The Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies have been tied collectively for years. When Jerry West left the Lakers, he took over the Grizzlies. When the Lakers wanted a Gasol brother to pair with Kobe Bryant, they landed Pau from the Grizzlies, and the Grizzlies, in flip, swiped the then-lesser identified Marc Gasol from the Lakers within the course of. The Lakers have employed two former Grizzlies head coaches, Lionel Hollins and David Fizdale, in recent times. When the 2 groups met in January, the Grizzlies infamously scuffled with Fox Sports analyst Shannon Sharpe.
Yet regardless of these ties and feuds, the Lakers and Grizzlies have by no means truly confronted off within the postseason. Until now. When the Lakers defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves within the first recreation of the Western Conference Play-In Tournament, they clinched the No. 7 seed and the appropriate to face the Grizzlies within the first spherical.
Only 5 No. 7 seeds have ever crushed their No. 2 seeded opponents within the first spherical, however the Lakers are not any odd No. 7 seed. With LeBron James and Anthony Davis in place, the Lakers may need the 2 greatest gamers on this collection. They are actually 19-8 since they reconstructed their roster on the deadline. This is not any mismatch. The Lakers are a former champion that has all the instruments they will have to knock off the second-best regular-season crew within the Western Conference. But will they accomplish that? Here are the most important storylines to look at on this collection.
(2) Memphis Grizzlies vs. (7) Los Angeles Lakers
All instances Eastern
Game 1 (at MEM): Sunday, April 16 | 3 p.m. | TV: ABC Game 2 (at MEM): Wednesday, April 19 | 7:30 p.m. | TV: TNT Game 3 (at LAL): Saturday, April 22 | 10 p.m. | TV: ESPN Game 4 (at LAL): Monday, April 24 | TBD | TV: TBD Game 5* (at MEM): Wednesday, April 26 | TBD | TV: TBDGame 6* (at LAL): Friday, April 28 | TBD | TV: TBDGame 7* (at MEM): Sunday, April 30 | TBD | TV: TBD
1. Can the Grizzlies keep out of foul bother?
By the time you end this sentence, Jaren Jackson Jr. could have been charged along with his second foul of the collection. OK, that may be a slight exaggeration, however foul bother has been a significant drawback all through Jackson’s profession. He could have dipped to a career-best 4.6 fouls per 36 minutes over the previous two seasons, however that is hardly an appropriate determine for a participant of his significance. Jackson might be going to win Defensive Player of the Year. If he does not, will probably be as a result of he did not play sufficient minutes. That flaw has plagued him all through his postseason profession. In 17 playoff video games, Jackson has reached half-hour of taking part in time simply 5 instances.
This can be harmful towards any opponent. It’s series-threatening towards the Lakers. Los Angeles makes an attempt essentially the most free throws within the NBA this season (26.6 per recreation), and the Lakers do not give these fouls up on the opposite finish both, as their opponents try the fewest (20.8). There’s no simple method of avoiding these fouls, both. The Lakers tried the fourth-most pictures within the restricted space within the NBA this season. Their aim offensively is to get to the road, and that might be particularly necessary on this matchup particularly.
The Grizzlies have survived Jackson’s foul-induced absences up to now due to their standard depth. But former reserve ahead Kyle Anderson now performs for the Timberwolves, and each Brandon Clarke and Steven Adams are injured. The Grizzlies not have a military of viable defenders to throw at James and Davis. If Jackson leaves the sport, Memphis must entrust rim-protecting duties to Xavier Tillman, Santi Aldama, David Roddy and Kenneth Lofton Jr. Only Tillman has even stepped on the playoff flooring among the many quartet.
If all of this sounds a bit acquainted to you, nicely, it ought to. The Timberwolves dominated the Lakers with Karl-Anthony Towns on the ground on Tuesday, however foul bother ultimately compelled him to the bench. In the 12 minutes Minnesota was compelled to play with out him, the Lakers outscored the Timberwolves by 26 factors. That’s virtually unattainable in an additional time recreation, however few groups have ever carried out a greater job of taking part in for whistles than the 2022-23 Lakers. They’ll need to deal with Jackson the best way they handled Towns, and his historical past suggests they will succeed.
2. Be cautious what you would like for
Dillon Brooks is kind of accustomed to the thought of poking the bear because of his longstanding feud with the Golden State Warriors. On Tuesday, he figured he may as nicely poke a GOAT whereas he was at it. “I would not thoughts taking part in LeBron (James) in a seven-game collection,” Brooks mentioned. “The legacy is there. First time again within the playoffs, knock him out instantly.”
For the higher a part of twenty years, asking for LeBron was a postseason loss of life sentence. It’s simply not absolutely clear if that is true anymore. The similarities between the 2021 Lakers and their fashionable counterparts are beginning to get eery. In each instances, James returned from a foot damage late within the season. In each instances, he wanted a clutch 3-pointer simply to earn the No. 7 seed within the play-in spherical. The 2021 Suns held James to simply 23.3 factors per recreation of their six-game collection, and most of these factors got here in rubbish time. The man who as soon as reached the Finals with Boobie Gibson as his sidekick was helpless the second Anthony Davis went down towards Phoenix.
For now, we will assume Davis will stay wholesome. But James has a troublesome process forward of him in going through Brooks head-to-head. The Memphis stopper held James to an 8-for-21 capturing evening of their solely matchup this season. James scored 37 factors towards Memphis in a recreation final season… however that got here with Brooks out. Brooks is deceptively sturdy and has a low sufficient heart of gravity to forestall post-bullying from James. Few defenders do a greater job of forcing him into jumpers. The looming specter of Jackson’s rim safety will solely add to these efforts, and the Grizzlies, not less than with their starters on the ground, are most likely going to really feel comfy switching the James-Davis pick-and-roll and trusting their back-line assist to carry up towards the very slight mismatches doing so would create.
If this have been 2018, all of that will be irrelevant. This is LeBron James we’re speaking about right here. He was so good he gained Finals MVP with Kawhi Leonard guarding him. He was so good that another person gained Finals MVP for guarding him and holding him to “simply” 35.8 factors per recreation. But the operative phrase there’s “was,” as a result of as dominant as James stays, he is not almost as defense-proof as he was at his peak. He has athletic contemporaries now. His stamina is not limitless. He is, briefly, mortal.
Or not less than we expect he’s, however we won’t be sure as a result of, once more, that is LeBron James we’re speaking about right here. We may assume that 2021 was the brand new regular, however within the grand scheme of his playoff historical past, it may additionally be the aberration. If anybody was going to punish the brash newcomer in his twentieth season, it might be James. We’ll know fairly rapidly which model of LeBron we’re getting right here. He does not fairly have to succeed in his 2018 heights to win this collection, but when he is something like he was in 2021, this factor might be over in 5 video games.
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3. Do the Lakers have 82-game gamers or 16-game gamers?
When the Lakers gained the championship in 2020, they did so with a bunch of function gamers that hardly ever wanted the ball, made their open pictures and will credibly defend a number of positions. These are, within the smart phrases of Draymond Green, “16-game gamers.” Soon after successful that title, they dismantled their championship crew in favor of high-usage ball handlers and one-dimensional defenders. These are “82-game gamers,” and whereas they may flash gaudier numbers than their 16-game counterparts, they’ve far much less utility in a postseason setting. Who wants a high-usage ball-handler when James goes to function the full-time playoff level guard?
Russell Westbrook was, emphatically, an 82-game participant. The Lakers had a dozen different excuses to commerce him, however the theoretical logic of attaching draft capital to take action was to encompass James and Davis with function gamers that truly match alongside them because the 2020 group did. It is not absolutely clear in the event that they succeeded.
D’Angelo Russell is a much more wise secondary ball-handler subsequent to James than Westbrook was as a result of he can truly make his 3-pointers. Malik Beasley might be the most effective high-volume 3-point shooter the Lakers have employed since signing James. Jarred Vanderbilt is the kind of multi-positional defender they as soon as had in abundance. All three fill invaluable niches on the Laker roster.
And all three have extremely exploitable postseason flaws. Russell cannot defend on the ball. Beasley cannot defend anyplace. Vanderbilt is a poor shooter, sure, however he additionally has a nasty case of butter fingers which might render him unusable within the all-important dunker’s spot. Working round these vulnerabilities is doable sufficient with correct lineup development within the common season, however the playoffs are virtually solely about exploiting weaknesses. We noticed this within the Minnesota recreation. Vanderbilt could not maintain onto the ball. Russell shot 1-of-9 from the ground, which sadly is not too far off from his prior playoff performances. Darvin Ham in the end did not belief both of them to shut the sport. Dennis Schroder and Rui Hachimura did as an alternative. That labored out tremendous towards the short-handed Timberwolves. It’s a a lot harder promote towards Memphis, who can exploit Schroder’s measurement and Hachimura’s inconsistent protection.
The Lakers cannot anticipate 21 Schroder factors each evening. Russell’s secondary shot creation goes to be crucial, particularly with Brooks hounding James. Vanderbilt holds an much more necessary defensive place on this collection. He’s most likely going to get the primary crack at guarding Ja Morant, and bodily, he may be the one Laker able to manning that job. The draw back of giving him that project is that it additionally permits Jackson to protect him on the opposite finish. We’re utilizing the phrase “guard” fairly loosely there, as a result of in actuality, Jackson can be ignoring Vanderbilt and serving as a full-time rover. Allowing him to take action goes to have critical offensive repercussions for the Lakers. Will he make it worthwhile on the defensive finish? Only time will inform.
Whatever you consider the 2023 Lakers, they don’t seem to be their 2020 selves. This is not a roster with limitless lineup flexibility that may tinker with matchups and punt early video games for the sake of experimentation. James, Davis and Austin Reaves can maintain up on each ends of a playoff collection. Everybody else is a query mark. The Lakers are going to wish not less than two extra 16-game gamers simply to spherical out a five-man lineup. They’ll realistically want one other two or three to fill out their rotation. Schroder and Hachimura stuffed two of these slots on Tuesday. They desperately want Russell and Vanderbilt to step into two extra of them towards Memphis. They simply haven’t got options mendacity round on their bench.
If the Grizzlies have been at full energy, they’d most likely be the choose right here. As it stands, the potential drop-off from Jackson to the remainder of the Grizzlies bigs is so huge defensively that you simply virtually have to select the Lakers in case you anticipate them to attract sufficient fouls. Ultimately, that is the place I landed. The Memphis starters may win their minutes, however the Lakers will do greater than sufficient harm after they relaxation to make up the distinction. Pick: Lakers in 6
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