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Preview: Lakers vs. Memphis Grizzlies

The Lakers (25-54) will finish their regular-season home schedule as they host the Memphis Grizzlies (47-32) on Sunday night at Staples Center.

Fifteen of 16 teams have locked in playoff positions. The Grizzlies are in eighth place in the Western Conference, hoping to hold on to the final postseason berth.

The Phoenix Suns (47-33) are just half a game behind the Grizzlies. Memphis owns the head-to-head tiebreaker, but the Grizzlies visit the Suns on Monday night.

Should the Lakers and Suns both beat the Grizzlies, Phoenix would overtake Memphis in the standings. A loss alone to the Suns won't do it, which makes the Grizzlies' visit to L.A. an important game.

Memphis is also set to play the Dallas Mavericks (49-32), the seventh-place team, on Wednesday.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Lakers have only 25 wins, equal to the Boston Celtics, and they play the 24-56 Jazz in Utah on Monday. If the Lakers lose their final three games this season, they're guaranteed to hit the NBA draft lottery in at least a fourth-place tie with Boston and Utah.

Any win by the Lakers would hurt their lottery position.

If the Lakers are to beat the Grizzlies on Sunday, they'll have to do it without Pau Gasol (vertigo), Chris Kaman (calf), Kobe Bryant (knee), Xavier Henry (knee, wrist), Steve Nash (back) and Kent Bazemore (foot).

Key matchup

Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley has had a strong season, averaging 17.1 points and six assists a game while shooting 44.4% from the field and 36.1% from three-point range.

Memphis isn't a high-scoring team but does rely heavily on Conley for production. He's also a strong defender at his position.

The Lakers are still starting Kendall Marshall, who has averaged 7.9 points and 8.7 assists a game at point guard.

Coach Mike D'Antoni might need Jordan Farmar to play a bigger role as he works his way back from a groin injury. Farmar has missed 41 games with hamstring and groin issues. D'Antoni might not play him more than 26 minutes, but against Conley, Farmar could be the Lakers' best option.

In 38 appearances, Farmar has averaged 10.4 points and 4.7 assists a game while shooting 42.7% from the field and 45% from three-point range.

X-factor

Power forward Zach Randolph and center Marc Gasol are major forces for the Grizzlies inside the paint. Randolph is averaging 17.1 points and 10.1 rebounds a game.

Gasol is the better passer and defender, with averages of 14.4 points, seven rebounds and 3.6 assists a game.

Jordan Hill, Ryan Kelly and Robert Sacre will have a lot to deal with against the Grizzlies, but the Memphis X-factor on Sunday could be guard Tony Allen.

Nick Young is the Lakers' leading scorer at 17.6 points a game. After noticing Corey Brewer of the Minnesota Timberwolves scoring 51 points on Friday (against the Houston Rockets), Young vowed to score 60 in his next game.

Once he realized he'll likely be guarded by Allen, a noted defender, Young backed off that claim.

If Allen can keep Young under wraps, the Lakers don't have much else to offer these days on offense -- at least in relation to what they give up with a porous defense.

Outlook

As badly as the Grizzlies need to win, the Lakers need to lose.

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Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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