The Lakers (31-34) look to continue their playoff push — and honor a legend — during tonight’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies (38-25). The game tips off at 7:00 pm PT on Spectrum SportsNet, TNT, and 710 ESPN Radio.
Below are three things to know about the matchup:
With LeBron James out due to a foot injury, Anthony Davis has fully embraced the role as L.A.’s leading man. Over his last four games, AD is averaging 33.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 3.0 blocks.
During this stretch, he has been a colossus in the paint, where he’s shooting 65.1% thanks to his consistent pressure on the rim and his ability to hit short, odd-angle jumpers from just outside the restricted area. Opponents have had migraines simply trying to contest Davis in the key, as he’s averaged 12.3 free throw attempts during the four-game stretch. An excellent rebounder, he also leads the NBA in second-chance points for the season.
Now Davis could be getting some reinforcements in D’Angelo Russell, who is listed as questionable after missing the last five contests due to an ankle sprain. But the Lakers (and Davis) will also have to contend with a shorter big man rotation, as Mo Bamba is out with an ankle sprain of his own.
With 17 games remaining, the Lakers have certainly reached the part of the season where every game takes on added magnitude — especially tonight, as they enter in a four-way tie for 9th place in the West.
The Lakers will get no sympathy on the availability front from the Grizzlies, who are without three of their key players. Ja Morant (not with team, personal reasons), Steven Adams (PCL sprain) and Brandon Clarke (Achilles tear) leave a sizable gap for Memphis.
Morant, in particular, will be a bear to replace. One of the most explosive players the league has ever seen, the 23-year-old All-Star currently ranks among the NBA’s top 10 in both scoring (27.1 points; 9th) and assists (8.2; 5th). His daredevil approach to attacking the rim has quickly made him one of the league’s great paint threats. But the Grizzlies, currently second in the West, will need to figure out a way without him.
In their first Morant-less contest on Sunday, they fell to the Clippers in a 135-129 barnburner. While their defense failed to corral Paul George (42 points) and Kawhi Leonard (34), they perhaps figured out some stopgaps on the other end.
Sharpshooter Desmond Bane led the way with 30 points, while Morant’s backup, Tyus Jones, added 25 points, 12 assists and five steals. Defensive Player of the Year candidate Jaren Jackson Jr. tossed in 24 points as well.
Tonight, the Lakers will also be honoring one of their greatest players with one of their most sacred honors. At halftime, Pau Gasol will see his No. 16 retired by the club and raised into the rafters at Crypto.com Arena.
Following Gasol’s arrival to the team in 2008, the Lakers made three straight trips to the NBA Finals, including back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010. He made three All-Star teams in the Purple and Gold and was instrumental come playoff time. During Gasol’s tenure, the Lakers were 3-0 in Game 7s (including the 2010 Finals), and he averaged 21.0 points, 17.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in those winner-take-all contests.
Pau has been just as impressive as a human post-retirement. At last month’s All-Star Weekend, he received both the Bob Lanier Community Impact Award and the Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award.
He will become just the 12th player in franchise history to receive the distinction of having his number retired.