What a win for the Grizzlies on Sunday over the Nets. Rookie point guard Ja Morant had 30 points and nine assists, veteran Jae Crowder pitched in with two clutch 3-pointers and the young bench scored 49 points, outdoing the more accomplished Nets bench (35 points). Other than foul trouble from big man Jaren Jackson Jr., that game showed the formula for how the Grizzlies could manage to be competitive this season.
The Grizzlies, who started the season with bad losses to Miami and Chicago, will take that shine into Los Angeles. But they’ll find a Lakers team that has been able to grind out two wins, over Utah and Charlotte, after the Opening Night disappointment against the Clippers.
Just as Memphis hopes it hit on a formula in Sunday’s win, the Lakers are hoping some corners were turned on Sunday, too. Against Charlotte, Anthony Davis finally had a big performance, with 29 points on 10-for-19 shooting and 3-for-5 shooting from the 3-point line. Dwight Howard, too, was excellent off the bench: 16 points, 10 rebounds, four blocked shots.
Grizzlies vs. Lakers Preview
Spot-up shooting is the thing to watch in this game. Can the Lakers create open looks and can the Grizzlies, traveling to the West Coast for the first time this season, maintain the energy they’ve shown in contesting a closing out on shooters?
Feeding off of LeBron James and Davis, the Lakers have done a credible job with their shooting, getting 23.0 points per game from spot-up attempts. That’s 13th in the league. Their field-goal percentage is 43.4 percent on spot-ups, which ranks fifth. Especially concerning: guard Danny Green is shooting 72.7 percent on spot-ups. He is averaging 14.0 points this year, making 52.6 percent of his 3s, including 66.7 percent from the corners.
Memphis’s defense will have its hands full with James and Davis. But it’s done a nice job taming spot-up shooters all year—the Grizzlies give up 12.0 points per game on spot-ups, which is third-fewest in the league.
The Grizzlies can live with good-not-great nights from James and Davis. But if they’re going to keep things close, they must close out on shooters and keep Green out of the corners. They do rank third in the NBA with 71.0 contested shots per game.
Memphis has so much youth and this is a very odd trip—a one-game, 1,800-mile swing—that comes with the territory when you’re an Eastern city in the Western Conference. The Grizzlies don’t typically start road trips on the West Coast, but it’s happened nine times in the last four years and they’re 3-6, including their forgettable 50-point loss at Golden State in 2015. There could be some early energy and an interesting first half, but the Lakers should wear the Grizz down over the second half.
It’s a big spread—11.5 points—and the Lakers are notorious for failing to dominate lesser opponents. But having this trip on the docket following such a nice win for the Grizz is asking too much.
Grizzlies vs. Lakers Pick & Prediction
PICK: Pick Lakers -11.5
SCORE PREDICTION: Lakers 109, Grizzlies 94