Photo by Jeff Gross | Getty Images

The (5-4) Los Angeles Lakers are back to work at the Staples Center tonight to host the (3-4) Memphis Grizzlies. A strong second half, Kobe Bryant’s 39-point outburst and a season-high 16 points from Matt Barnes (18 points from the small forward position) were enough to overcome a sluggish first half and outlast the Warriors.

The Lakers continue their three game home stand against a Memphis team that split last year’s season series 2-2. The Lakers lead the all-time series 44-16, but are just 22-15 since the Grizzlies moved to Memphis, TN.

Memphis has been very competitive against Los Angeles and these contests have given the Laker nation a few forgettable moments. The Lakers are 7-3 overall against the Grizzlies in their last 10 games, but just 3-3 in their last 6. The purple and gold are 4-1 in their last five home games versus the Grizzlies, 6-4 in their last 10.

The Grizzlies considered a second-tier playoff team this season after a strong showing in both the regular and post seasons. There was a lot of talk last season that Rudy Gay was bad for the Grizzlies chemistry. An idea that sounded absurd, gained momentum, when the Grizzlies made it to the second round of the playoffs without him.

The biggest problem for the Grizzlies was the lack of depth behind Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. The problem has recently gotten worse seeing as Randolph is now out for 6-8 weeks due to injury. The Grizzlies made a trade with the 76ers to acquire center Marreese Speights.

The Grizzlies are young, athletic team that wants to get out in transition and run. Memphis is a better team with Tony Allen and Rudy Gay in the starting lineup. The Lakers have to slow Mike Conley. Conley is an undersized point guard, a good spot-up shooter with great straight-line speed.

Rudy Gay is the Grizzlies leading scorer, Matt Barnes and Metta World Peace will have their hands full limiting his impact. The Lakers have to do a good job of defending the pick-and-roll play, stop the dribble penetration of the guards, control the tempo, get back in transition and rotate out to open shooters. The Lakers have to take care of the ball, make precise passes, tighten the screws on defense, stop allowing touches in the painted area, challenge every shot and limit the Grizzlies to one shot per possession.

The Lakers big three of Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol have been productive, however the pecking order has changed and Bynum is now the second option. Gasol has to find his way in the new offense that seems to have him farther away from the basket.

The Grizzlies lack of depth on the front line presents the Lakers with an opportunity to dominate. Gasol should have a huge night being defending by Dante Cunningham, Josh Davis or Marreese Speights. The Lakers front line will have several chances to make an impact and need to be aggressive.

The Lakers have to continue to develop their young players, Devin Ebanks, Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock can fill the role of speed on the perimeter and adding much needed foot speed and points to the bench.

Starters
Lakers: D. Fisher, K. Bryant, M. Barnes, P. Gasol, A. Bynum
Grizzlies:
M. Conley, T. Allen, R. Gay, D. Cunningham, M. Gasol

Tip-off: 6:30 PM PST

Television -

  • Los Angeles: FS West (Bill Macdonald & Stu Lantz)
  • Memphis: FS South TN (Pete Pranica & Sean Tuohy)

Radio -

  • Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (John Ireland & Mychal Thompson)
  • Memphis: 103.5 FM (Eric Hasseltine & Hank McDowell)

Injuries -

Lakers:

  • Derrick Caracter (Torn Lateral Meniscus, Left Knee) Out
  • Kobe Bryant (Torn Lunotriquetral Ligament, Right Wrist) Probable
  • Pau Gasol (Sprained Right Shoulder) Probable
  • Josh McRoberts (Sprained Left Thumb & Left Big Toe) Doubtful
  • Matt Barnes (Bursitis, Left Hip) Day-to-Day

Grizzlies:

  • Zach Randolph (Slight MCL tear in Right Knee) Out
  • Darrell Arthur (Achilles Tendon) Out