Showtime: 5:00pm PT
Plot: At 11-13, the Lakers are actually pretty happy that they've been able to tread water for this long while waiting for Kobe Bryant and battling wave after wave of injury this season. Meanwhile, with a similar 10-13 record, the Memphis Grizzlies couldn't be any more disappointed with their campaign to date, even with wave after wave of injury they've faced.
The Grizz are a mere 3-7 since Marc Gasol went down with a knee sprain, and seemingly the team's defense left with him. Without the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, the Grizz have been 26th in opponents FG%, 24th in 3P% and 22nd in rebounding. Quite simply, they're not at all the same team without Gasol, who could very well be their best overall player on both sides of the floor. Memphis's D, or perhaps lack thereof, has been the primary culprit behind their three game losing streak, including two at home against Oklahoma City and Minnesota and at New Orleans.
On the other hand, the Lakers right now are a middling to poor team on both ends of the floor, even in spite of their best player returning. LA's once fast-paced attack has now slowed considerably without point guards Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar pushing the pace and Kobe Bryant eager to post up on offensive possessions. This has been on display the previous several games, as the Lakers have seen their three-point shooting accuracy plummet, while their pace looks to be anything but the run and gun attack that made the team so fun to watch for the first six weeks of the year. The Lakers are unsurprisingly out of synch offensively and defensively, with the team scrambling to get back to a mere decent level of lock down proficiency. If the previous two paragraphs sounded similar, it's not a coincidence.
Any team facing the Lakers feels like a squad catching them at just the right time, but the same exact sentiment could be said about Memphis. The Grizz are still scrambling amidst injuries to Gasol, Quincy Pondexter and Ed Davis, trying to find enough defensive grit and still eternally struggling to grind out offense on a nightly basis. Still, they'll have both Zach Randolph and Mike Conley, Jr. in the lineup, the former of which destroyed the Lakers over two months ago at STAPLES Center with a monstrous 28 point, 11 rebound night. The story of that game was Memphis beating up the Lakers on the boards and limiting their points in the paint--without Marc in the lineup, it'll be hard to replicate that type of performance again.
Even without their star center, the Grizzlies are going to give the Lakers a test with their fourth game in five nights. Many of the Lakers young players shouldn't be terribly affected by such an aggressive slate, though for guys like Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant, it could be a real slough. Unlike Saturday's game the night after Kobe played just 23 minutes in a blowout loss to the Thunder, Bryant will have to try and rebound from a 32 minute, 14 shot game.
As bad as the Grizz have been, it seems like they might be playing a tired, confused Lakers team at the right time.
But on the other hand, maybe this is exactly what the Lakers need to gain a little traction going forward.
--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino