After advancing to the Western Conference Finals then falling in a sweep to the San Antonio Spurs, the Memphis Grizzlies parted ways with head coach Lionel Hollins.
The team has since started the season slowly under Coach David Joerger, with a 3-5 start including a winless three attempts on the road.
Coming to Staples Center to face the Lakers (4-6) without Kobe Bryant (Achilles’) and Steve Nash (back) on Friday, the Grizzlies have a chance to get their first road win.
Brother against brother is always interesting to watch, although Marc Gasol has gotten the best of Pau Gasol more often than not in recent years.
Marc is averaging 16 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists a game. He’s stronger than Gasol and has developed a steadier face up jumper.
Pau’s rebounding has been a positive for the Lakers at 10.6 a game but his 13.4 points has come on 39.4% shooting.
It’s unclear if Pau will be the primary defender against his brother (instead of Memphis power forward Zach Randolph). Jordan Hill may get the initial assignment on Marc but the two will certainly have the chance to battle each other Friday.
The Lakers always seem to have a problem with point guard Mike Conley, who is the Grizzlies’ leading scorer at 20.1 points a game.
Conley has shot well through eight starts, shooting 52.6% from the field with 5.1 assists and 1.88 steals a game. He’s not much of a threat from long range. The Grizzlies only shoot 33.9% from the field as a team from three.
The Lakers have hit 40.6% from behind the arc this season. They’ll need big games from Jodie Meeks (46.7% from three), Steve Blake (49.0%) and Xavier Henry (45.0%) from the outside to open up the floor for Gasol and Jordan Hill on the inside.
Despite losing in Denver, the Lakers played well on the second night of a back-to-back. The starting lineup with Wesley Johnson and Hill has been productive.
The Grizzlies are vulnerable but eager to get their first win the road.
It’s going to take a lot for the Lakers to get a win against the size of Randolph and Gasol, the playmaking and scoring of Mike Conley and the overall defensive presence of the Grizzlies.
Memphis has yet to get near to what they were last season (especially defensively), but they’ll look at Friday as a chance to take an important step toward that goal.