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Five things to watch in Lakers-Grizzlies matchup

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1. The Lakers' split performance this season against Memphis shows their inconsistency with putting teams away early. A 124-105 victory Nov. 3 against the Grizzlies reflected the Lakers' strong 8-0 start where everyone played as a team and prided themselves on fine-tuning nuances. The Lakers' 98-96 loss Nov. 30 at Memphis was part of the team's first three-game losing streak of the season. And the Lakers' matchup at 6:30 tonight at Staples Center against Memphis (14-19) comes at a time with the defending champs (23-10) in flux in rebounding from their recent struggles and restoring their championship-caliber play.

The Lakers responded to their second three-game losing streak last week with an impressive double-digit victory against New Orleans but followed up with a mail-it-in effort against Philadelphia. The Lakers have a two-game winning streak, but their performance against the Sixers revealed a mixture of boredom, small but significant spurts of offensive lapses and poor transition defense. The split series against Memphis perfectly illustrates the difference between the Lakers' playing with the right amount of effort and execution versus mixed assessments in those areas.

2. Memphis struggles in close games, but one of those games didn't include the Lakers. 3 Shades of Blue's Chip Crain outlined in detail to ESPN Los Angeles' Brian Kamenetzky how the Grizzlies have compiled plenty of games decided by three points or fewer, including losses to Cleveland, Washington, Golden State, Sacramento and Phoenix, the latter opponent managing to beat Memphis despite having a two-point deficit with .4 seconds remaining.

The Lakers' victory against Philadelphia illustrated the difference between a young and hungry 76ers team and a veteran and bored Lakers squad, as Bryant scored 10 of his team-high 33 points in the fourth quarter, Pau Gasol made a significant block that prevented the Sixers from tying it and the Sixers couldn't take the lead despite having five attempts to do so in their last two possessions. The Lakers have shown their ability to win close games, but the second game against Memphis this season wasn't one of them.

With 8.6 seconds remaining, Bryant appeared to pull up for a jumper. But after noticing Zach Randolph racing nearly behind him to block the shot, Bryant passed in mid-air to the far end toward Ron Artest with 3.3 seconds remaining. Instead of throwing the ball back to Bryant at the top of the key, dumping the ball to Lamar Odom right behind him or swinging the ball on the near end to Derek Fisher, Artest  pump-faked Rudy Gay, dribbled right and pulled up for a three-pointer only to have Gay block it as time expired.

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3. How will the Lakers' front line match-up with Memphis? This is always interesting because it involves the Gasol brothers (Pau and Marc) going against each other, a matchup Pau usually wins. It's also intriguing because Odom and Randolph represent significant contributions to their respective teams. But this is also the first time this season the Lakers will have Andrew Bynum against Memphis.

Bynum has progressed tremendously since returning to the lineup Dec. 14. After shooting 21.4% in the first three games after rehabbing from offseason surgery on his right knee, Bynum has averaged a 70.9% clip in the next five, a rate Jackson attributes to Bynum's improved base and jumping. In two starts, Bynum scored 18 points on eight-of-12 shooting in 30 minutes against New Orleans and he snagged 15 rebounds in 31 minutes against Philadelphia. Despite his progress, there are certainly plenty of Lakers fans who are worried about tonight's game. January games against Memphis have not been good to Bynum.

Barely five minutes into a Jan. 31, 2009 game against the Grizzlies, Bryant collided with Bynum, who immediately yelled, pounding the court with his fist as he stayed down for about two minutes. Bynum sprained his right knee, an injury that ultimately sidelined him for 32 games. On Jan. 13, 2008 against the Grizzlies, Bynum hurt his left knee and missed the final 46 games of the regular season.

Jackson said last season that Bynum overcame the psychological component of suffering injuries, incidentally just before he strained his left Achilles' tendon against Minnesota, an injury that sidelined him for the final 13 regular-season games.

4. How does Gay's illness affect the Grizzlies' dynamic? Gay remained sidelined during the Grizzlies' 98-92 loss Saturday to the Utah Jazz because of a stomach virus, but he told The Memphis Commercial Appeal's Ronald Tillery that he will. It will be interesting to see how much to what degree Gay's illness may still linger against L.A., and how this affects Memphis' dynamic. In one respect, the Grizzlies won't fully reap the benefits of the team's top three-point shooter and it relieves some pressure into Ron Artest guarding him, an effort that's proven to be a mixed bag in the first game as well as last season. Still, Artest has played solid defense but has lacked a signature lockdown performance and it's often come at the expense of him solely worrying about an individual matchup at the expense of making sure the team's defensive rotations are all in unision. Artest does his best work when he has an assignment solely to focus on, but it may be a good thing that may not be necessary this time around.'

5. Will Bryant surpass Dominique Wilkins on the league's all-time scoring list? Bryant's all-time scoring total (26,626) remains 42 points shy of Wilkins' mark (26,668) meaning it's going to require Bryant to put together a signature performance to break the record against Memphis. For the sake of team balance, it's probably best for Bryant to surpass this mark Tuesday against Detroit. With Bryant's 44-point effort that incidentally broke Jerry West's all-time scoring mark last season against Memphis and his recent 33-point effort against Philadelphia, it's definitely not past Bryant to do this to ring in the New Year.

--Mark Medina

Twitter.com/latmedina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, center, is fouled by Memphis guard Tony Allen as he tries to shoot during a Lakers' regular season game on Nov. 30, 2010. Credit: Jim Weber / Associated Press.

Photo: Lakers forward Lamar Odom tries to beat Memphis guard Mike Conley to a loose ball during a regular season game  on Nov. 3, 2010. Credit: Danny Moloshok / Reuters

 
Comments () | Archives (18)

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I'm going to puke if we have to watch Pau get schooled again. Griffin for Gasol. clippers are stupid - they'll make the trade.

What did Rudy Gay tell Ronald Tillery? Sentence fragment...I'm actually curious to know...

Marky Mark,

You forgot all important number four... malaise.

Let's face it. The Lakers have put their hearts on the line for the three seasons digging their way to the Finals. This is a spiritually exhausting endeavor. You can even see it among the blog. There is less overall freaking out among bloggers, because there is the general assumption that we are still in the pre-season and the real season doesn't start until the playoffs.

The exceptions to that rule are Kobe Bryant and our team's newbies... but everyone else pretty much knows that somehow the Lakers will make the playoffs and once within the playoffs will achieve a level of preternatural focus that propels great teams to victory.

However, this is a very dangerous gambit. Assuming anything makes a person and/or group vulnerable, even if it is understandable.

If I was Coach Jackson, right now I'd be less emphasizing a "slash-their-throat-and-drink-their-blood" approach to competition and instead approach a simple love for the game. The season, while a grind, doesn't change the fact that sports and competition is inherently fun for athletes.

There's joy in competition that never grows boring. I think the team needs to embrace that purity to bring their play to a higher echelon.

What do we play for? RINGS!!!

Lakers Today... Lakers Tomorrow... Lakers Forever.

GO LAKERS!!!

Stop with the trade talk, it's not going to happen this season, next season perhaps? Maybe.

Looking forward for a great Gasol match up tonight, here is to hoping he doesn't allow his brother to school him again ;)

Odom for 6th man of the year!
Lakers for the win!!!!!!! Let's start the new year with a WIN

Let's hope that this Memphis meeting doesn't get into Bynum's head and that the team pounds the ball inside and doesn't rush the offense with all of those ill-advised, early in the shot clock half court jumpers! While we're at it, minimizing the turnovers will be really nice to see tonight as well as effective team defense for the remainder of this week's favorable schedule.

It's time to pad the "W" column and to continue working on every facet of the game now that Andrew has returned. There are no more excuses; these "squeakers" are unacceptable against the "lesser" teams in the league.

Repost....(I can't keep up with Mark M.)

Another team with good young talent will be coming to play the Lakers tonight. The Grizzlies are not to be taken lightly as the Lakers found out on November 30th, when they lost by 2 down in Mamphis.

I watched parts of the Grizzlies' game last night against the Jazz. They gave a strong effort and wound up losing by 6, despite not having Rudy Gay due to his stomach virus.

Zach Randolph did work against the Jazz with 27 and 16. He's third in the league in rebounding at 12.7 and always seems to play well against the Lakers.

Lakers also need to be conscious of Mike Conley. He played extremely well in the Memphis victory against the Lakers with 28 points and was the catalyst in that win. Rudy Gay had 30 pts. vs The Show on Nov. 2nd when the Lakers handled the Griz easily at Staples.

Memphis' bench was not much of a factor last night, with only 6 points total. But if Gay is able to play, Sam Young returns to the bench where he is a capable backup.

All in all, if the Lakers don't fall victim to the Sunday doldrums we so often see from them, they should be fine. The Show has 10 home games in January and only 5 roadies. Now would be a good time to snap to and start showing some consistency.

GO LAKERS!!!
17 in '11!!!

Posted by: bronxlakerfan | January 02, 2011 at 02:56 PM

MM...Is Rudy expected to play tonight?

Hey Lakerholics,

Yes, bronxlakerfan, Rudy Gay is expected to play tonight. I just read where Gay told a Memphis reporter that he's definitely playing against the Lakers.

I agree with a lot of your assessments on the Griz. They're a capable young team that gets after it, but they lack the depth to be a Western Conference playoff team. They'd probably be an Eastern Conference playoff team if they had two-thirds of their games against that competition. But in the West, they have a solid starting unit but a bench that gets abused most nights by WC teams with depth.

Enjoy the game and live chat later with MM.

Take care

Thanks for the reply, Dan.

Good point about the Griz's lack of depth. It was particularly evident with Gay out last night against the Jazz. Let's hope the lakers can take advantage of that and the fact that the Griz is on a back to back.

Cruising League Pass as I'm waiting for the Laker game....

Rondo is back in action for the Green Slime. They're playing up in Toronto and are losing in the 2nd q. in a close game. Rondo's got a voice like a seagull! Shaq can't elevate at all anymore. The other O'Neal is not much better. Old Laker Von Wafer is getting some minutes for the Slime. Hope they lose.

Dude...the wheel's are coming off the BANDWAGON tonight, and all hell going to break loose. Fish going 1-8 , Kobe 7-26, Gasol 7-16, Killer B's 6-14, Ron Ron 5-10, LO 8-15, Drew 7-9. Final score Gizz's 109 Lakers-105 UGLY LOSS.

The Heat are actually playing GREAT ball at this point of the season, Wade and the King are being considered as serious MVP of the Association at the moment.

I expect to see the Spurs and the Heat in the final, the Lakers missed out on their 3-peat after loosing 2008 final. Four finals in four years, it's not going to HAPPEN.

Go HEAT

@Tom Daniels - congrats on RCOTD. Hopefully Fish will continue to be playoff clutch.


@Bronxlakerfan - you're right about being weary of Memphis. Zach and Rudy are both capable of going off for a big game, and we know what Conley did the last meeting.


@63 Footer - very good double shot of Small Faces


@Lew - A triple of No Doubt - I'm with that.

i see the trolls are back.

Yes Rudy Gay is expected to play as I noted in item No. 4

Hope fisher play hard tonite..sick and tired of his inconsistent play..surely Conley get 20points against fisher...

I need a WIN to get my year started!

GO LAKERS!


Is there a link to catch the game online tonight?

Thanks

The Killer Bullshits sucks


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