MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES (22-14)
at LOS ANGELES LAKERS (12-25)
Tip-off: Tuesday, 10:30 p.m. ET
Line: Memphis -3, Total: 204.5
The struggling Lakers opened as only slight underdogs against the incoming Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies won their second straight game on Saturday, making light work of the Kings on the road with a 112-98 win (MEM -2). The Grizzlies are now 22-14 and 19-17 against the spread, which puts them third in the Southwest Division and sixth in the Western Conference, within a half game’s striking distance of the fourth place Jazz. Memphis committed only seven turnovers against Sacramento, and they used a 32-22 third quarter to build on a five-point halftime lead. Two nights earlier, the Grizzlies got their most dominating win of the year in a 114-80 demolition of the Thunder at home (MEM -1.5). This well-rested Memphis team will play its first game in a week on Tuesday night at Staples Center against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers lost their third straight game on Sunday night (and their seventh in their last eight, and their 15th in their last 17) to Toronto, falling 123-114 at home (TOR -8). After a pleasantly surprising start to the year, Los Angeles is 12-25 and 16-18-1 against the spread. They are fourth in the Pacific Division, ahead of only the Suns, and 12th in the Western Conference. They lost to one of the few teams beneath them, the 10-24 Mavericks, last Thursday by a 101-89 score at home as four-point favorites. Over the last five seasons, underdogs of 3.5 to 9.5 points that are allowing at least 103 points per game (LAL) are 47-85 ATS against teams that allowed at least 110 points in their last game. In the same time frame, teams averaging at least 102 points per game that have allowed at least 100 points in four straight games (LAL) are 76-41 Under against teams allowing between 92 and 98 points per game. Memphis C Marc Gasol is questionable with a sprained ankle.
The Grizzlies are 22nd in the league in offensive efficiency rating in scoring 104.3 points per 100 possessions, and first in the entire NBA with a defensive efficiency rating of 103.4 points allowed per 100 possessions. They average 92.3 possessions per 48 minutes, which is the league’s third-slowest pace. If Memphis is without Gasol (19.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.5 BPG), they will look like a different team entirely. In addition to being one of the best defensive players in all of basketball, he is averaging career highs in scoring and assists. He is also averaging a career low in rebounding, due to a fundamental change in his game at the age of 31 that has made him a much more impactful player overall: he now shoots three-pointers. He had never shot more than 0.2 threes per game in a season, but is now shooting 3.5 per game and making 41.5% of them. He is one of two stars in the Grizzlies lineup, the other being PG Mike Conley (18.3 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 5.5 APG, 1.3 SPG). Conley has missed a third of this year’s games with various injuries, but has been consistently effective when on the floor. He is scoring and shooting three-pointers (43%) at career-high clips. 35-year-old PF Zach Randolph (13.3 PPG, 7.7 RPG) is coming off the bench this season and playing significantly fewer minutes, but still leads the team in rebounding. SF Chandler Parsons (5.5 PPG) figures to be an important part of the lineup if he can ever overcome his knee issues.
The Lakers have the NBA’s 19th-most efficient offense, averaging 106.3 points per 100 possessions. They have the second worst defensive efficiency rating at 112.6, and they play the league’s fifth-fastest pace of 98.1 possessions per 48 minutes. The Lakers’ catalyst on offense is second-year PG D’Angelo Russell (15.1 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 4.6 APG), who leads the team in shot attempts and assists. New coach Luke Walton has freed him of the restraints that Byron Scott placed on him, allowing him to develop and, unsurprisingly, struggle while doing so. His 1.59 assists-to-turnover ratio is 40th among qualified point guards, and he has only reached his season high of eight assists in one of the 24 games he has played this year. He did begin the new year with one of his best games of the season, scoring 28 on 9-of-18 shooting against Toronto. While he continues to progress, SG Lou Williams (18.3 PPG, 1.2 SPG) has broken out to become the early favorite for the league’s Sixth Man of the Year. He is averaging career highs in scoring and three-point percentage (37.1), and his 43.8 field goal percentage is his best since his 2009-10 season in Philadelphia. There was a four-game stretch in early December where he scored at least 35 points three times and, while he has cooled off from that incredible streak he remains the team’s most consistent scorer. SG Nick Young (14.6 PPG) and PG Jordan Clarkson (13.9 PPG, 1.3 SPG) add to the team’s arsenal of perimeter scorers, while PF Julius Randle (13.4 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 3.6 APG) leads the team in rebounding. No. 2 overall pick SF Brandon Ingram (7.4 PPG, 4.1 RPG) has a long way to go.