clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Lakers vs. Grizzlies Preview: Welcome to Graceland

The Lakers saunter into Memphis to face a Grizzlies team looking to tighten its grip on the second seed in the ultra-competitive west

Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday night the Los Angeles Lakers will once again find themselves pitted against a team with an imposing, defensive-minded center patrolling the paint, exchanging the oppressive length of  Miami's Hassan Whiteside for the brawn and brains of Memphis' Marc Gasol. Not entirely unlike the Lakers' starting frontcourt during their not too distant championship era, the Grizzlies boast two All-Stars at the four and five spots in Gasol and Zach Randolph who thrive on a bevy of post-ups, mid-range shooting and slick interior passing.  Yet very much unlike this current iteration of the Lakers, the Grizzlies are legitimate championship contenders, considered by many to be a favorite to emerge from the looming bloodbath that is the Western Conference playoffs.

While the Lakers' recent stretch of ups and downs differs from the "all down, all the time" theme permeating throughout their entire season, the Grizzlies' rocky patch over the last several games is a far cry from the consistency of a team that's been in or near the NBA's top-10 in defensive efficiency, offensive efficiency and point differential for much of the season. The Grizz are coming off a week that saw them get blown out by the Clippers, lose defensive ace Tony Allen to a one game suspension following an altercation with teammate Nick Calathes, lose Zach Randolph and Beno Udrih to illness, eke out a road win over the lowly Timberwolves, lose by double figures to the lottery-bound Jazz and narrowly escape defeat in Houston thanks to a clutch Marc Gasol jumper.

Spearheading the offensive attack for Memphis is one of the more consistently overlooked players populating the NBA's upper echelon of point guards in Mike Conley. Much like the vicious cycle endured by some once-obscure band that goes from fresh new sound to sellout seemingly overnight, calling Mike Conley "underrated" went from in vogue analysis to cringe-worthy cliche so fast that it's hard to pinpoint when exactly it happened. One thing is for sure though, in spite of Memphis' bully ball reputation built around their two studs down low, Conley's consistent playmaking ability and scoring punch are key cogs in the Grizzlies' offensive engine.

Although Memphis has chugged along fairly well in the win-loss column, much has been made of the efficacy of their starting unit since Jeff Green replaced Tony Allen following a January trade to bring the former Celtic into the fold. While the starting gig is currently Green's, both the eye test and the numbers seem to favor the Grindfather, so while it may be premature to label the Grizzlies as having a case of the dreaded "chemistry issues," it's also fair to wonder if the decrease in the productivity of their starting five is having a greater effect on the team than just a few minutes here and there of punchless basketball.

Los Angeles will attempt to continue its recent stretch of atypically competent play, looking to build on a string of wins and competitive losses led by the strong back court play of Jordan Clarkson and Jeremy Lin as Laker fans look on in a confusing mixture of optimism and terror.

Enjoy the game everyone, and let's hope your Friday night is as awesome as this picture:

Photo Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Time: 5:00 pm PST

Station: TWCSN