The Memphis Grizzlies entered the first game of the series with the game plan of daring everyone but LeBron James and Anthony Davis to defeat them. While the result didn’t go as planned for them, it made sense why this is what they opted to do, but little did they know (literally, ask Desmond Bane) that Rui Hachimura and Austin Reaves were going to be the two best players on offense for Los Angeles. Let’s take a moment to appreciate how this Lakers team drew first blood despite Davis and James just scoring 22 and 21 points, respectively.
Game 1 highlighted the Lakers’ depth and the versatility of their roster.
Shoutout to Davis for setting the tone by being the best defender on the court, to D’Angelo Russell for fighting off his recent struggles and providing a much-needed scoring punch especially in the third quarter, to Hachimura and Reaves for closing and winning the game, and of course to LeBron James — who despite uncharacteristically turning the ball over five times and a subpar shooting performance — still impacted the game at a high level.
Overall, it was a well-balanced and satisfying team win for Los Angeles. The Lakers won the game by controlling the glass (45 rebounds against the Grizzlies’ 32), shooting at a higher rate (43.2%) from the perimeter and limiting their turnovers to just 14, which is an advantage given that Memphis is one of the best transition teams in the league.
Will the Lakers be able to repeat this type of performance in Game 2? Probably not. And that’s why they’ll have to get ready for the next punch that Memphis is going to throw at them. The Grizzlies are rightfully going to be the more desperate team on Wednesday, and how the Lakers respond to their adjustments and spirit will determine if the former can leave Tennessee with a 2-0 lead in the series. Here’s what to look out for in game 2:
The Grizzlies potentially being without Ja Morant
Morant’s availability for Game 2 reportedly remains up in the air after he unfortunately sustained a hand injury midway through the fourth quarter. Whether or not Morant suits up, the good news for the Grizzlies is that they’re good enough to win games without their best player as they have a record of 11-10 this season without him. That speaks volumes about their depth and ability to score.
After all, Memphis recorded the 11th-best offense (114.7) in the league this season despite Ja missing 19 games. If Morant indeed doesn’t suit up, expect more touches for Desmond Bane, Tynus Jones (arguably the best guard backup in the league), Luke Kennard, and of course, this season’s DPOY Jaren Jackson Jr., who played fantastic last Sunday. Each one of the aforementioned names is very much capable of making up for Morant’s scoring.
Will the Lakers be able to stick to what’s working?
The Grizzlies’ current depleted front court gives the Lakers an advantage in the rebounding battle and points inside the paint. Not only did the Purple and Gold outrebound Memphis by 13 last Sunday, but they had 56 points in the paint and scored 22 points out of second-chance opportunities. The Lakers need to continue pounding on the Grizzlies’ frontcourt.
Aside from their interior presence, one thing the Lakers did successfully in game 1 was beat Memphis at their own game. The Lakers produced 26 points thanks to transition baskets and pressured the Grizzlies to attempt 36 3-pointers, which is slightly above their season average (34.2). Los Angeles needs to continue exposing Memphis’ mediocre half-court offense and once again avoid letting the Grizzlies capitalize on the Lakers’ self-inflicted mistakes.
Can the Lakers capitalize on the opportunity that lies ahead?
The ideal scenario for the Lakers before the series began was to at least win a game on the road and claim home-court advantage. Now that they’ve successfully done that, the opportunity to take full control of the series by going up 2-0 against a Grizzlies team — who are without two key players and possibly Morant (who we wish a speedy recovery) — isn’t far-fetched. It would be nice if the Lakers can attack this game similarly to how they did last Sunday instead of pacing through this one because the reward would do wonders for them.
As we all know, anything can happen at any moment in a game. We saw AD suffer a stinger in the middle of the second quarter, and even Ja sadly injure his hand in the fourth quarter last Sunday. Obviously, freakish injuries like these are unavoidable but it would be nice if the Lakers look to close this series early instead of playing more games where injuries could happen. The opportunity for more rest and avoiding giving the Grizzlies breathing room right before heading back to L.A. is in front of them, so why not take advantage of that?
There’s no doubt that this resilient Grizzlies team will attempt to play their best game of the season on Wednesday. It’ll be up to the Lakers to respond to that and hopefully capitalize on the early advantage they’ve created for themselves by going up 2-0 in this series on Wednesday.
Notes and updates
- Before we get to the injury report for Wednesday’s debacle, if you want to enjoy last Sunday’s game 1 victory a little more, read some of our best stories in the past two days. Our Jacob Rude wrote a fun story about the five craziest stats from Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura’s game 1 performance and Reaves’ incredible fourth-quarter performance last Sunday.
- For Wednesday’s Lakers injury report, the team listed Anthony Davis (right foot stress injury), LeBron James (right foot soreness) and Dennis Schroder (right Achilles soreness) as probable.
- The Grizzlies meanwhile, listed Steven Adams (PCL sprain), Brandon Clarke (left Achilles tear), Jake LaRavla (right calf soreness) as out. Ja Morant (right hand soreness) is noted as questionable on the report and according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, Morant will be a game-time decision.
An MRI yesterday showed an aggravation of the bruising in the soft tissue in Ja Morant’s hand, an injury originally suffered vs. Bucks in last week of regular season. He did some shooting and dribbling today. https://t.co/9piyi1mlMx— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) April 18, 2023
- For news around the league, two popular storylines that have dominated the NBA landscape over the past two days are the drama ongoing between Golden State Warriors' Draymond Green and Sacramento Kings’ Domantas Sabonis and the dialogue about abolishing the block and charge rule for player safety. You can join the conversations and read all about it on our main website right here.
The Lakers and Grizzlies will tip off at 6:30 p.m. PT. on Wednesday. The game will be televised on TNT nationally and locally on Spectrum SportsNet.
You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani.