The Lakers entered Game 2 looking like a team content with leaving Memphis with a split series. Instead of taking advantage of the opportunity to have a commanding 2-0 series lead, the Purple and Gold leave no margin for error as they head back to Los Angeles, where they will host a full-crowd Playoff game for the first time in nine years. Thankfully for them, they did their part in stealing home-court advantage for the series as of now, at least.
Of course, it would be disingenuous not to credit the undermanned Grizzlies for their performance and adjustments last Wednesday. They attacked the game as the more desperate team despite learning that their superstar Ja Morant wasn't going to suit up moments before tipoff. It was the Grizzlies’ commendable defensive game plan that threw the Lakers off from the get-go.
The Grizzlies’ physical and switch coverage defense held the Lakers to an atrocious 75.9 points per 100 possessions in the half-court in Game 2, according to Cleaning the Glass. That was the Lakers’ worst offensive half-court rating of the season as they shot just 24% on contested field goals — also the worst of any team so far in the Playoffs. Woof.
The Grizzlies’ defense was a huge reason why Anthony Davis rendered the worst offensive playoff game of his career, shooting just 4-14 from the field. D’Angelo Russell was a no-show, while LeBron James (28 points) and Rui Hachimura (20 points) were the only Lakers to score more than 13 points. The Lakers converted just 26.9% (7-26) of their 3-point attempts and turned the ball way too many times, allowing Memphis to punch them early.
Yeah, everything stated in the graphs above was a formula for disaster for the Lakers. Game 2 is one that they will have to flush down and hopefully bounce back from to take control of the series once again. For the Lakers to hopefully nab their first Playoff win at home for the first time since June 2021, here are some factors to look out for:
How is AD going to bounce back?
Don’t listen to talking heads on national media, who have been relentlessly calling out AD for disappearing without adding context or whatsoever. While AD had a rather forgettable night, what needs to be talked about more is the impressive defensive scheme that Memphis has employed on him and how that has limited AD offensively for the most part of this series so far.
The Grizzlies did a great job tonight of getting physical with Anthony Davis and contesting without fouling. Initial defenders bodied him up time and again, refusing to give him free reign on the block/in the paint. That went a long way toward getting the L.A. offense in the mud. pic.twitter.com/r05Znrwk0o— Dan Devine (@YourManDevine) April 20, 2023
As we’ve observed for the past four years now, the best way to contain Davis is to be physical with him and avoid letting him catch his offensive rhythm early. The Grizzlies, led defensively by Xavier Tillman, DPOY Jaren Jackson Jr., and the pesky Dillon Brooks, did their job in being physical and keeping AD out of position in the post. They’ve done a spectacular job contesting most of his shot attempts, and what’s even more impressive is that Davis has barely shot free throws in this series. He’s only attempted 6 free throws thus far in two games.
This needs to change in Game 3 and how both Davis and the Lakers respond to the Grizzlies’ defense will determine if they leave Crypto Arena up 2-1 on Saturday.
How will the Lakers adjust their defense on JJJ?
In the past two games, the Grizzlies’ strongest threat has been JJJ who has absolutely dominated the minutes when AD takes a breather on the bench. As my colleague Jacob Rude reiterated in his recent piece, Memphis is +17 in the 21 minutes with JJJ on the court as Davis is off it. Eighteen of JJJ’s 49 points so far have come in those 21 minutes.
Through two games, JJJ also just shot 3-11 against Davis as the primary defender but was 7-10 versus Hachimura and 6-8 when he was guarded by James. This speaks to a larger problem and that’s the Lakers simply aren’t good when AD sits. The Grizzlies are going to keep taking advantage of those non-AD minutes and it’ll be up to the Lakers to counter.
Through two games:— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) April 20, 2023
Lakers with AD on the floor (75 min): +23
Lakers with AD off the floor (21 min): -17 https://t.co/MbbkL5DRey
As the series shifts to Los Angeles, the Lakers have one main goal and that’s to defend home court. They’re going to host a determined, talented, and unproven Grizzlies team to a home that’s witnessed historic Playoff milestones, success, and championships, most of which that have dominated NBA history. We’ll see if the Lakers can conquer Dillon Brooks’s unwavering confidence and the Grizzlies at home on Saturday.
Notes and updates
- If you want more reasons to be excited about the first full-crowd Lakers Playoff game in the LeBron James era, just listen to this clip of him harping about it in his post-game interview last Wednesday. There’s nothing like a Lakers Playoff game.
These dudes know what to do man. Time to protect home court— GoldenKnight (@GoldenKnightGFX) April 20, 2023
- For the 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.
- Meanwhile, for the Grizzlies Steven Adams (PCL sprain), Brandon Clarke (left Achilles tear), Jake LaRavia (right calf soreness) as out. Ja Morant (right hand soreness) is noted as questionable on the report but he was a participant in practice today. Expect Ja to be a game-time decision once again.
Ja Morant was a full participant at practice today. It was a non-contact practice. He’s still expected to be a gametime decision tomorrow for Game 3.— Damichael Cole (@DamichaelC) April 21, 2023
Jenkins said Morant went through a non-contact practice and individual workout that included dribbling & shooting… “it’s just catching the ball he’s having to navigate.” Grizz will make a decision at game time but Jenkins said Morant’s hand is a lot better than 2 days ago.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) April 21, 2023
- Outside of the Lakers sphere, the top news making its rounds today is about Nick Nurse and the Toronto Raptors, and how both parties have parted ways after five years and a championship together. You can read more about that here.
The Lakers and Grizzlies will tip off at 7:00 p.m. PT. on Saturday. The game will be televised on ESPN nationally and locally on Spectrum SportsNet.
You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani.