Friday night’s game was supposed to be a litmus test for the Memphis Grizzlies, not the Los Angeles Lakers. However, with the way 2012-2013 NBA season has gone, that may be the position each team finds itself in.
Even after the firing of Mike Brown, L.A. has still yet to prove that they can beat the best teams in the league. Tied for the top record in the NBA at 8-2, the Grizzlies are playing as well as anybody.
Los Angeles is coming off their worst loss of the season. They fell to the Sacramento Kings by 16 points, getting blown out by the worst team in the Western Conference.
It was the team’s second game with Mike D’Antoni on the bench. They beat the Brooklyn Nets in his debut, but looked sluggish in the head coach’s first game on the road.
"It seemed like we were a little lethargic for whatever reason," Kobe Bryant said. "We just have to push through it, particularly the second unit, especially while Dwight is in there. You don't have to go to as many pick-and-rolls, really, just dump the ball down to him and let him operate."
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Bryant has been the one bright spot, all year, for the Lakers. In his 17th season, he’s been an early MVP candidate. He leads the league at 27.3 points per game, and all guards with a 53.1 field goal percentage. Bryant scored 38 points in the Lakers loss to the Kings.
Now, the veteran will try to lead the Lakers to a victory against a team that is virtually unbeatable at home. The Grizzlies lost at home to the Nuggets on Monday, their first loss in Memphis in 16 games.
The Lakers and Grizzlies will square off at 8 p.m. ET at the FedExForum. You can watch a live stream online by purchasing NBA League Pass Broadband. L.A. is one of just three teams without a road victory.
Pairing Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol was expected to give L.A. the most feared frontline in basketball, but that title might belong to Memphis. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph have been a force inside, averaging a combined 31.8 points and 21 rebounds per game. Randolph has been particularly unstoppable, recoding a double-double in every contest.
It should be an interesting matchup between the two sets of big men. Howard and Gasol have struggled, early on, in D’Antoni’s offensive system. Howard only put up four shot attempts in his last game, and Gasol went 3-for-10 from the field.
Darius Morris will get a tough assignment, as he’ll look to stop Mike Conley. Conley is putting up career highs in points and assists, and Morris is getting the start at point guard with Steve Nash and Steve Blake out with injuries.
Betting Line: Memphis-4.5, 199
Prediction: Under a new offensive system, the Lakers may be going through a slight adjustment period. With just two wins against winning teams, there’s a good chance L.A. will fall short, once again. Howard’s defense has been suspect at times this year, and the Grizzlies big men should have success in the paint.
Predicted Score: Memphis 104, Los Angeles 91