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Tonight the 4-5 Lakers matchup against the 6-3 Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies are coming off a win against the Clippers where they were led by Michael Conly and his 22 points. This is a big game for the Lakers as they will be looking to even up their record at 5-5 through the first ten games, which could definitely be looked at favorably in the Lakers efforts to show that they are an improved team this year. This will also be the Lakers 7th home game to open up the season. They will embark on a tough 4 game road trip so getting a win here would be big for them.
Kuzma – We have to start with the rookie sensation that is Kyle Kuzma. Kuzma continues to be a revelation for the Lakers as his stellar play led the way during his first start of his young career. He did not disappoint as he notched 21 pts and 13 boards during his debut in the Lakers starting lineup. Things will continue along this path as Larry Nance is expected to miss 4-6 weeks after fracturing his hand. Can Kuzma continue his high level of play? Tonight he matches up against Jarrell Martin in a matchup that definitely favors the unflappable rookie. I will definitely be looking for another efficient night for Kuzma and for him to flirt with the 20 point mark again.
Bench – As good as Kuzma made the starting lineup looked, the exact opposite happened to the Lakers bench. Without Kuzma they lacked their usual punch, even though both Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson were productive. Tyler Ennis had a nice game and finished with 10 points, but at this point, that is not a performance you expect to be duplicated no a regular basis. Someone besides the aforementioned Randle and Clarkson will have to step up, as the Memphis Grizzlieswill look to deploy the services of Tyreke Evans, Mario Chalmers, Brnadon Wright and Chandler Parsons to put pressure on the Lakers second unit. Lakers will not have the typical advantage they have enjoyed this year when it comes to bench play, now that Kuzma is in the starting lineup. They will need someone else to step up and have a good game to maintain the pace with the Grizzlies bench.
Lonzo vs. Conley – Lonzo had another matchup against a heady, veteran point guard, capable of putting up big numbers from time to time. Lonzo struggled with his shot last game going 3-15, we all know that. However he did a very good job of pushing the tempo while remaining under control. The Lakers got off to a very good start in their last game due to their ability to establish pace without committing turnovers. Hopefully his shot comes along, but he absolutely must play in control and within himself in order for the Lakers to be effective while he is on the court. You can absolutely see the effect that he has on the team as far as moving the ball, and finding open shots goes. He needs to make a few shots to keep Conley honest defensively. Lonzo’s ability to control the offense will definitely be put to the test by Conley who has been a standout defensively his entire career.
It’s not going to be an easy achievement, but there is definitely a win to be had here for the Lakers. The Lakers have more talent in the starting lineup and will need to get off to another fast start as their bench may be a little out matched by the Grizzlies bench. The Lakers defensive effort this season has been amazing, and has kept them in games that last year, would’ve resulted in a nasty 20+ point blowout. Brandon Ingram has improved his play over the past couple of games and will look to continue that trend against his matchup James Ennis. Lakers will also have to figure out a way to deal with Marc Gasol. The perennial all-star is having another good start to his season and is averaging 20pts and 10 boards to lead the Grizzlies in both categories. Randle has been good playing center in small ball situation, but has struggled against talented 7+ footers. Brook Lopez may get extended minutes, and we might actually see a few minutes from Ivica Zubac, who has only gotten into one game so far this season. That being said I got the Lakers pulling out the victory and gaining some more momentum before they hit the road. Lakers 106-101. – JD