The Los Angeles Lakers look to extend their three-game winning streak when they host the Memphis Grizzlies Friday night in their first game after the All-Star break. The Lakers are 41-12 and lead the Pacific Division by five games over the LA Clippers and the Western Conference by four games over the Denver Nuggets.
Memphis would be the Lakers’ first-round opponent in the playoffs if the season were to end today. The Grizzlies are in eighth place in the Western Conference, five games behind both the Oklahoma City Thunder and Dallas Mavericks for sixth place. Memphis is coming off a 129-125 loss at Sacramento on Thursday night.
The Lakers are 11-point favorites playing at home in this one, with the over/under set at 233.5.
Young But Tough
The Grizzlies are a surprise contender for a playoff spot, with rookie point guard Ja Morant and second-year forward Jaren Jackson Jr. two of the key cogs. Morant leads Memphis in scoring with 17.7 points per game while also dishing out 7.0 assists per game. He struggled a bit against the Kings on Thursday, finishing with only two assists and five turnovers, but he’ll be a thorn in the Lakers’ side with his quickness.
Jackson is averaging 17.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in his second NBA campaign, and he combines with Jonas Valanciunas (14.7 points, 10.6 rebounds) to form a big-man combo that can rival the Lakers’ front line. And both Jackson and Valanciunas have shooting range out to the three-point line to try to draw Los Angeles’ big men away from the paint.
The Lakers start their drive for the top record in the Western Conference — and possibly the league — behind their All-Star duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. James has been spectacular this season, leading the league in assists at 10.8 per game while also averaging 25.0 points and 7.8 rebounds. He has also shown more defensive fire than in his first year with Los Angeles.
Davis has also been great in his first season with the team, averaging 26.6 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks. His ability to score around the hoop or beyond the three-point arc gives the Lakers great versatility. Kyle Kuzma has struggled a bit offensively lately, scoring under 10 points in three of his last four outings, but he provides a spark when he gets hot.
Lakers Win But Don’t Cover
The Lakers are the better team in this one and should be able to get the home win, especially with the Grizzlies on the back end of a back-to-back. But, Los Angeles has not been a great team at covering this season, and Memphis has some horses that can make it difficult for the Lakers to get out to a large lead.
In the last meeting between these teams, Los Angeles escaped with a one-point win in Memphis. It won’t be that close this time, but the Grizzlies cover the 11-point spread. I’m going with Memphis +11.