Lakers battle a Grizzlies team without Ja Morant at home

The Lakers and the Grizzlies face each other for the third and final time in the regular season.

The Lakers are in quite a situation here. Check this out.

(I miss Sisqó.)

Yes, they have the same record as three other teams in the Western Conference. The problem is that the tiebreakers have left them outside the play-in picture. So what do they have to do? Win games and hope the other teams lose.

They did just that against the Golden State Warriors last Sunday. And they have to take advantage of their supposedly soft immediate schedule. They are in the third of a five-game home stand. Then they go on the road before returning back to Los Angeles for another five-game stand. The Lakers absolutely cannot waste this chance.

And they have quite the opportunity on Tuesday. They draw the Memphis Grizzlies, who they just faced a week ago. The Grizz are trying to hang on to the second seed in the West. And it’s not going to get easier for this pack of bears.

If you somewhat keep up with the NBA (or are an addict like the author), then you would know that Ja Morant won’t be playing this game (and possibly the foreseeable future). I hope he gets it together because the dude is a legit NBA star and everybody would hate to see him squander what he has right now.

Not only are the Grizz missing Ja Morant but Brandon Clarke tore his Achilles last Friday against the Nuggets. He had been such a valuable player off the bench for Memphis. And Steven Adams is still not back from his knee injury. Dillon Brooks, however, will be back on Tuesday night after serving a one-game suspension for having way too many technical fouls (16 techs for the season earn a player that absence).

So it should be easy pickings for the Lakers, right? Not really. The Grizzlies famously played well without Ja last season; they were 20-5 without him. This season, they’re 4-6 without Morant. No one really believes that the Grizzlies are better without Ja but in the short-term future, they should be all right. I had mentioned that they have the absolute perfect back-up in Tyus Jones, who has been so reliable for Memphis. As a starter, he averages 19.4 points and 8.1 assists. He’s not the athletic dynamo Ja is but he’s a steady hand that gets the job done.

The Grizz still have Desmond Bane, who has become a dangerous scorer in his own right. They have shotblocking master and Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Jaren Jackson Jr. They have Xavier Tillman, who has done a great job replacing Adams as a starter. And of course, I mentioned Dillion Brooks was coming back, who has probably become the #1 irritant in the league. His supreme confidence will shoot any team into or out of a game and his personality has mostly become the embodiment of the Grizzlies.

Man, do a lot of people outside of Memphis not like this squad. But we cannot deny how talented this team is; they’re the second seed for a reason. Their defense (which is the third best in the league) has helped them get to that point.

The Lakers should still remember this: they were just in Memphis last week. They turned the ball over 26 times. And they were still in it for most of the contest. Ja Morant also scored 28 of his 39 points in the third quarter. But as mentioned earlier, Morant won’t be playing so the Lakers have to take advantage of that.

We’re starting to see the Anthony Davis that played like an MVP candidate in late November/early December. His boardwork hasn’t been as impressive the last couple of games but over his last four, he’s still averaging 33.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 3.0 blocks while shooting .547 from the field. He’s also getting to the line; he’s averaged 12.3 foul shots per in that same span. Obviously, the Lakers will go as far as Davis takes them.

The Lakers will have a much better chance of winning if the other players stepped it up like they did Sunday (when 6 Lakers scored in double figs). Against Memphis, Lonnie Walker IV got some playing time and scored 21 points. Austin Reaves went for 17. They’ll need production like that again on Tuesday night.

Unfortunately, Mo Bamba will be missing this game due to an ankle sprain. But in some hopeful news, D’Angelo has been upgraded to questionable for Tuesday night. Hopefully, he can give it a go because the Lakers badly need another player that can set the table for them.

Aside from the game itself, two-time NBA champion with the Lakers, Pau Gasol, will have his #16 jersey retired at halftime. His impact as Kobe Bryant’s running mate in the 2009 and 2010 championship runs will never be forgotten and his jersey deserves to be up in the rafters of Crypto.Com Arena. It’s also probably no coincidence that his jersey will be retired with the Lakers going against the Grizzlies; Gasol played his first 6 1/2 NBA seasons in Memphis.

Winner of this game takes the season series as they won’t play again against each other for the rest of the regular campaign. More importantly, a Lakers win has the potential to get them to the 9th seed after Tuesday night. We’re deep into the season and the Lakers might finally have a real shot getting into the postseason.

But first, win.

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