The Lakers (17-24) will try to snap a 3-game losing streak to end a 3-game road trip with something positive before heading back to Los Angeles. The loss on Monday versus Chicago symbolized a season where the Lakers just can't seem to get of their own way to win games.
The frustrations of seeing losses after losses are resurfacing again among the players as Kobe Bryant expresses the need for a change now and Dwight Howard pointing at his lack of "touches" in the paint as a vehicle for the result against the Bulls. Even general manager Mitch Kupchak weighed in on what he thinks is the real problem with the team. Nevertheless, the Lakers can't blame anyone or anything but themselves, and only they can get themselves out of it. Tonight is another opportunity to do just that.
The last time the Lakers were in town back in November, Rudy Gay's 21 points were enough to lead his Memphis Grizzlies (26-14) to a 106-98 victory over the purple and gold. After being down 34-18 at the end of the 1st quarter in that game, the Lakers rallied to a 49-46 lead at halftime by outscoring Memphis 31-22 in the 2nd quarter. But since consistency has been a major problem all season long, the Lakers couldn't even build on their slim lead in the 2nd half to scratch out a win.
The Grizzlies are currently the 4th seed in the west and have a 15-6 record at home. However, they are coming off of a heartbreaking 82-81 loss at the FedEx Forum against Indiana on Monday, so the Lakers better expect an already solid opponent looking to make up for that loss. And if the Lakers are to win tonight, they have to want it as a team on both ends of the floor.
This is the last visit in Memphis for the Lakers this season as the final meeting versus the Grizzlies will take place at Staples Center on April 5th. The Lakers are 10-11 overall and 3 of the last 5 games at the FedEx Forum against the Grizzlies since the team's move to Memphis in 2001. L.A. took last season's series over Memphis, 2-1.
Matchup of the Game
Dwight Howard vs. Marc Gasol: It's important for the Lakers to involve Howard early and often if they want to win this game since he generally plays better on the other end when the offense looks for him first. He averages 17 points in his career against Memphis but only attempted 7 shots for 7 points last time he was here. You only have to do the math to figure out how that game might have ended for the Lakers if Howard had enough chances in the post on an 8-point loss.
Keys to the Game
> Defense: It's not a stretch this season I know, but all 5 starters for the Grizzlies (yes, including Tony Allen) scored in double figures back in November. That can't happen again tonight. The Lakers have to control things they can control to get back to winning. Allowing players that usually don't score a lot put up points is one of them.
> Howard: What's the point of trading for this guy and putting Pau Gasol on the bench if you don't use him? Dwight wants to be a force on offense, so let him.
> Turnovers: The other head of the ugly monster. The Lakers turned the ball over 18 times which Memphis converted to 29 points the other way in the last game. The Grizzlies are 2nd in the league on defense and on forcing turnovers (16.2 per game) from their opponent. It's imperative for the Lakers to be extra careful with their decisions and ball-handling tonight.
Watch Out For
LAKERS: Pau Gasol — He responded by averaging 20 points on 55% shooting from the field the last 2 games since getting benched by Mike D'Antoni in Toronto. Pau will be playing on familiar court against a familiar team tonight, so expect him to continue to put good numbers on offense.
GRIZZLIES: Zach Randolph — Z-Bo has always been one of those guys difficult to deal with in the paint because of his wide body and activity around the boards. He had 17 points on 6-14 shooting last time these 2 teams went at it, and that was while being defended by Pau. The smaller, lighter Earl Clark will have the tough assignment tonight in trying to handle Randolph down-low. No way Memphis won't take advantage of that matchup often.
Tonight @ Memphis Grizzlies
Tip-off: 5:00 p.m.
TV: TWC SportsNet (Southern California)
Radio: 710 AM ESPN/1330 KWKW
LAKERS: Steve Blake (abdomen) and Jordan Hill (hip – out for season) are both out.