. Very nice game by Pau. Let’s hope that Pau isn’t auditioning for the Grizzlies.

  41. Earlier in the week I posted Pau will have a 25 point “show you Memphis game”. He did.

    Great win. Needed this one bad!

  42. YES!! we needed this one

  43. Pau became assertive down the stretch, we need more of that 2-2 road trip, i take it…

  44. Pau: 21 pts., 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 blocks, 9-12 shooting.

    Kobe: 21 pts., 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 TOs, 1 block, 1 steal.

    Both Pau and Kobe played 32:37. Other contributors: Nick Young–18 pts., Jodie Meeks–13 pts., 5 pts., 3 blocks, 1 steal from Robert Sacre, and a strong floor game from Wes Johnson (5 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, 1 block).

    Memphis, of course, was missing 2 key players, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. But the Lakers are also banged up. So this was a good win. And the Lakers go 2-2 on this road trip.

    Finally, the most important stat: the Lakers hold (a depleted) Memphis to 92 pts. When they win, the Lakers hold their opponents to an average of 96 pts.; when they lose, they allow 111 pts. per game. That says it all. Next up: Minnesota.

  45. the other Stephen December 17, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    Ken, just line up the team and front office and execute them already.

  46. @Robert’s Kobe Alert

    “Kobe Alert: Let’s get this straight. Kobe did not mess up any chemistry. Kobe’s not the source of the problem. Kobe is the chemistry, …”

    In other words – Kobe is the one who knocks! He is the danger!

    Nice with a win, look in the boxscore like Hill wasn’t too good tonight.

  47. Good win tonight. I was hoping we’d win one soon esp against a banged up team thats directly below us in the standings.

  48. Feel-good win against a struggling Memphis team missing two key players.
    Unfortunately, these types of nights are probably the closest we’re going to get to competitive hoops this year.
    But against teams like OKC?
    PG or no PG, I don’t see this team competing against elite teams.
    Especially when the coach insists on playing Williams and Sacre ahead of Hill and Kaman.
    Maybe Dantoni has gone rogue and is secretly tanking.

  49. J C,
    Do you honestly see the Lakers winning against OKC, whoever MDA plays? ‘Cus if you see the Lakers in 3 out of 5, I want a little of what you are smoking – yeah, I know, the series is 7 games – so what!

  50. Craig W.,

    I want to smoke some of that too… just because it must be awesome. We are not competing against OKC (a team that was actually built to knock out the two-time champions Lakers) nor SAS or POR in a 7 game series. I think we would have a shot against everyone else in a series if one of our wings catches fire. But we would have a shot with the right (they are not as bad as I thought they would be) defensive rotations, good on the ball defense, excellent pick and roll defense and good rebounding. Those are a lot of IF’s to win a 7 game series. Now, if we still had those 5-game first rounds then we could definetly make the second round if we made the playoffs…

    However, the reason we’re not in the playoffs as of now isn’t only one thing. It’s the sum of all things that have been mentioned and we must understand that some of those things are easy to fix and others are not. Jim Buss is to blame. Mitch is to blame. MDA is to blame. Pau as well. Kobe as well. Lack of luck regarding guard health. A lot of things to fix.

    Now, here’s what I want to talk about… A few weeks ago everyone was happy that team was winning games they had no business winning (@Hou, etc.) and we were enjoying the ride. We won some, lost some but everyone was playing hard and leaving everything on the floor. We, the fans, were just happy watching these guys grow together as a team, even if MDA’s rotations weren’t solid. Since Kobe came back, and Blake and Farmar got injured, we complain about a lot of things from the previous game but there are no “at least we gave everything and fought until the last possession”. That talk is gone because we don’t get that feeling at all.Is it Kobe’s fault? No doubt that he works hard but is he able to make his teammates work as hard as he does? Is it the lack of a true PG? Did we change the system to accomodate Kobe and in the process lost the role players?

    Because I tell you this… I’d rather see the squad from the first 20 games play hard every night than Kobe’s farewell tour and chase for Captain’s record. We’re not going to the Finals. We’re not going to the playoffs if we keep playing like this…

  51. Craig-
    I wish I had some of what MDA is smoking!
    No I don’t see them competing either way.
    I said that – and added ESPECIALLY when he plays scrubs ahead of legit players.
    Let’s assume the best case, a healthy:
    Kobe/Young
    Nash/Farmar/Blake
    Johnson/Henry
    Hill/Williams
    Pau/Kaman
    Even if we’re running on all cylinders, with this coach we’d be lucky to win one or two games in a series against OKC or SA.
    The problems are mounting.
    Even if we make the playoffs it wd be as a 6-7-8 seed. Good enough to repeat last year’s tragicomedy.
    Next year could be just as bad or worse thanks to to The Extension.
    Help! I’m losing faith,

  52. Omer Asik leaves Houston today. Houston’s self-imposed deadline.

  53. Renato
    Totally agree
    The first 20 games were ENTERTAINING.
    It was like watching a college team, sort of.
    I get that sinking feeling again watching Kobe-led teams. And no end in sight for a few more years.