While the Lakers go into Sunday’s matchup vs. Memphis losers of their last six, the Grizzlies are battling for one of the final two playoff spots with Dallas and Phoenix.
Marc Gasol, who missed 23 games earlier this season with a sprained MCL, is one of the key reasons for Memphis’ success. Since his return to the lineup, the Grizzlies have rattled off a 30-13 record. With him out of the lineup, they went 10-13.
Gasol has come on strong of late in particular, averaging 20.5 points and 12.0 rebounds on 60.7 percent field goals in wins over Miami and Philly in the last two.
While Marc has been instrumental in the Grizzlies’ postseason push, older brother, Pau, has been sidelined the last five games and nine of the last 10 due to vertigo. Pau, as well as Steve Nash (nerve root irritation), did not practice on Saturday and both are being listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game. Chris Kaman, who has also missed the last five, went through basketball-related activities but is still doubtful to play.
After Friday’s game vs. Golden State, the Lakers set a franchise low for most losses in a season with 54, although a rash of injuries and a lack of continuity in the starting lineup have attributed to that factor.
“We started off with everybody in place,” Nick Young said. “And when people get hurt, it forces other people to play different roles and play out of rhythm.”
Young, who missed 17 games total earlier this season, has come on strong of late, averaging 24.3 points on 49.5 percent field goals and 42.6 percent on three-pointers in April. Despite the up-and-down season, the L.A. native had nothing but positive things to say about his time here.
“For me personally, it was great,” he said. “Even though we kept losing, I got an opportunity to play at home, play for the Lakers and I learned a lot being around Kobe (Bryant) and (Steve) Nash and the coaching staff and I think it helped my game blossom.”
Jodie Meeks’ game has also improved considerably from a year ago. Meeks is currently posting career bests across the board in points (15.6), rebounds (2.6), assists (1.8), steals (1.4) and field-goal percentage (45.6), while logging a team-high 33.1 minutes per game.
“I’ve gotten more minutes and coach Mike D’Antoni has given me a lot of confidence to go out there and play freely,” he said. “He doesn’t worry about mistakes as long as you’re playing hard. He gives you a lot of rope to do what you have to do and play your game.”
As for the final three games of the regular season, Meeks hopes to see the team end on a high note to end the season.
“Collectively as a group, we want to finish strong,” he said. “You can accomplish something every game. For the most part, we want to go out, not give up and keep playing hard. We have a good opportunity the last game at home to try and come out with a good mindset and try to get that win.”