The (42-14) Los Angeles Lakers are in Tennessee to face the (28-27) Memphis Grizzlies.
It was great to see the team compete without Kobe and continue to win games in his absence. If I was told that Kobe would miss five games before the All-Star break and that the Lakers would post a 4-1 record at Trailblazers, Spurs, at Jazz, Warriors, and against the team from Massachusetts – - I’d gladly accept that.
However after 18 days, all indications are that the difference maker and team leader will return to the lineup tonight.
Tonight’s game will mark another milestone as Kobe finally records his career 1,000th game; he will also break the NBA record set by Kevin Garnett and become the youngest player to play 1,000 NBA games.
What we’ve seen in Bryant’s absence from the Lakers was a disciplined more team focused approach which was expected with the system utilized as well as still having veteran players in the lineup. Those players stepped their game up and accepted the challenge of being tasked with shouldering more of the scoring load.
The approach the team used without Bryant wasn’t surprising the way the team played and executed in his absence was, excluding the end of the game against the team from Massachusetts when the Purple and Gold ruined an excellent defensive performance and allowed a sure win to get away from them.
There’s no doubt in my mind that if Kobe plays against the old green clad crew the Lakers win in a blowout and sweep the season… again.
There has been a lot of strange talk nationally that the team has played better without Bryant. I understand the argument based on the results, but it is still crazy.
Tonight you will see the best of both worlds; a disciplined team focused approach, led by one of the games greatest players in Kobe Bryant.
The Grizzlies aren’t playing their best basketball dropping seven of their last 10 games; they’re 18-10 at home.
Memphis is a talented young team that possesses the inside power of Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay as well as the speed and perimeter scoring of O. .Mayo and Mike Conley.
In the last game of this series Kobe scored 44 points and the Lakers lost 95-93. The frontline of Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, Ron Artest, and Lamar Odom off the bench has played well averaging 49.6 points and 33 rebounds, but needs to remain aggressive. The post players should receive more than enough touches to be highly effective in this game.
The Lakers needs to continue to play solid defense, control the tempo, limit the Grizzlies opportunity’s to get out in transition and score easy fast break baskets. The Lakers are getting healthy and starting a playoff push. The rotations are getting shorter although there will some adjustments without Luke and Sasha.
The trade deadline has passed; some people have gotten off of the bandwagon and have basically written off the Lakers as a team capable of repeating. The Lakers aren’t playing their best basketball; they have lost several winnable games this season, but still have amassed 42 wins and are still in the running for home court advantage throughout the playoffs. A message for anyone writing off the Lakers too soon — we’ll see you in June.
Tip-off: 5:00 PM PST
- Los Angeles: KCAL 9 (Joel Myers & Stu Lantz)
- Memphis: Fox Sports TN (Pete Pranica & Sean Tuohy)
- Los Angeles: ESPN 710 AM (Spero Dedes & Mychal Thompson)
- Memphis: 103.5 FM (Eric Hasseltine & Hank McDowell)
- Kobe Bryant (Avulsion Fracture, right index finger)
- Sasha Vujacic (Shoulder Sprain) Out
- Luke Walton (Pinched Nerve, Back) Out
- PF Darrel Arthur (Right Pectoralis Surgery) Out