Sunday, January 13, 2008

Memphis at L A Lakers - 1.13.08

Memphis has gone from riding the good life before the first meeting between these teams to suffering the low after getting blown out by the Lakers at home, losing a double figure lead late to Sacramento to fall to 1-8 in games decided by 3 pts or less and then a difficult road game the next night at Golden St. It seems the Grizzlies can't get out of their own way. At 10-25 heading into the Golden St game Memphis is one of the 5 worst teams in the league right now and with their talent that makes no sense. Sacramento has no one healthy and has won 5 more games than the Grizz.

Los Angeles on the other hand looked like a team falling apart over the summer with Kobe demanding a trade because the team wasn't good. Right now they are possibly the best team in the Western Conference and definitely the hottest. Has Derek Fisher really made that big of a difference? Not really but he has had an impact. More important has been the general health of the players, the development of Andrew Bynum, Jordan Farmar, Ronnie Turiaf and the acquisition of Trevor Ariza. This has given LA and a strong starting lineup, taken a lot of scoring pressure off of Kobe and made their bench one of the strongest in the league. After sweeping two road games against Memphis and New Orleans by double digits the Lakers are very confident right now and Memphis is not.

Previous Game versus Lakers (5 days ago)
117 Lakers
101 Grizzlies

The game was decided in the 1st quarter, as Derek Fisher helped the Lakers build an early double digit lead and then coast to victory in Memphis. An interesting stat from the game; the Grizzlies hoisted up 93 field goals which ties a season high.

Recent Trends That You Should Forget About
-- Lakers have won 5 in a row and are 15-3 in their last 18 games.
-- Grizzlies have lost 3 in a row and are 4-16 in their last 20 games.

For those that read Tuesday's pregame not a lot has changed but there have been some alterations.

Point Guards: Michael Conley vs Derek Fisher
There is no way that Derek Fisher will repeat the performance he put on in front of his mother in Memphis but that doesn't mean he doesn't still have the edge on Conley. After going 5-5 from long range and 9-10 in the game for 26 points he probably got into Conley's head a bit. It will be interesting to see how the rookie responds. Very few rookies start NBA games, even fewer at the point. I don't know of any rookie PG's who started without an outside shot so Conley is breaking new ground here to me. Fisher showed a lot of tricks from his bag last time but it is a pretty big bag and even if Mommy isn't in the stands this time expect Fisher to feed off of the home crowd in this game.
Advantage: Lakers

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Kobe Bryant

Mike Miller is really enjoying playing with a fast, pass first PG as he has averaged 20 ppg since Conley became starter. He was averaging 15 ppg before Conley. Conley's impact is being felt in more ways than just the point position improvement. Miller is a spot up shooter who needs penetration from the point to be most effective. He is getting that now and from someone who will pass it out once he gets in there. Not that it matters in this match up. Kobe is one of the best perimeter defenders when motivated. He is only superior on nights he isn't motivated. The interesting thing was Mike played Kobe well defensively last time. Another strong effort like that would be nice. Not likely but nice.
Advantage: Lakers

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Luke Walton

Luke Walton is a local crowd favorite and is considered the glue on the team. He makes everyone happy and does all the dirty work for the team. If Walton was a tad more athletic he would be far more appreciated league-wide. However he isn't more athletic and his all around hustle and determination can only take you so far. Defensively he is a liability against more athletic players. Rudy Gay is more athletic and has a lot of confidence in his game right now. Walton alone won't be able to contain Rudy and everyone knows it so expect to see Trevor Ariza getting extra minutes. Ariza didn't have a lot of success against Rudy either on Tuesday but he at least makes him work a little harder.
Advantage: Memphis

Power Forwards: Pau Gasol vs Lamar Odom

When Lamar Odom is healthy he is a 5 category player who can basically do it all. The problem has been he rarely has been able to play healthy. In his 9th season Odom has only played 80 games twice in his career and has made it to 70 games twice more. When healthy he'll score around 15 ppg, grab 6-7 rebounds, dish out 5 assists, get a block and a steal and basically make life miserable for whomever it guarding him. At 6-10 he is tall enough and strong enough to defend PF's but also has range like a SF. Gasol is scoring and rebounding just a shade below average this season and considering he started slow that is an amazing comeback. Gasol can be a beast to defend down low and has developed a nice 10-15 ft jump shot as well. He will have to be physical in this game however and not check for blood too often. Gasol played big against Miami and the Grizzlies will need a similar effort against the Lakers. If Odom shows up he should win the day but he doesn't always show up.
Advantage: Memphis

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Andrew Bynum

Andrew Bynum was the man-boy drafted to replace Shaquille O'Neal and continue the tradition of great LA Centers. The problem was he started slow and spent his first two seasons in a legendary coach's dog house. At one point Jackson challenged his desire to improve in the press. Now in his 3rd season Bynum has begun to realize his potential and is starting to be a major force in the triangle offense. So Jackson implies that it is only because he is in a contract year. Thanks for the vote of confidence coach. Of course that is better than what Darko Milicic got with his first NBA coach. Now on his third team Darko has had to battle injuries this season but has had big games against the likes of Tim Duncan and Yao Ming. Should be a great match between child stars who are trying to become all-stars. The difference is Bynum has more athleticism. Darko can block shots but he isn't aggressive enough around the hoop. Maybe the thumb injury is still bothering him but more likely he just prefers the lefty hook to a slam dunk.
Advantage: Lakers

Benches: Memphis vs Los Angeles

Memphis has altered their bench a bit after the first Laker game. Out is Stromile Swift and his consistent inconsistency. In is Hakim Warrick and his completely offensive focus. Lowry and Navarro seemed to come off the rookie wall against Sacramento but time will tell in that regard. Memphis signed a defensive specialist in Bobby Jones who should see time against Kobe in this game. LA's bench is young, athletic and full of promise and long on production (corrected text from Tuesday when I mistakenly wrote they weren't that productive). Jordan Farmer, taken right after Lowry in the draft has been moving slowly into the rotation and is benefiting from Fisher's experience. Vladamir Radmonovic isn't snow boarding anymore but isn't scoring that much either. Ariza is the wild card. When on he can be a very exciting player but he hasn't been on that much. Kwame Brown and Ronny Turiaf fill out bench players for the Lakers. Memphis' bench has the capability of being more productive but LA's bench knows their roles a little bit better than Memphis' and is a tad more consistent.
Advantage: Lakers

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1 comment:

drrayeye said...

This is exactly the type of situation in which the Grizz have easily defeated the Lakers in the recent past-and the Lakers are vulnerable.

Because Sasha "the machine" Vujacic has had back spasms, rookie sensation Javaris Crittendon has gotten some PT--and played like the rookie he is. Kobe has been under the weather. VladRad still can't play due to an ankle injury, so Luke Walton has gotten extended playing time. Andrew Bynum had to save the last game for the Lakers and played more than his usual minutes. Fisher missed most of his shots in the last game (His mother didn't fly in).

If Gay and other young Grizz players actually played more conventional defense instead of excessively trying for steals, their stat sheets wouldn't look so good, but Laker shooting percentages wouldn't be so high. Sometimes, mustard comes off the hot dog.

Last year, Smush Parker had one of the highest steals per minute in the NBA for the Lakers. . . .

Assists, screens, picks, blocking out, avoiding turnovers, helping on high pick and rolls, taking charges, fighting through picks, not leaving three point shooters unguarded, getting back on D--are little things. That's what your coach said lost the last Laker game.

The Lakers have players who can go astray. The Grizz can win.