The Lakers head to Memphis for the second night of a road back-to-back, coming off a victory in Oklahoma City. Last night, the Lakers were sloppy defensively throughout, something that has not been a staple of their game this season. Los Angeles now has the highest win percentage in the league at 13-2, and maintain a two game advantage over the Denver Nuggets for first place in the Western Conference.
Memphis is coming off an ugly 114-95 loss at home to the bare bones Warriors, and sit at 5-9 on the season. The Grizzlies have been relatively up-and-down this season, having lost two in a row after previously going on a three game winning streak. This team isn’t the Grizzlies of old, no longer masters of the Grit and Grind. They sit in the middle of the NBA in points per game, while struggling defensively (their 112.0 defensive rating sits 24th in the league). They’ve furthered themselves away from their past identity, and currently are 6th in the NBA in pace.
This new era of Grizzlies basketball is being ushered in by young studs Jaren Jackson Jr. and rookie Ja Morant, who has lived up to his billing as the second overall pick in this years draft, averaging 18.5 points per game alongside six assists per game. If you dive deeper, you’ll see that he’s efficient with his scoring, shooting 46% from the floor and 41.3% from downtown. His numbers only get more impressive when he’s playing at home, scoring 7.1 points more than when Memphis plays on the road. He’s shown everyone why he was such a highly touted prospect coming out of Murray State, and for the Lakers to come out of this matchup with a win, they’re going to need to find a way to shut down Ja.
As for the Lakers, Kyle Kuzma looked decent in his new goggles last night, going 4-6 from the floor and scoring 10 points. They’re going to need their bench to play well tonight, as they struggled against Oklahoma City dearly. On the second night of a back-to-back, there might be some fatigue from the starters (especially considering the marathon they just ran in Oklahoma City 24 hours ago), so look for the Lakers to rely on their rotation players to hold a potential lead or keep a tight game close when the starters head for the bench.
An encouraging trend has been that the team turns to easy AD points when the offense goes through tough spots, and why wouldn’t you? He’s their leading scorer, and just scored 67 points combined in their last two games against OKC. It’s not a lot of bail out buckets either, as he’s scoring inside with ease and capitalizing when he’s sent to the line.
Memphis turns the ball over nearly 17 times per game, so they’re vulnerable against a Lakers squad that forces the ninth most steals and are third in the league in defensive rating. It’ll be interesting to see how the Lakers come out and handle this game on a back-to-back. They went 2-0 in their last back-to-back, beating the Suns and Warriors earlier this month. With the first win in the books, they’ll be eager to go out there and get their 7th straight victory, which would tie their longest streak of the season.
The Lakers take on Memphis at 5:00 PM PST on Saturday night. Be sure to follow Lakers Outsiders on Twitter for updates.