The Memphis Grizzlies come to Staples Center on Friday night, as the Los Angeles Lakers look to get back on track. The Grizzlies have not played especially well thus far and have lost four of their last five games. Although Memphis is returning the same starting five that ended the year, the Grizzlies have been missing a spark this young season.
In their last outing, Memphis was blown out on its home floor by the Toronto Raptors. Mike Conley led the Grizzlies with 29 points, five assists, and five steals in that contest, and Conley has been the best player for Memphis this season. Conley is averaging team-highs with 20.1 points per game and 5.3 assists per game.
Anytime the Grizzlies and Lakers meet, the Gasol brothers garner the spotlight. Marc Gasol is averaging 16.0 points per game, a couple points better than last season. However, the younger Gasol’s assists and rebounding are below his season averages from a season ago.
Older brother Pau Gasol has not started strong, but he shot well in the Lakers’ loss to Denver. Gasol finished with a season-high 25 points, along with his 12 rebounds in the Mile High City. Although his numbers are down to start the year, Gasol has consistently hit the defensive glass and is averaging a career-high 8.9 defensive rebounds per game. For comparison, he averaged 6.3 defensive rebounds a season ago.
The two Gasols will expect to match up head-to-head. Jordan Hill was another bright spot in Denver, and he faces a tough assignment in Zach Randolph on Friday night. Despite battling foul trouble, Hill scored 18 points and pulled down 15 rebounds in his second start of the season. In two starts, Hill is averaging 19.5 points and 13.0 rebounds. Hill fought hard to get into the starting five, and he has not stopped fighting since.
Wesley Johnson expects to matchup with Tayshaun Prince in duel of athletic forwards who do not necessarily fill up the box score but play stellar defense.
In the backcourt, Tony Allen and Mike Conley matchup against Jodie Meeks and Steve Blake. Guarding Conley will be a challenge for LA, and Jordan Farmar will likely end up on the speedy Conley for long stretches. However, Steve Blake has provided strong play early in the season, and D’Antoni will hope for more of the same from the Lakers’ point guard.
Both teams enter Friday’s contest on the heels of a loss and two games below .500. The Lakers, however, finally have a set lineup and are trending in the right direction. Tipoff for the Grizzlies at Lakers is at 7:30 pm PST.