1. The Gasol brothers. The elements surrounding this matchup between Pau, the Lakers' power forward, and Marc, the Grizzlies' center, proves to be a tad different. Lakers Coach Mike Brown isn't needling Pau about playing against Marc as Phil Jackson often did. Pau, at least according to Kobe Bryant, has apparently fallen to No. 3 in the offensive pecking order behind center Andrew Bynum. And though Marc plays at center, it's possible he could match up directly with Pau at power forward at times because of Zach Randolph's long-term injury.
Pau has adjusted wonderfully during Bynum's scoring surge by focusing on nailing mid-range jumpers with efficiency. But he still needs to maintain his aggressiveness to maximize scoring chances. Since this matchup always elevates Pau's focus, this could be a good start.
2. How will Memphis fare without Randolph? Brown believes the Grizzlies are still a playoff team despite losing Randolph for at least six weeks after he tore the MCL in his right knee. But the Grizzlies' depleted frontcourt could be painfully noticeable against the Lakers, even if they'll be without reserve power forward Josh McRoberts for the fourth consecutive game because of a sprained big toe on his left foot. With Bynum starting to face more double teams, this could provide a good opportunity for him to play through less resistance.
3. Will Tony Allen force Kobe Bryant to work harder for his shots? Bryant's clearly shown the torn ligament in his right wrist won't hinder too many things, including his volume of shots: he has averaged 27.25 attempts in the last four games. Ever since his disastrous six-of-28 showing last week, Hoopdata shows that Bryant's most effective at shooting within 10-15 feet of the basket, going nine of 12.
But will Allen's effort to force Bryant to work harder for shots move him outside of his comfort zone? Bryant went eight for eight from shots 16-23 feet this week against Houston and four of six against Portland, but that mark dipped to five of 12 against Golden State. Meanwhile, Bryant's three-point shooting has remained a disastrous three of 14 in the last three games. That's why it's critical Bryant tries to remain in his comfort zone regardless of the tougher defense Allen might put on him.
4. Will the small forward spot remain in flux? Against Golden State, Matt Barnes scored 16 points and defended Monta Ellis reasonably well, while Metta World Peace sat out the entire second half and Devin Ebanks didn't play at all. But Brown said this rotation remains in flux, depending on how well each player performs.
5. Mike Conley gives the Lakers another backcourt test. He has skills to be a scorer and utilizes his speed well, but Conley remains a threat because of his ability to organize Memphis' offense. Conley will try again to be a catalyst as Memphis continues to shuffle its lineup and rotations. The Grizzlies, which have struggled with outside shooting, are averaging only 92.8 points a game.
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Photo: Memphis guard Tony Allen tries to cut off the drive of Lakers guard Kobe Bryant in a 2010-11 regular-season game. Credit: Lucy Nicholson / Reuters