Time: 9:00 p.m. axial time
Where: Crypto.com Arena – Los Angeles, California
How to watch/listen: Bally Sports Southeast / 92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
Memphis: Zaire Williams (questionable Danny Green (outside knee)
LOS ANGELES: Anthony Davis (out, feet), Lonnie Walker IV (out, tendinitis), Austin Reeves (out, hamstring)
Expected starting lines:
Memphis: Ja Morant, Desmond Bean, Dillon Brooks, Garren Jackson Jr., Stephen Adams
Los Angeles: Dennis Schroeder, Patrick Beverly, Troy Brown Jr., LeBron James, Thomas Bryant
The Memphis Grizzlies were on alert and looking to win a franchise record 12th in a row as they travel to face the Los Angeles Lakers for the first time this season. Two of the league’s top 10 scorers, James (29.3 ppg – 6th) and Ja Morant (27.4 ppg – 10th), go head-to-head in a game between two teams going down two different tracks. While the Grizzlies have rebounded after a slide in late 2022, the Lakers have lost three of their last four after a promising spell before the new year.
This encounter was one of the most exciting last season and left us with some of the best moments and highlights of the year, including this nugget from Morant that still feels unreal.
Here are some of the key trends, matches, and players you should keep an eye on as the Grizzlies start their road trip.
Grizzlies continued to play basketball
A solid defense that leads to quick breaks or inside scoring has been a recipe for success each of Memphis’ last two seasons, and this stretch was no different. The Grizzlies’ 11-game winning streak came by playing their usual brand of basketball. During the stretch, the Grizzlies lead the NBA in defensive ratings, rebounds, fast-break points, and points in the paint while ranking second in both steals and blocks. Against a Lakers who are giving up 53 points in the paint per game (25th in the NBA), look for the Grizzlies to play basketball from the inside out.
On defense, the Grizzlies have the best overall ranking in the NBA after being ranked 20th as of mid-November. Since the return of Jaren Jackson Jr., the Grizzlies have grown into a defensive force. Jackson Jr. averages more than three blocks per game, which would lead the NBA if he met the criteria for games played, and leads the Grizzlies in steals with 1.1 per game. He became the favorite and betting favorite for Defensive Player of the Year and was the catalyst for the Grizzlies’ success on that end of the floor.
Slow down lebron
LeBron James has just turned 38, but he’s in the midst of the fourth highest-scoring season of his career. Part of that is due to the overall scoring boom in the NBA, but seeing someone average around 30 per game 20 years after they were drafted is just ridiculous. He has also been a rip-roarer of late, scoring 35, 48 and 32 in his last three matches in a row.
Dillon Brooks has been one of the best wing defenders in the NBA this season and will force LeBron to work for his buckets. However, when it comes to James, all you can really hope for is slow him down. His big scoring games don’t always lead to wins, with the Lakers still only 9-9 when James has scored 30+ points this season, but slowing him down is the first step to a win for the Grizzlies.
Beginner grizzlies find their groove
During the start of the season, one of the biggest questions was what the Grizzlies would look like with a full, healthy start, and they did not disappoint. Since Desmond Bane’s return on December 23, the Grizzlies have been 12-2, and all five starters have averaged double digits during their winning streak. It took a few matches for them to click together again, but now that they’re firing on all cylinders again, the Grizzlies look really tough to beat at full health.
Overall, the Grizzlies were the better team all season, but they struggled on the road to the start of the season. The Lakers have also been known to get into close games this year, so don’t be surprised if it’s within a few possessions. If that’s the case, Memphis is 12-5 in clutch games this year, while LA is just 10-12.
Final score: Grizz 129 Lakers 124
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