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Lakers vs. Grizzlies Preview: Running into a brick wall

The Lakers have struggled lately, with those struggles seemingly set to continue as they run into the juggernaut Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.

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Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers are reeling a bit now, nearing the 18th straight game that Anthony Davis will miss while also nearing the 8th straight game that Austin Reaves and Lonnie Walker IV have joined him in street clothes on the bench.

They fared decently well early on in Davis’s absence, but now — whether it’s due to Reaves and Walker now being out, opponents simply improving, the team as a whole getting tired, or a combination of those factors — they’ve now lost 4 of their last 5 games.

The most recent game was a 116-111 loss against the Kings, a game that saw the Lakers holding a 14-point lead in the 1st quarter. That flipped to a 14-point lead for the Kings late in the 3rd quarter, with the Lakers making one of their patented fake comebacks only to fumble the game away in the closing moments as they’ve been known to do this entire season.

That game against the Kings was the start of a run of opponents that are much more daunting than what the Lakers have faced as of late, with that run only getting worse on Friday night in a matchup against the fiery Memphis Grizzlies.

Here’s our preview of that matchup:

Lakers have enough in the tank?

As I noted above, it seems that one of the factors negatively impacting the Lakers at the moment is the amount of gas each player has in their respective tanks. With Davis, Reaves,, and Walker — all players who tallied a large amount of minutes for the Lakers before going down — all out, many other people on the roster have had to play a much larger amount of minutes than what they were previously accustomed to.

Thomas Bryant and Dennis Schröder were two of the main reasons (aside from LeBron James) for the Lakers playing well in the initial stretch of games that Davis missed, however, they’ve both regressed mightily in recent games.

Bryant scored in double figures in 10 straight games (with 20+ in 3 of those games), but has failed to do so in their two most recent games — while also playing less than 20 minutes — as he has seemed pretty gassed, especially on the defensive end.

Schröder had 7 straight games with double-figure scoring as well, but has failed to do so in 4 straight contests. His 3-point shooting was a key for his and the team’s success a few weeks ago, but it’s now fallen off a cliff as he’s only made 1 3-pointer in his last 15 attempts.

LeBron James has continued to dominate even at his ripe age of 38, however, his jump shot has been terrible late in games as even he is showing signs of fatigue, even if it’s after 3.5 quarters of terrorizing the opponent’s defense. Because of that perceived fatigue, the cynic in me could see him sitting out Friday’s game vs. the Grizzlies (listed as questionable on the injury report with left ankle soreness).

He’s had somewhat untrustworthy reasons for absences against very good teams in seemingly unwinnable games (the recent road game vs. the Nuggets comes to mind). The Grizzlies would definitely fall in that category of team, as they are breathing down the 1st-seeded Nuggets’ backs with an active 11-game winning streak.

That streak would almost certainly turn to 12 if LeBron to sit. If he does suit up for the Lakers faithful on Friday, will he be able to pull out another awe-inspiring performance to simply give the team a chance to steal a win?

We will have to wait and see.

Notes and Updates

  • Thankfully, the Lakers’ injury report has remained unchanged over the last few games. However, it still leaves the Lakers severely depleted with Anthony Davis (right foot stress injury), Austin Reaves (left hamstring strain), and Lonnie Walker IV (left knee tendinitis) out. Scotty Pippen Jr and Cole Swider (G-League play) join them as out.
  • As noted above, LeBron (left ankle soreness) is questionable.
  • As it pertains to AD, he’s progressing more and more based on the latest updates from head coach Darvin Ham, with the most recent of those updates below:
  • Reaves and Walker were both given two weeks from Jan. 6 until they could be re-evaluated for their respective returns. Ham noted on Jan. 16 that the evaluation was, indeed, fast approaching. Today is technically the two-week mark with even more good news hopefully on the way for their availabilities.
  • The Grizzlies will have nearly everyone healthy except Danny Green (left knee surgery recovery) who has been out all season after tearing his ACL last year. Ziare Williams will be questionable due to a non-COVID illness.

The Lakers and Grizzlies will tip off at 7 p.m. PT. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN while also being shown locally on Spectrum SportsNet.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Donny on Twitter at @donny_mchenry.

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