Showtime: 6:30 PM PST
What’s At Stake: With three games left for both teams, one team is fighting for the postseason, while the other is jockeying for an improved draft pick.
The Lakers are in an intriguing lottery position that has seen the plot thicken this week. Courtesy of Boston’s 2 game win streak, the Lakers are currently tied with the Celtics for 5th, ahead of Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Orlando, and Utah. In the midst of a 6 game losing streak with 3 to go, the Lakers play 2 Western Conference playoff teams (Spurs and Grizzlies) in addition to their tank-off against Utah. If they lose out, the Lakers could end up with the fourth spot in the lottery.
On the other hand, Memphis is very much in the playoff picture. Coming off of a few impressive victories, they are currently in the 8th spot and sit one game ahead of Phoenix in the loss column. Dallas has already clinched, making the upcoming Grizzlies / Suns game must-see TV. If the Grizzlies win, they will have the right to play San Antonio and reprise the 1/8 match-up in 2011 that provided one of the greatest playoff upsets in modern league history.
The on-court matchup is a lot less intriguing than the implications. The Lake Show has well-documented health woes, as injuries to Kobe, Nash, Xavier Henry, Bazemore, and Kaman will mean the Purple and Gold will field a fraction of their fifteen man roster. Against the bruising frontcourt of Memphis, however, their lack of depth promises to be a real problem. The Lakers will have no answer for Marc Gasol or Zach Randolph and should be bullied considerably on the boards. On defense, Memphis is an elite squad and should cause the Lakers trouble by really making them work to score points.
While this is a must-win game for Memphis and would give them the season series, it is far from a freebie. Even in their losing streaks, the Lakers have shown that they aren’t giving up and have beaten teams that came in expecting an easy win. With the playoffs in their sights, the Grizzlies should have enough motivation to take this game seriously and come away with a victory, but that's why they play the games.
At this point in the season, let’s just hope no one else gets hurt.