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Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (12) gets past Los Angeles Lakers guard Alex Caruso (4). (Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire)
December 29th, 2021
One of the endlessly entertaining dynamics in sports is the interplay between the veteran, established teams and the young and hungry up-and-comers.
Wednesday night features just such a matchup, between the rising sun of the Memphis Grizzlies (21-14) and the setting sun of the Los Angeles Lakers (17-18).
Can the Lakers stiffen their defense enough to withstand the rolling Grizzlies? Or will Ja Morant further cement his status as a first-time All-Star this season?
Lakers vs. Grizzlies tips off at 8 p.m. ET on NBA TV, and we have odds and picks for the best three player prop bets below.
So many of the words that could describe Russell Westbrook — a next-level athlete, interior scoring guard, as well as charming and outspoken — could equally describe his opponent Wednesday night, Morant. Westbrook will be looking to conjure up a fraction of Morant’s youthful vigor to fuel his typically relentless offense, but it should be tough sledding.
The Grizzlies have one of the better interior defenses in the NBA and get a full 48 minutes of rim protection from a combination of Russ’ former teammate, Steven Adams, and the mobile and rangy Jaren Jackson Jr.
Additionally, though he hasn’t been anywhere near solely responsible for the Lakers' myriad issues this season, Westbrook’s age may be catching up to him.
Russell Westbrook vs. NBA RimsEpisode #30Winner: NBA RIMSScoreboard:Westbrook: 15NBA Rims: 15Full thread➡️ https://t.co/KyrOpKruiN pic.twitter.com/UUzBqT2kHq— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) December 26, 2021
Russell Westbrook vs. NBA RimsEpisode #30Winner: NBA RIMSScoreboard:Westbrook: 15NBA Rims: 15Full thread➡️ https://t.co/KyrOpKruiN pic.twitter.com/UUzBqT2kHq
While Westbrook's shot mix has been more encouraging recently, he’s getting to the rim more, and taking fewer 3s, he just hasn’t been scoring effectively. His shot chart from the game against the Brooklyn Nets on Christmas Day was a horror story, with nearly all of his attempts coming within five feet of the basket. He still managed to only go 4-of-20 from the floor. He was blocked by the rim at least twice, simply failing to get proper lift.
Westbrook takes an absurd 48% of his shots at the rim, most of any point guard in the NBA, but converts well below league average, at just 52%, per Cleaning the Glass. Against a stiff opponent, and on the second night of a road back-to-back, Westbrook’s bread-and-butter scoring will likely not be good enough.
Ja Morant presents a nightmare matchup for the Lakers' defense. Not only is his likely primary defender, Westbrook, an inconsistent cover at the best of times, the Lakers' interior defense has been an unmitigated disaster this season, even before Anthony Davis went out.
turn your sound on. https://t.co/rph6nJXKdt— Memphis Grizzlies (@memgrizz) December 28, 2021
turn your sound on. https://t.co/rph6nJXKdt
The Lakers allow the third most shot attempts per game in the restricted area (28.9), and opponents are shooting a blistering 65.3% on those shots, which is to say, if you can break down the Lakers' defense and get inside, you can score in bunches.
And that is precisely Morant's game, as 37% of all his shots come at the rim (93rd percentile among point guards, per Cleaning the Glass), and he hits a respectable 62% on those.
While he’s more of a true floor general than a score-first guard, he is not shy about pressing the advantage himself when it's time to do so. Against the Lakers, whether LeBron is playing center or someone else, he’ll have ample opportunity.
Steven Adams is a workmanlike player. He doesn’t do anything flashy, and the loudest part of his game is surely his sheer size. But on the court, he’s a fundamentally sound traditional center and has been an offensive rebounding machine this season.
The Grizzlies are the No. 1 offensive rebounding team in the NBA, in no small part due to Adams, who is snagging 15.8% of all Grizzlies misses (98th percentile among bigs, per Cleaning the Glass).
He’s middle of the road grabbing defensive boards, but the Lakers are a bottom 10 outfit in corralling their own missed attempts.
Your @NBA leader in offensive rebounds per game 🥝 pic.twitter.com/WlxirFQ0cH— Memphis Grizzlies (@memgrizz) December 28, 2021
Your @NBA leader in offensive rebounds per game 🥝 pic.twitter.com/WlxirFQ0cH
The Lakers have been experimenting with LeBron at center to soothe their spacing issues on offense, but James has been an abysmal offensive rebounder this year, in the 18th percentile, per Cleaning the Glass. In any minutes matched up with LeBron, Adams should dominate the glass even more so than usual.
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