The western conference playoffs are wide open this year and nothing shows that more than the two-seven match-up of the Memphis Grizzlies vs. the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers won the regular season series, 2-1, over the Grizzlies and that's with LeBron James missing two of the three games.
If you are a fan of either team, you can talk yourself into why your team should win this series. So, let's start with why the Lakers fans should believe they have a chance to win this series.
No Threading The Brow
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Whenever you talk about or write about Anthony Davis, you must say, "If healthy". Now that we got that out of the way, we can talk about how Anthony Davis owns the Memphis Grizzlies. In the two games he played against Memphis this season, Davis averaged 29 points, 20.5 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks per game, while shooting 56% from the floor and getting 11 free throw attempts per game.
Davis put up these great numbers in games that LeBron James missed. Davis has to bring that same mindset to this series even with James on the floor. James' three point shot has improved and become more consistent throughout the season. The four-time NBA champion needs to be a floor spacer and second option in this match-up.
Jaren Jackson Jr is a great defensive player for Memphis and may win defensive player of the year because of his ability to block and affect shots at the rim. All of that is great but does not help him with dealing with "The Brow". Anthony Davis may look like "Bubble AD" in this match-up.
Photo via NBA
The Lakers are a completely different team from the one we saw to start the season. They were able to climb out of the abyss to get into the playoffs after adding D'Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, and Jarred Vanderbilt to the roster. Russell is having the best shooting season of his career and has been killing it for LA, averaging 17.4 points and 6.1 assists, while shooting 48% from the floor and 41% from three point range since joining the Lakers. Beasley is also doing a great job of spacing the floor for LeBron, Davis, and Austin Reeves.
Vanderbilt is a very good defender who will have the assignment of trying to slow down Ja Morant and/or Desmond Bane. If Vanderbilt is able to make those two work hard on the offensive end, it will lead to the seven seed over two seed upset.
How can the Grizzlies avoid the upset?
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This season has been full of obstacles for Ja Morant to overcome and now its time for Morant to make us forget about all the off the court stuff by being special on the court.
None of the guards for the Lakers have the foot speed to keep Morant out the paint. The South Carolina native needs to be a menace as he drives to the rim and force the Lakers defense to collapse and open up for shots for Jaren Jackson Jr, Desmond Bane, and company.
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Desmond Bane has to be a consistent second option in this series. Bane has not played well against the Lakers this season, as he averaged 13 points, 6 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game while shooting 38% from the floor and 18% from three point range. That is well below Bane's normal production of 21.5 points per game on 47% shooting from the floor and 40.8% from three. The Grizzlies may try to get creative in their play-calling to try and get Bane open shots early in these games.
This will be a very physical series with lots of trash talk and moments where the referees will have to separate players. The tough and slow play will be to the advantage of the Lakers. Anthony Davis will play one of the best playoff series of his career and lead Los Angeles to the series win in six games.