There are nine games in the NBA on Friday, including a key clash in Los Angeles as the struggling Lakers entertain the high-flying Memphis Grizzlies.
The Lakers go into the game way down in 13th spot in the Western Conference, but their postseason hopes aren’t over just yet as they are just two games behind all four teams currently in the play-in spots and just two-and-a-half games behind Utah Jazz in sixth.
The West is incredibly competitive this season, but two teams have managed to build up leads as Denver Nuggets lead the way with a 32-13 record, with the Grizzlies within striking distance having played a game less.
Memphis sit second in the standings and can move into top spot and they could reclaim the advantage in the battle for the top seed if they manage to triumph in LA on Friday, depending on how Denver fare against Indiana Pacers earlier on Friday.
|What||Memphis Grizzlies @ Los Angeles Lakers|
|Where||Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles|
|When||03:00, Saturday 21st January|
|How to watch||NBA League Pass, bet365|
|Odds||MEM Grizzlies 1/3, LA Lakers 12/5|
Memphis are the form team across the entire league as they boast the longest active winning streak, having won each of their last 11 games. The Grizzlies edged a tight game with Cleveland Cavaliers in their last outing, having thrashed Phoenix Suns by 30 points prior to that win over the Cavs.
This is the second meeting between these two teams this season after the Grizzlies secured a 127-118 victory in LA in December, with the pair due to meet again at the end of next month and in March.
Memphis are a bit of a throwback team in the fact they have just one superstar on their roster in Ja Morant.
In this current age of ‘super teams’, some pundits have questioned whether that will be enough to go all the way and claim a Championship, but they do have some talented players in other areas and aren’t necessarily a one-man outfit, although there can be no denying Morant’s overall importance to his team.
The fourth-year guard is averaging 27.4 points-per-game, a career-high 7.9 assists and 5.6 rebounds, and has become more of a threat from three-point range.
Morant has a strong unit as his supporting cast with Desmond Bane, Steve Adams, Dillon Brooks and Jaren Jackson forming the rest of the team’s starting five - meaning the Grizzlies are a young team with the potential to improve further.
The Lakers replaced championship-winning coach Frank Vogel with Darvin Ham ahead of the current season, but a chande in coach hasn’t led to a great deal of improvement on the court.
There have been a few encouraging signs for the LA outfit, but ultimately Ham just doesn’t have the players at his disposal.
It has been the same story for some time for the Lakers as when their key men are fit they are a real force, but LeBron James is no longer able to play in every game at the age of 38 and Anthony Davis continues to struggle with fitness issues.
Davis remains unavailable due to a foot injury and he has now been missing for over a month, with the 29-year-old featuring in just 25 of the Lakers’ 45 games so far.
The Lakers will also be without Lonnie Walker due to a left knee problem and Austin Reaves, who has a hamstring injury, on Friday.
James has only missed 10 games and he has been putting in some incredible numbers with averages of 29.8 points-per-game, 8.4 rebounds and 7.0 assists.
However, the Lakers simply don’t have the strength in depth throughout their squad for his huge displays to make a massive difference and they look in real danger of missing out on the playoffs again after failing to qualify last year.
The Point Spread is set at seven points for this match-up in LA and Memphis may be able to beat their -7 handicap at 10/11.
The Lakers have three defeats in their last four at home, while the Grizzlies are on a four-game winning streak on the road and all of those victories have been by at least eight points.
The Lakers are generally competitive at home and rarely lose by a big margin, but this is a young and hungry team they are facing and the Grizzlies know only a win will do as they bid to secure top seed over the course of the rest of the regular season.