Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Lakers Preview
The Memphis Grizzlies will be on the road tonight to begin their post-All-Star break road swing against the Los Angeles Lakers in what could be a first-round playoff preview.
The Lakers still have a comfy four-game lead for first place in the Western Conference over the Denver Nuggets. They entered the All-Star break on a three-game winning streak, and they are 7-3 in their last 10 games. They are one of the rare teams that seem to fare better on the road, but they are at home at Staples Center tonight where they are 18-7.
Memphis is just hanging onto that last playoff spot as the 8th place team in the West with a 28-27 record. They lost their last game, but are also 7-3 in their last 10. They’ll be away from FedExForum tonight, where their road record is 12-14.
The last time they faced off, The Lakers escaped with a narrow 109-108 win back in late November. LeBron James led the Lakers with 30 points, while rookie Ja Morant led the Grizzlies with 26 points and six assists.
Time: 10:30 PM ET
Arena: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Channel: FSSE-MEM, SPECSN
Grizzlies: Justise Winslow, Grayson Allen (O)
Lakers: DeMarcus Cousins (O)
Memphis Grizzlies Starting Lineup
The Memphis Grizzlies have one of the toughest remaining schedules of the teams that will be fighting for the 8th seed in the Western Conference. They ended the first part of their season on a two-game win streak with wins over the Washington Wizards and Portland Trail Blazers, but they are on a back-to-back to start the final stretch of their schedule.
They lost last night’s game against the Sacramento Kings 129-125 as Harrison Barnes and De’Aaron Fox splashed buckets al night, finishing with a combined 58 points. The Grizzlies tried to claw back after a tough second quarter, but they just couldn’t do enough to complete the rally.
De’Anthony Melton had a great game off the bench, as he finished with 24 points and six assists in just 23 minutes. Josh Jackson and Tyus Jones also scored in double figures off the bench, but new Grizzlies big man Gorgui Dieng struggled.
Only one player played over 30 minutes last night in preparation for their second game of a back-to-back against the Lakers, who certainly are a much tougher opponent than the Kings. To make things even more difficult, the Grizzlies follow the Lakers game with games on the road against the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets before heading back home against the Kings and Lakers yet again.
Los Angeles Lakers Starting Lineup
The Los Angeles Lakers have had the type of season they were hoping to have last season when LeBron James chose to play in LA, but injuries and players not jelling hurt them and kept them out of the playoffs. This season, it looks like nothing is going to keep them out of the playoffs, and it would take a lot to get them out of the number one spot in the West now.
Prior to the All-Star break, the Lakers had a big win over the Western Conference’s number two team, the Denver Nuggets 120-118. Now they look to start a three-game homestand off on the right foot against Memphis tonight.
“The stretch run, we know how important it is, how important every game is and how we continue to get better and better and better each and every day,” LeBron James said. “It’s all part of the process. Can’t shortcut the process. We’re not going to think too far ahead. We’re going to approach (Friday) like this is our own Game 7. We play the Memphis Grizzlies and we need to go at them as we know they’re going to go at us and we just build on that.”
James currently leads the league in assists and he and Anthony Davis have played together exceptionally well while getting other teammates involved. DeMarcus Cousins could come back prior to the playoffs according to coach Frank Vogel, and if Dwight Howard continues playing well off the bench, that would make them dangerous for a deep playoff run.
Key Player Matchups
Anthony Davis vs. Jaren Jackson Jr.
None of the individual matchups seem as exciting as Jackson against Davis. Jackson is having a nice sophomore season for the Grizzlies, averaging 17 points and nearly five rebounds per game. He’s athletic enough to stay with Davis, but I expect Davis to try to bully him a bit down low. Davis is on an MVP level this season and he’s done well against some of the league’s best bigs, so going up against a second-tier guy like Jackson certain plays into his favor.
Anthony Davis has the highest projection of any player tonight. He’s available for $10,600 on FanDuel and is projected for 51.9 points tonight. Ja Morant is available for just $6.7k and he’s projected for 31 points. While he’ll have solid defenders on him all night, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him exceed that.
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