March 24, 2018, 7:57 pm
The Lakers (31-40) face the Memphis Grizzlies (19-53) on Saturday with a chance to snap out of their four-game losing streak.
Los Angeles could not ask for a better opponent as the Grizzlies are firmly embracing tank mode, regularly resting their most productive players Marc Gasol and Tyreke Evans, while also being without starting point guard Mike Conley for the remainder of the season. Memphis recently snapped a 19-game losing streak before losing their last contest in embarrassing fashion, 140-79 — the 61-point defeat was the worst in franchise history.
The Lakers are coming off a three-point loss, though it may have been equally frustrating. Los Angeles blew an 11-point fourth quarter lead and closed out the game by failing to score in the final 3:31 of the game.
Lonzo Ball had a terrible shooting game, converting only 2-of-15 from the floor and 1-of-12 from behind the arc. He missed multiple open shots down the stretch, contributing heavily to the Lakers’ loss. In typical fashion, he did add 13 rebounds and nine assists. Ball has converted only 7-of-47 3-points shots (14.9 percent) across his last seven games leading teams to leave him alone on the perimeter and creating problems for the Lakers’ halfcourt offense. Los Angeles will need Ball to knock down some of those open attempts tonight, especially as they will be without backup point guard, and offensive spark plug Isaiah Thomas, who will miss the game with discomfort in his hip — an injury that knocked him out of last year’s playoffs and the bulk of this campaign.
Los Angeles will also be without Brandon Ingram, who participated in shoot around but is not ready to return to the court. He will be joined by Josh Hart, Thomas, Channing Frye (rest, recovery) and Luol Deng, who sprained his ankle in practice and is not available to play. The latter is a bit of a moot point as he is not a part of Luke Walton’s rotations, regardless of his significant contract. All the active players will be relied on heavily as the Lakers are only expected to play eight players tonight.
Joining Ball in the backcourt is Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who is averaging 19.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game against Memphis this year. Since serving his 25-day sentence earlier this year, Caldwell-Pope has been shooting 46.1 percent from 3-point range including an eight 3-pointer performance in the Lakers’ last game.
The Lakers will rely heavily on their extremely productive frontcourt led by Julius Randle, who is averaging 23.1 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists while shooting 59 percent during the month of March. He is joined by Brook Lopez, who is also enjoying March to the tune of 19.7 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 59 percent shooting as well. Lopez has played incredibly well of late, establishing himself in the post and stretching the court for the Lakers from 3-point range — he will have the toughest and most important matchup tonight.
Memphis is expected to have All-Star center Marc Gasol, who is averaging 17.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.5 blocks per game. The Grizzlies run their offense through Gasol on the offensive end while also relying on his elite defense on the other end. Containing his ability to influence the game is pivotal to the Lakers’ chances of winning tonight.
The Grizzlies have won 2-of-3 against the Lakers to start off the season. Tonight the Lakers have a chance to even the season series, save face and earn a badly needed win.
-Memphis is one of the worst offensive teams in the league, averaging only 98.8 points per game (30th) vs. 108.6 points per game (ninth) for the Lakers.
-The Grizzlies struggle to rebound the ball on the season, averaging 40.7 rebounds per game (29th) in contrast to the Lakers who average 46.3 rebounds per game (second).
-This game pits two of the league’s worst 3-point shooting teams against each other with the Lakers converting 34.6 percent (29th) compared to the Grizzlies who shoot 34.9 percent from deep (28th).
-One significant advantage for Memphis is their ability to knock down their free throws as they make 78.9 percent (sixth) of their freebies vs. 70.8 percent (30th) for Los Angeles.
Projected Starting LINEUPS
Lonzo Ball (PG)
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (SG)
Kyle Kuzma (SF)
Julius Randle (PF)
Brook Lopez (C)
Andrew Harrison (PG)
Dillon Brooks (SG)
Jarell Martin (SF)
JaMychal Green (PF)
Marc Gasol (C)
Brandon Ingram (groin) – OUT
Channing Frye (appendectomy) – available
Josh Hart (finger) – OUT
Isaiah Thomas (hip) – OUT
Ivan Rabb (heel) – OUT
Andrew Harrison (wrist) – QUESTIONABLE
Mike Conley (Achilles) – OUT
Tyreke Evans (family illness) – OUT
Chandler Parsons (knee soreness) – OUT
Time: 5:00 PM PST, 8:00 PM EST
Television: FOX SPORTS SOUTHEAST – MEMPHIS, SPECSN/SPECD,
Radio: WMFS, 710 AM ESPN, 1330 AM ESPN DEPORTES