Los Angeles Lakers

Lakers vs. Grizzlies First Round NBA Playoffs Preview

A preview of the first-round matchup between the No. 7 seed Los Angeles Lakers and the No. 2 seed Memphis Grizzlies

Memphis Grizzlies  v Los Angeles Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers are back in the NBA Playoffs and will face a young, physical, and tenacious Memphis Grizzlies team in the first-round of the Western Conference bracket.

After a one-year hiatus from the excitement of the postseason the Lakers are back and riding the momentum of a magnificent finish to the season. In their last 24 games, the Lakers finished with a record of 16-8 and were ranked as the best defensive team in the league over that same span.

As LeBron James watched the NBA Playoffs from home last season, he vowed that he would never miss them again. True to his word, he's back again this year, and relatively healthy after missing over a month with a torn right tendon in his foot.

His running mate, Anthony Davis, is also healthy, giving the Lakers arguably the best one-two punch of any playoff team. If the Lakers want to surpass the Celtics for the most championships in NBA history, they will need both of them healthy and playing at their best.

Los Angeles Lakers v Los Angeles Clippers
LeBron James #23 and Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers are both healthy and ready for the NBA Playoffs. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, the Memphis Grizzlies are ready, eager, and chomping at the bit to take on the Lakers.

“I wouldn’t mind playing LeBron in a 7-game series,” Grizzlies' guard Dillon Brooks said via ClutchPoints. “The legacy is there. First time back in the playoffs; knock him out right away. It’ll test us good. They got good pieces, good players. That’ll be a good first-round matchup for us.”

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After taking a massive step forward in their maturation last season, the Grizzlies finished the 2022-23 regular season with a record of 51-31, good for second in the Western Conference. They also were 35-6 at home, the best home mark in the NBA. They did this despite multiple stints without superstar point guard Ja Morant, and injuries to other players as well.

Grizzlies' starting center Steven Adams is one of those players that will be out for this series with an injury. As will backup center Brandon Clarke. Thankfully, Memphis has the frontrunner for the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award this season in Jaren Jackson Jr. to protect the rim and try and stop Davis.

Memphis Grizzlies v Los Angeles Lakers
Dennis Schröder of the Los Angeles Lakers talks with Steven Adams #4 of the Memphis Grizzlies after the game on March 7, 2023 at Crypto.Com Arena in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Davis is one of the biggest reasons for the Lakers in-season turnaround. After starting 2-10, the Lakers made a bevy of moves at the NBA trade deadline, and finally hit the eject button on their Russell Westbrook experiment. Thanks to Davis' dominance down the stretch, they finished the season 10-2, a complete 180 from how it started.

At the deadline, the Lakers were well below .500 and in 13th place in the Western Conference. They rose all the way to fifth place at one point, finishing in seventh and had to rally from 15-points down to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves in their play-in tournament game on Tuesday.

The two franchises have never met in the postseason, but nevertheless they are still linked together by a 2008 trade that sent Hall of Fame forward Pau Gasol from Memphis to Los Angeles. Gasol would go on to play in three consecutive NBA Finals with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, hoisting two Larry O'Brien trophies while wearing the purple and gold.

Memphis Grizzlies v Los Angeles Lakers
Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts to applause holding daughter Elisabet Gianna, before his jersey retirement ceremony at halftime in the game between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Los Angeles Lakers at Crypto.com Arena on March 07, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The Lakers won the season series with the Grizzlies two games to one, but were without Morant for the final game. Morant is now back from a suspension and is eager to lead Memphis further than they've ever gone before: the NBA Finals.

"This is obviously, an opportunity for us to go out and prove ourselves," said Morant before the series. "We got a chance at going for our ultimate goal which is a championship. So it's definitely exciting."

Game 1 of the best-of-seven series tips off on Sunday, April 16 at 12:00PM PST on ABC.

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