Lakers vs. Grizzlies: Scouts break down what to expect in playoff series

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Can the Lakers tame the mighty Grizzlies?

When the seventh-seeded Lakers (43-39) play the second-seeded Grizzlies (51-31) in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series on Sunday afternoon in Memphis, slowing down superstars like LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Ja Morant will be critical for success.

What are the other key factors in the series? The Times asked NBA scouts what they thought. Here’s what they had to say, seeking anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly.


Eastern Conference Scout 1

“It’s going to be a competitive series because of why LeBron is playing. He’s playing for pride now. It’s a lot of pride on the line for him. And also AD, for the standpoint of people talking about his lack of availability at times. That’s a nice way of putting it. So, they are both playing more for pride than anything.

“At the same time, I wonder how much gas LeBron has left after putting so much effort into these other games. Because the longer the series goes, the harder it’s going to be for the Lakers. Memphis is younger, more athletic and Memphis plays physical. Outside of Ja, everybody else is physical.

“Memphis is — and I’m not taking anything away from Darvin [Ham], because he can coach — but Memphis is really well-coached. They have a great system, where they just plug guys in and they still win games. I do think that they will miss Steven Adams (knee) and Brandon Clarke (Achilles). ... Jaren Jackson Jr. is a phenomenal defender, but he’s always been foul-prone, always. And they are not so smart fouls, and at the wrong times.


Lakers star Anthony Davis tries to split the double-team defense of Memphis forward Jaren Jackson Jr. and guard Dillon Brooks
Lakers forward Anthony Davis tries to split the double-team defense of Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr. and guard Dillon Brooks during a game earlier this seaosn in Memphis.
(Brandon Dill / Getty Images)

“It comes down to him playing smarter and how well AD asserts himself too. Xavier Tillman can really defend. He’s been great in the absence of Steven Adams. And they got that dude, Ja Morant.

“The Lakers don’t have an answer for him. And Memphis is going to throw different bodies at LeBron.... If they put [Dillon] Brooks on LeBron the whole game, he’ll foul out. So it’ll be different people on LeBron at different times and keep fresh bodies on him. I just think that over time, Memphis will come out on top.”


Western Conference Scout 1

“The Lakers have a huge advantage because Brandon Clarke is not playing and Steven Adams is not playing. That’s a huge advantage for the Lakers because those two guys really affect the game. Really, the only big guy they have now is Jaren Jackson, so that’s a little bit of a disadvantage for the Grizzlies

“What Memphis will do is bring Jackson from the basket and make AD guard him on the perimeter, just shoot threes, which will take away AD’s defense at the rim. ... Jackson is not really a post-up guy, but he’ll be on the perimeter and he can shoot threes and he can drive. So, that’ll take AD away from the rim. So, I think that’s huge.


“The key for the Lakers is how are they going to guard Ja? He’s so much faster and quicker and explosive than anybody they got. Even [Dennis] Schroder. That’s a tough one for them, man. In the open court and off turnovers, you can’t guard him. He’s just so fast and so quick and athletic.

Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, right, drives to the basket against Lakers guard Austin Reaves.
Austin Reaves likely will be one of the many Lakers guard attempting to slow down Grizzlies star Ja Morant when their playoff series starts Sunday in Memphis.
(Karen Pulfer Focht / Associated Press)

“The Lakers got to make it a half-court game. If you turn the ball over against them or if you try to run up and down against them, they are just too young and athletic. Jaren Jackson, Desmond Bane, Ja.

“Probably the most interesting matchup is going to be Brooks and LeBron. Just from a fan standpoint, you want to see it because Brooks is not going to back down. He’s going to try to be physical. Then at some point there’s going to be like a confrontation — technicals, pushing, shoving. Something. It’s just going to happen. ...

“Now from Memphis’ point of view, the Lakers got to go to AD inside. Like at the elbow, the post, to try to make Jaren Jackson guard him. He gets in foul trouble a lot. If he gets in foul trouble, they got nobody else. This is where they will miss Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke. ... So, the Lakers got to get AD in the post.

“A key player for the Lakers is Dennis Schroder off the bench. He’s got to be able to score like 15 points off the bench for them to give them a little juice.”


Eastern Conference Scout 2

“Obviously with Memphis’ bigs being hurt, everything is on Anthony Davis, I think, for the Lakers to win this series. Without Steven Adams, without Brandon Clarke — both guys kind of gave Davis trouble in different ways — how much can Jaren Jackson be on him and stay on him and be out of foul trouble? I think that’s one of the biggest keys. I think Xavier Tillman, he’s going to have to have a really big series because I think he’s going to be the main guy on AD. At least until the fourth quarter, to when Jaren Jackson can guard him.


Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks, left, takes a swipe at the ball as Lakers forward LeBron James looks to drive.
Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks will be tasked with the primary assignment of trying to slow down Lakers star LeBron James during their playoff series.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

“At the end of the day, Dillon Brooks can’t deal with LeBron. I think it’s more about who can defend Ja Morant. Dennis Schroder is probably going to have to match up with Morant. The Lakers have been putting Jarred Vanderbilt on that [type of] perimeter guy. He’s been guarding everybody, but they’ve been having him on point guards at times, but Ja might be a little too quick for him, whereas Schroder maybe can stay with him a little bit better.

“If they can funnel [Morant] into the trees ... they can force misses with the size and length.”