The Lakers (29-32) head to Memphis (36-23) for the first time this season, with the Lakers having defeated the Grizzlies 122-121 on Jan. 20 in the only prior meeting. The game tips at 4:30 p.m. PT on Spectrum SportsNet and TNT and 710 ESPN radio.
Below are three things to know ahead of the matchup:
SEASON’S LARGEST COMEBACK
The Lakers became the first team during this NBA season to win a game in which they trailed by at least 27 points, outscoring Dallas 64-47 in the second half to take home a big 111-108 victory.
With 7:08 left in the second quarter, Mavs big man Christian Wood hit a 3-pointer to make it 48-21. Dallas seemed to have barely missed a three up to that point, converting 10 triples (they’d add two more in the half), which can demoralize any opponent. But the Lakers continued to battle, and began steadily chipping away at the deficit, with a 5-0 run in the final minute of the half cutting the margin to 61-47.
Then in the third quarter, Jarred Vanderbilt took over. The new acquisition from Utah, via Minnesota, was everywhere. He exploded for eight points, eight rebounds and three steals, all while defending one of the toughest offensive players in the world, Luka Doncic. Among several highlights, Vanderbilt forced a Doncic turnover, somehow saved the ball from going out of bounds, and threw it over his head towards the Lakers basket, as Troy Brown Jr. streaked forward to grab it and convert a layup. LAL was suddenly down just five.
Then in the fourth quarter, LeBron gave the Lakers the lead first with a triple, then a driving layup, to make it 83-31. Dallas didn’t go away, as the lead seesawed 11 times in the period, before LeBron, Austin Reaves and Anthony Davis made play after play to put the game away.
SINCE THE TRADE DEADLINE
Since the Lakers sent five players out, and brought five in at the deadline just ahead of the All-Star break, it’s hard to argue that the team hasn’t simple been better on both ends of the court.
With the exception of a road loss to Portland in which the Blazers buried seemingly limitless threes, L.A. have looked good in beating Golden State, New Orleans, Golden State again and Dallas.
D’Angelo Russell has proven a nice fit next to LeBron and AD thanks to his skillset on offense, and LeBron has long been seeking a “laser” like Malik Beasley. And yet, it’s Vanderbilt who’s perhaps the best fit, serving as a Swiss Army Knife next to the two stars, handling dirty work while simultaneously showing considerable skill on both ends of the court.
Once Russell returns from an ankle injury – he’ll be listed as doubtful to play against Memphis – the depth of the re-made roster can show up again, with Dennis Schröder and Austin Reaves composing a highly-competent backcourt, setting the table for the backup wings and bigs.
L.A.’s long-term success is hard to project without certainty around the status of LeBron, who went down in the fourth quarter with an apparent foot injury.
James has been battling through foot/ankle issues for the past several weeks, but seemed to aggravate his right foot on Sunday. With the Lakers not practicing on Monday due to the team’s travel from Dallas to Memphis, there has yet to be an official update on LeBron’s foot, aside from the fact that he won’t play against the Grizzlies on Tuesday. He will be meeting with medical professionals over the next few days before a determination or timeline to return is made.
In 14 games without LeBron this season, the Lakers have gone 5-9. They’ll certainly need to exceed that pace if they’re going to make a run towards the playoffs.
Thanks to their 4-1 stretch since the deadline coinciding with the struggles of several teams close by in the standings, L.A. find themselves just a half game out of the play-in, and 2.5 games out of the No. 6 seed.
In fact, eight teams – OKC, Portland, New Orleans, Minnesota, Utah, Golden State, Dallas and the Clippers – all have worse records than LAL’s 6-4 in their last 10.
As the Lakers continue to wait for an official, they’ll have to rally around a belief that they have enough talent, led by Davis and the newcomers, to put themselves in postseason position.