The Los Angeles Lakers pulled out a tough win against the Oklahoma City Thunder last night, and will continue their four-game road trip tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies. The last time the Lakers played the Grizzlies, Anthony Davis broke about one-hundred (not really, about six) records with his 40-point, 20-rebound performance. The most obvious difference between that game and the game tonight, however, is that this one will take place on the second night of a back-to-back, so it remains to be seen if Davis and LeBron James will play a ton of minutes.
Another difference between these two games is that the Lakers have begun to shoot well from the 3-point line. Last night, the Lakers shot 17-31 (54.8%) on their 3-point attempts. In fact, in their last six games, the Lakers have shot 76-149 (42.5%) from that range. In the nine games prior to that, the Lakers only shot 31.1% from three. Their recent rise has led the Lakers to currently rank 14th in the league in 3-point percentage at 35.7%, but in just the last six games, the Lakers rank 1st overall.
Let’s look at the players who have really improved their 3-point shooting over those six games:
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: 10-17 (58.8%)
- Danny Green: 14-27 (51.9%)
- Kyle Kuzma: 14-31 (45.2%)
- Anthony Davis: 8-19 (42.1%)
- Rajon Rondo: 6-15 (40.0%)
Davis especially had really struggled with his shooting from behind the arc prior to those six games, shooting only 8-27 (29.6%) from three. A lot of teams would slightly sag off of Davis and kind of dare him to shoot it, something LeBron has noticed, and says the team wants Davis to change:
LeBron on AD's recent shooting (via @SpectrumSN):— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) November 23, 2019
“We want him to take more threes. Teams are playing off of him, and he’s too damn good of a shooter not to shoot them."
Aiding in that tonight will be the simple reality that the Grizzlies aren’t a great defensive team. They rank 23rd in the league in defensive rating, giving up 112.0 points per 100 possessions. They also are around average at defending threes, ranking 17th in league at opposing three-point percentage (36.0%). The Grizzlies have only won 5 of their 14 games this season. All signs point to the Lakers getting the win, but if they start off the game slow like they’ve been doing in previous games, that can really hurt them.
The Lakers have also struggled to defend athletic guards this year. Rookie Ja Morant has scored 20, 23, and 25 points in three of their last four games. It’ll be important for guys like Caldwell-Pope and Green to play physical with him and keep him out the paint. He’s shooting 41.4% from three this season, but only making under one per game.
James and Davis are coming off of 35 and 36 minute games against the Thunder, respectively, so it’s not a certainty whether or not they will play against the Grizzlies, and how much they’ll play if they do suit up.
According to Lakers Head Coach Frank Vogel, that decision will come sometime today.
Frank was asked if everyone would play tomorrow on the second night of the back-to-back:— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) November 23, 2019
“We’ll see. We’re gonna enjoy this and we’ll make those decisions tomorrow."
While speaking with reporters on Spectrum SportsNet, however, Davis was adamant that he’s not resting, responding to a question about it by saying “nah, I’m playing” (the team is listing him as questionable).
The Lakers have played without Davis once before and came out victorious, but they’ve never played without both him and James. The Lakers this season have a net rating of +13.2 when LeBron is on the court, but when he’s off the court, they have a net rating of -5.4, meaning that they’re outscored by that many points per 100 possessions when he’s on the bench. In fact, he’s the only player that the Lakers have a negative net rating when he’s off the court.
If either of those two don’t play tonight, the Lakers will really need players like Kuzma, Green, and Caldwell-Pope to continue their hot shooting. If they do play, it’s going to be really important for the Lakers to get off to a hot start and get a big lead early on in the game so they can give their two superstars some rest on this back-to-back, because the next game is going to be against the Spurs, who regardless of their poor record can be a tough matchup any day of the week.
But before they worry about that, the Lakers need to take care of business in Memphis. Continuing to shoot well would go a long ways towards that.
Notes and Updates
- Kuzma was asked how his vision is holding up, and he said “It’s a little blurry, but overall pretty good.” So that’s good news for the Lakers’ newly goggle-donning forward at least.
- Caldwell-Pope continued his recent run of strong play against the Thunder last night, scoring 17 points and making four of his five threes. Earlier this week, I broke down why he’s been so much better lately:
- Rajon Rondo was ejected against the Thunder last night for a Flagrant 2 Foul. On Saturday, he was fined $35,000, but is still available to play for the Lakers tonight.
- Avery Bradley will continue to sit out for at least the rest of this road trip, and while Alex Caruso played last night, he was probable before the game against the Thunder, and the Lakers are listing him as questionable against Memphis (Update: He will not play). As alluded to above, Davis is probable with that persistent right shoulder soreness. Here is your full injury report:
Alex Caruso is questionable for tonight, while Anthony Davis is probable with his sore shoulder. Full Lakers status report against the Grizzlies pic.twitter.com/eUr12H35eR— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) November 23, 2019
Tonight’s game between the Lakers and Grizzlies will tip-off at 5:00 p.m. PST, and be televised in Southern California on Spectrum SportsNet.