Grizzlies-Lakers Preview


A trip west has not been kind to the reeling Memphis Grizzlies.

After being blown out in Los Angeles in their last contest, the Grizzlies hope for a better effort at Staples Center on Sunday night when they try to avoid being swept on their four-game trek by snapping a three-game skid against the Lakers.

Memphis (25-21) was competitive despite falling 119-110 at Sacramento and 97-93 at Portland to open the road stretch, but the Grizzlies were outscored 33-17 in the first quarter and never recovered during Saturday's 101-85 loss to the Clippers.

The Grizzlies have lost six of eight since an 11-2 stretch and are starting to slip in the Western Conference standings.

"It's very disturbing because we don't have a rhythm,'' coach Lionel Hollins said. "We have to do a better job with our bench play and with our starters.''

Facing a Lakers team that has won two in a row and seven of nine likely will not make it easy for Memphis to salvage something positive on the trip. Without stars Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay, the Grizzlies lost 116-111 at home in double overtime to Los Angeles on March 13.

The shorthanded Grizzlies blew a nine-point lead after three quarters in that contest.

"We played a great game, and we should have won the game,'' Hollins said. "We had a few mental lapses at key times. As I'm always telling those guys, it's the small things that win or lose games.''

Memphis has dropped three straight to the Lakers, each by nine or fewer points. However, having Gay and Randolph healthy again should give the club some confidence as they look to avoid matching a season high with their fourth consecutive defeat.

Limited to nine games this season because of a knee injury, Randolph has averaged 21.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in his last six road contests against the Lakers.

Gay is averaging a team-high 18.8 points, but he's been held to 21 total over the last two games. He scored 19 in a 90-82 loss to the Lakers at Staples Center on Jan. 8.

Los Angeles All-Star Andrew Bynum had 37 points and 16 rebounds versus Memphis last week, while Kobe Bryant added 34. Bryant scored 26 and dished out nine assists during Los Angeles' January home win over the Grizzlies.

Bynum had 28 points and recently acquired guard Ramon Sessions added 20 with 11 assists Friday as the Lakers improved to 20-3 at home with a 103-96 win over Portland. Los Angeles recorded a season-high 33 assists and outrebounded the Trail Blazers 53-29.

"We just have to continue to do what we do," Bryant told the Lakers' official website.

While Bryant, Bynum and Pau Gasol make up the Lakers' core, contributions from role players like Sessions will be needed if the club wants to make it out of the West. Acquired last week from Cleveland for Jason Kapono and Luke Walton, Sessions is averaging 13.6 points and 7.0 assists in five games with the Lakers.

"Ramon's a big part of it," Bryant said of the fifth-year guard. "With the talent level he has, it's a pretty easy transition for him."

Sessions had 20 points and 11 assists last season in his most recent game against the Grizzlies while with the Cavaliers.

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