Coming off consecutive wins, the Lakers (5-5) are back in action on Tuesday night facing off against the Grizzlies (2-6) in their first home game of the In-Season Tournament. The game tips off at 7:30 p.m. Pacific on Spectrum SportsNet and Spectrum SportsNet+. Pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m.
Below are three things to know ahead of the matchup:
(MOSTLY) HOME COOKING
Starting with the team’s win over the Trail Blazers on Sunday, the Lakers are in the midst of a stretch in which they play six of seven games at home and all seven in the pacific time zone:
- 11/12: vs. Trail Blazers
- 11/14: vs. Grizzlies
- 11/15: vs. Kings
- 11/17: at Trail Blazers
- 11/19: vs. Rockets
- 11/21: vs. Jazz
- 11/22: vs. Mavericks
In total, that’s 12 days’ worth of games where they do not leave the West coast and will play all but a single game in their own arena. The benefits of this, particularly for a veteran team who could use some time to find a rhythm and routine on both sides of the ball cannot be understated.
Yes, there are some challenging aspects to this part of the schedule, particularly with two sets of back-to-back games over those two weeks. That said, the Lakers have a great opportunity to settle into a flow through the Thanksgiving holiday before venturing out on the road again on 11/24 when they visit Cleveland for the start of a four-game road trip.
If you listen to Coach Darvin Ham talk about his priorities, particularly defensively, you will not wait too long before hearing him preach the importance of transition defense. For a coach whose core philosophies involve protecting the rim and forcing teams into taking contested jumpers in the half court, Coach Ham’s emphasis on limiting the plays that produce the exact opposite types of baskets should not surprise.
When examining the Lakers’ success in transition defense, however, there are multiple layers to break down, both of which matter.
First, the Lakers are one of the better teams at keeping teams out of transition opportunities in the first place. They rank 9th in the NBA in terms of fast break frequency allowed at 16.2% of their opponents plays coming in transition. Limiting opportunities is a very important factor and the Lakers do this pretty well, usually at the expense of crashing the offensive glass. Playing in more 5-out spacing also helps since, out of that alignment, the Lakers bigs can more easily get back when operating at the top of the key.
Second, however, is how well teams score when they get transition chances. And, in this area, the Lakers are more challenged. For the season they allow 1.16 points per possession in transition, which is 24th in the NBA. To put this in context, the Lakers have the 5th best transition offense in the league at 1.17 points per possession.
There are many reasons why the Lakers are not getting as many stops as they need to once teams get into transition, but the fact is they will need to improve in this area if they’re going to get to the point their head coach surely wants them to.
As has been a theme of late, the Lakers are facing another opponent that, like themselves at various points in this young season, are dealing with a great number of injuries.
Already without Ja Morant due to his 25-game suspension by the league, the Grizzlies big man depth has been severely compromised with Steven Adams (knee) out for the season, Brandon Clarke (achilles recovery) still unable to play, and Xavier Tillman (knee) — who did not play in their last game — listed as questionable. And with Derrick Rose (knee) also ruled out, Memphis — a team that has been rightfully lauded for their depth in recent seasons — has been forced to field lineups they typically would not rely on with better health.
The results have been a team that has struggled to get wins, sporting a 2-8 record that has landed them at the bottom of the conference. To the Grizzlies’ credit, they continue to battle. They did win their last game vs. the Clippers on Sunday, and in their previous four games they had two six-point losses, a win, and a two-point loss in overtime.
Of the players who are healthy and available, Memphis is getting strong performances from Desmond Bane, Jaren Jackson Jr., and newcomer Marcus Smart — who came over in the trade that sent Kristaps Porzingis to Boston and Tyus Jones to Washington. Bane is averaging 21.6 points a night and shooting 35.4% on nearly 10 three-point attempts a game. Jackson, meanwhile, is up to 20.5 points a night to go along with 6.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. As for Smart, he’s struggling with his outside shot, but is averaging 13.4 points and leading with team with 5.4 assists.
If the Lakers are going to win this game, slowing down these three — and especially Bane and Jackson Jr. — will be imperative to getting it done.