Pau Gasol hosts his younger brother Marc Gasol on Friday night at Staples Center as the Lakers welcome the Grizzlies to Los Angeles. Memphis only comes to visit Southern California once this season, and the two Tennessee meetings have been rather one-sided affairs with the younger Gasol’s team making the older Gasol’s team look, well, old.
In the first meeting, the Lakers trailed by as many as 16 points in the game and never cut the deficit to fewer than five points in the second half. In the second encounter, the short-handed Lakers were ravaged thoroughly and trailed by as many as 21 points in the game. That game never came within a double-digit deficit in the deciding quarter.
However, both those games were in Memphis, and Rudy Gay started both those games. Also, the Lakers hit rock bottom at Memphis last time around—season restart no. five?
That being said, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph haven’t changed, and Pau Gasol averaged a depressing 9.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in 29.0 minutes against the Grizzlies’ frontline. Forget double-double, a single-double would be an improvement for Pau against his younger brother.
Looking past the Gasol brothers—which is difficult to do considering they combine for 14 feet of human—Dwight Howard’s recent play and improved health has been nothing short of necessary for the Lakers. His increased mobility, agility, and energy have the Lakers slightly leading the race for the final Western Conference playoffs spot with only the final seven games remaining.
To provide statistical proof of Howard’s physical return to health, he has been the leading rebounder in 17 of the last 18 games the Lakers have played. In the one game he didn’t take the honor of leading rebounder during this stretch, he still pulled down 15 boards, but Al-Farouq Aminu of the Hornets pulled down one more than Howard on the night. Hardly a complete failure.
Currently, the Lakers’ defensive anchor has been the leading rebounder 13 straight games.
Largely ignoring the earlier two head-to-head contests, the Grizzlies are on a four-game winning streak entering Staples Center—included in that winning streak is a win over the San Antonio Spurs. The Lakers have won three of the last four games, and Tuesday’s win against Dallas was some of the best basketball the Lakers have played on both ends of the court all season long.
The Gasol brothers shared dinner plans—sushi—on Thursday evening, they will share the same court on Friday night, but they cannot both share a victory into Saturday morning. After three straight head-to-head losses, the older Gasol will hope to return order to the family and to the Lakers.