I’m going to keep this one short because, honestly, I’m as tired as the Lakers probably are. Well, that’s probably not true. Not when I remember that tonight’s game in Memphis will the Lakers’ 4th in 5 nights and has them traveling from Toronto where they were spanked on Friday by the Raptors. Before traveling to Toronto, the Lakers were in New Orleans and Chicago the two previous days, which, considering these are people who rely on performing athletic feats for a living, probably isn’t ideal.
A simple google maps trip planner tells me the Lakers have flown roughly 4,300 miles since the hopped on a plane at LAX and departed for NOLA this past Monday. Mix in playing actual basketball games and this team is bound to not look good tonight.
In fact, before the season started, ESPN ranked tonight’s Lakers’ game as the 2nd most likely loss of the season for any team playing any game. Here’s what they wrote:
2. 12/3: Lakers (Grizzlies): 8.5
A back-to-back for LA starting in Toronto means a late trip through customs and no rest. Even tougher: This next game is the fourth in five nights-all on the road.
This was part of a study ESPN did called “The Sleep Walking Dead” which chronicled how grueling the NBA schedule can be when you combine back to backs and the amount of travel which comes with going from city to city to play professional basketball games. The only loss deemed more likely based on the study was a Hornets’ game against the Pistons at the end of November. How’d the Hornets do, you might ask? They lost by 23 even though they were at home.
So, yeah, I can talk about how the Grizzlies are just as depleted as the Lakers, missing Mike Conley (who has been a terror this season, playing all-star caliber ball), Zach Randolph (who has taken on a reserve role and been key to keeping their second unit afloat as an offensive hub), and Chandler Parsons (who was their big FA signing and was supposed to be their new perimeter threat to flank Conley and Marc Gasol). These are important players and without them the Grizzlies are not a very good team.
Still, the Lakers are dealing with circumstances of a brutal travel schedule which is very likely going to help contribute to them playing poorly. I’d honestly be more surprised if the Lakers don’t play sloppily and look out of it than the alternative of them playing well and poised and looking even remotely “fresh”. I expect bad turnovers, front rimmed shots, missed rotations, and, in general, just poor decision making. This is what happens to you when you hit this type of stretch in your schedule.
In other words, I could talk about match ups, how the Lakers’ bench could be a real decisive factor, and how tonight could be a game where Randle could do real damage. Under normal circumstances, I’d give those things a fair amount of weight. I just don’t think these are normal circumstances. Maybe I’ll be wrong, but the science in this has me thinking I won’t be.
Where you can watch: 5:00pm start time on Spectrum Sportsnet.