Short-handed Grizzlies host wounded Lakers
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- All eyes will be on the teams' medical staffs when the Los Angeles Lakers and the Memphis Grizzlies collide Saturday at FedExForum in Memphis.
The trainers and doctors for both teams have been working overtime and, because of injuries, the challenges facing both first-year coaches have intensified to new extremes.
Recently, it's been a game of attrition for coaches Luke Walton and David Fizdale, whose rosters look more like M*A*S*H units these days.
Los Angeles' starting backcourt will be in street clothes when the Lakers play their fourth game in five nights -- all on the road.
Already without D'Angelo Russell, who will be out for at least another week, the Lakers played and lost by 33 points on Friday night to Toronto minus Nick Young. Young suffered a strained right calf muscle in the loss to the Pelicans in New Orleans on Tuesday and will be out from two to four weeks.
"I felt like we weren't mentally ready to compete against one of the better teams in the NBA," Walton said after his team trailed wire-to-wire.
But no one with the Grizzlies will be feeling sorry for the Lakers because as Memphis sees it, it's the Nasty Nine versus the world.
That's how Fizdale characterized the undermanned Grizzlies after they lost earlier in the week to Toronto.
James Ennis, Brandan Wright, Chandler Parsons, Vince Carter, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley. None of the above played in a loss to Toronto or in a 95-94 win against Orlando on Thursday.
And they won't be suiting up against the Lakers either.
Beating the Magic with just the "Nasty Nine" was impressive, and accomplished thanks to a nice blend of veterans and younger players.
Marc Gasol picked up the offensive slack for Memphis (12-8) with 25 points, five blocks and three assists.
But it was the play of Tony Allen that snatched victory out of the jaws of defeat as Memphis was down by 14 points in the fourth quarter. The veteran swingman fueled a 13-0 run with his trademark chaos on defense, earning the praise of his teammate Gasol and his coach.
"That's his job, and he's very good at it," Gasol said.
Added Fizdale: "He just took over that game defensively."
Allen scored only nine points, but had three steals -- all in the fourth quarter -- and six boards and did what he typically does -- disrupt the other team's offensive flow.
Magic coach Frank Vogel joined the chorus saying Allen was the difference. "Credit his energy. He just made a lot of hustle plays that turned the game around."
Another veteran came to the Grizzlies' rescue -- Troy Daniels -- who came off the bench to score 19 points.
With Conley out, second-year point guard Andrew Harrison has elevated his game and he chipped in 11 points with a game-best eight assists.
The Lakers (10-11) are fueled by youth and it figures they are going to take their lumps even with the Walton pedigree leading the charge.
"I just felt like we played soft all game," said Julius Randle, who had eight points and eight rebounds against Toronto. "They were just comfortable from the start."
One bright spot for Walton and the Lakers was the play of rookie Brandon Ingram, who led the team with 17 points. Ingram was making his second straight start in place of Young. He also had six boards and two assists.
"I thought he did a great job of being aggressive tonight and mixing up getting to the rim and taking his jump shots," Walton said. "He was very solid for us tonight."
Ingram's effort was a welcome sight. The former Duke Blue Devil has struggled, averaging only 7.7 points per game. His shooting has been abysmal, 35.6 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from 3-point range.