Definitive Guide to Memphis Grizzlies vs. LA Lakers and Friday's Top NBA Games

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistNovember 15, 2013

Definitive Guide to Memphis Grizzlies vs. LA Lakers and Friday's Top NBA Games

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    Some sibling rivalries will be settled with today's PS4 launch. But the one worth keeping your eye on is the battle of the Gasol brothers at Staples Center.

    Thanks to a strong backing from the analytical community, Marc Gasol has seen his stock rise to previously unimaginable heights. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year has used his paint protection and offensive versatility to become the thinking man's superstar.

    At the end of the day, though, he's still Pau Gasol's younger brother. With family dinner bragging rights up for grabs—and a Thanksgiving feast just around the corner—expect both players to come with their Sunday best on this fully loaded Friday night.

    With 22 teams in action, the Gasols won't be the only ones with something to prove.

    The Miami Heat might be two titles removed from their 2011 NBA Finals loss to the Dallas Mavericks, but don't be surprised if Erik Spoelstra fires up some clips from that series to energize his team. The Brooklyn Nets will look to right the ship against the scrappy, athletic Phoenix Suns. Derrick Rose will take his search for his former MVP form north of the border for a showdown with the hungry Toronto Raptors.

    These games, and many more, are reason enough to look forward to a couch-bound Friday night. The fact that you can go on a PS4 binge when the final buzzer sounds? Just icing on the cake.

     

    Friday Night's Lineup

    Milwaukee Bucks vs. Indiana Pacers, 7 p.m. ET

    Chicago Bulls vs. Toronto Raptors, 7 p.m. ET

    Philadelphia 76ers vs. Atlanta Hawks 7:30 p.m. ET

    Portland Trail Blazers vs. Boston Celtics, 7:30 p.m. ET

    Charlotte Bobcats vs. Cleveland Cavaliers, 7:30 p.m. ET

    Dallas Mavericks vs. Miami Heat, 7:30 p.m. ET

    Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Denver Nuggets, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Brooklyn Nets vs. Phoenix Suns, 9 p.m. ET

    San Antonio Spurs vs. Utah Jazz, 9 p.m. ET

    Memphis Grizzlies vs. Los Angeles Lakers, 10:30 p.m. ET

    Detroit Pistons vs. Sacramento Kings, 10:30 p.m. ET

     

    *Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

Best Matchup of the Night: Dallas Mavericks vs. Miami Heat

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    Is there such a thing as "dried" bad blood?

    Just to be safe, you might want to wear protective gloves when handling this matchup.

    Plenty of faces have changed for both teams since their championship clashes in 2006 and 2011, but the intensity inside the AmericanAirlines Arena will feel just the same. Between Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Mark Cuban and Rick Carlisle, there's enough familiarity for the Heat to remember that this is the only team holding a postseason series victory over their heads in the Big Three era.

    Need statistical proof of Miami's memory? The Heat have swept the last two season series with the Mavericks, a stretch that followed not only Dallas' finals upset but also the team's 14-game regular-season winning streak over Miami, as noted by Shandel Richardson of the Sun-Sentinel.

    While his teammates might be fueled off past defeats, Heat forward Michael Beasley needs no such added motivation. The former No. 2 overall pick (2008) was given a second life from the team that brought him into this league after he was waived by the Phoenix Suns this summer.

    After sitting out each of the team's first four games, he's played in three of the last four. In his last game, he played a season-high 19 minutes and poured in 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting. He's fighting for his NBA career, and he might be winning that bout.

    "It means that my hard work is not going to vain," he said, via Eli Kaberon of the Associated Press (h/t Yahoo! Sports). "I'm doing it to help my teammates because at the end of the day I don't want to let those guys down."

    His scoring touch might be needed tonight. Dwyane Wade's knee will be put to the test if he's forced to chase around the consistent (?!), efficient (??!!) Monta Ellis (22.5 points, 47.4 field-goal percentage).

    With two of the league's top-five scoring offenses on the floor—each comes in averaging 106.8 points—this game promises to deliver on the hype and then some. Blink and you might miss a barrage of buckets.

Must-See Individual Matchup: Marc Gasol vs. Pau Gasol

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    Hoops heads, this might not be easy, but now is as good a time as ever to start up a rousing round of applause for Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni.

    Come on, guys, as soon as one person claps, then the rest of will join in... There, that's better. Was it really so hard?

    So, why are we cheering for D'Antoni? Well, it is because he moved Jordan Hill into the starting lineup two games ago, meaning that we should all be primed for some serious doses of Gasol squared. That's over 14 feet and nearly 500 pounds from the same family, bringing their backyard battles to the NBA's center stage.

    If the family alpha status wasn't a big enough carrot in front of these bruisers, then the fact that both have something to prove promises to make this a can't-miss contest.

    Both the Lakers (4-6) and the Grizzlies (3-5) are struggling.

    Pau is having one of the worst seasons of his career (13.4 points, 39.4 percent shooting), and he still leads L.A. in scoring. There may be a sliver of hope, though, as he's coming off a season-best 25-point performance on Wednesday.

    Marc is having his strongest scoring season (16.0) points, but his shooting has also reached a career low (48.0 percent), albeit not as low as his brother's.

    Not to mention, both are playing for younger and older brothers across the globe.

Who Has the Most on the Line?

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    It feels a bit like a broken record—it's not by the way, I just have crazy scratching skills—but how can this answer be anything but the Chicago Bulls?

    I love the confidence, but Derrick Rose has looked nothing like this best player in the league he described over the offseason. In fact, the stat sheet says he's nowhere close to even mediocre with a 6.5 player efficiency rating (league average is 15.0).

    Likewise, the standings suggest the Bulls are more playoff hopefuls (3-3) than true title contenders.

    To take a step in the right direction tonight, Chicago may have to do it without Rose. ESPN Chicago's Nick Friedell reports that Rose has missed the team's last two practices (hamstring) and "is a game-time decision" for tonight.

    "There's a chance," Rose said, via Friedell. "Right now I'm feeling all right, just trying to rest, do a little treatment. But more than likely I'll be out there playing."

    With the Indiana Pacers snatching up victories like eBay sellers on PS4s, the Bulls need to right some of these early-season wrongs to stay within striking distance in the Central Division. The Raptors are no pushovers, but they're also not a team that should trouble an elite franchise.

    We all put that label on Chicago over the summer, but it would be nice to see that status reflected in the team's on-court production.

     

Injury Report

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    Tonight's attention will obviously fall on the players who are out on the court, but here's a look at some of the names who could be spending their nights on the sideline.

     

    Atlanta Hawks

    Lou Williams (knee): He's reportedly getting closer to a return, according to Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but for now, it will still be Kyle Korver and Cartier Martin providing the bulk of Atlanta's long-range bombs.

     

    Boston Celtics

    Rajon Rondo (knee): Can Brad Stevens get some burn at Boston's lead-guard spot? I hear the coach has serious game. Anyway, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Rondo isn't expected back this month, according to Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com.

     

    Brooklyn Nets

    Andrei Kirilenko (back): Remember when we thought Kevin Garnett was going to bring this defensive renaissance to Brooklyn? About that... AK-47 cannot get back soon enough. He is listed as doubtful.

     

    Chicago Bulls

    Derrick Rose (hamstring): You probably won't see many #FreeHinrich hashtags on Twitter, but honestly, it's hard to say there'd be a steep drop-off with the way Rose is struggling. He's a game-time decision. 

     

    Denver Nuggets

    JaVale McGee (leg): This is a tragedy, as this game would've inspired the best and the worst in McGee, who is out indefinitely. These teams may never stop running, meaning there could have been some special McGee moments if he was healthy.

     

    Miami Heat

    Ray Allen (illness): The stage is all set for your flu game, Mr. Shuttlesworth. That being said, there aren't many more uncomfortable moments than balling on a bad stomach. He is listed as questionable.

     

    Minnesota Timberwolves

    Kevin Martin (illness): Now is probably a good time to remind everyone to go get flu vaccinations—especially if you have any plans to of going to an NBA arena, apparently. According to Nate Sendell of ESPN1500.com, Martin felt better on Thursday and is planning on starting against Denver. 

     

    Philadelphia 76ers

    Michael Carter-Williams (foot): It looks like MCW (or R.O.Y. if you prefer) and Philadelphia's chances are both questionable tonight.

     

    *Unless otherwise specified, injury information used courtesy of CBSSports.com.

Pop-in Potential: Detroit Pistons vs. Sacramento Kings

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    DeMarcus Cousins and Josh Smith on the floor together. Need I say more?

    A game that is sure to feature crazy highlights, stuffed stat sheets and ejections, this is my Kevin Garnett game of the nightanything is possible.

    Records might even be set tonight, and I'm not even talking about technical fouls.

    According to Michael C. Jones of SportsOutWest.com, the Kings will attempt to set a new world record for making the most noise in an indoor arena.

    "The chatter’s been increasing and increasing and we’ve been paying attention to it,” team president Chris Granger said, via Jones. “We’re going to provide our fans with a platform to make the loudest noise in the history of indoor arenas."

    Now, if they time this right, they could get the added boost of a loud clang supplied by either Brandon Jennings (39.1 percent shooting), Smith (41.6) or Kings rookie Ben McLemore (38.9).

    On a serious note, this contest should be one heck of a watch. The shared athleticism between these teams is impressive. Between Smith, Cousins, McLemore and Andre Drummond, I'd be surprised if this game doesn't produce the dunk of the night.

    Keep this one within your sights. Just remember to protect your ears.

Fantasy Stockwatch

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    Some nights, the league goes easy on fantasy owners and sets their lineups for them.

    No, this isn't an added service that your fantasy provider is hiding from you; it's the simple fact that a small schedule takes all of the guessing games out of plugging in your players.

    Tonight, however, is not one of those nights. With only eight teams taking the night off, you'll have to make some tough decisions. You might have to reach for a name or two from the end of your bench. You could even wind up sitting a (semi) stud if the matchup scares you.

    Fear not, fellow fantasy junkies. I'm here to help.

    Trust what the stat sheet tells you and believe in your instincts. On second thought, just go with these guys.

     

    The Big Guns

    Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves

    This Nuggets defense might not have the leftover leaks from George Karl's days, but it also doesn't have JaVale McGee. Instead, it has Blake Griffin's adopted son—or victim, I never know how these posterization relationships work—Timofey Mozgov.

    Kenneth Faried might have the athleticism to battle with Love on the glass, but is Mozgov really ready to chase down Corey Brewer on Love's outlet heaves?

    At the offensive end, Love is giving fantasy owners gobs of goodies: 27.1 points, 14.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.3 triples a night. Furthermore, this is the same Nuggets team just gave up 18 points and 15 rebounds to Jordan Hill—and that was before the media started pushing Kenneth Faried out of the Pepsi Center.

    Love has shed plenty of pounds since leaving UCLA, but look for him to feast on this frontcourt tonight.

     

    Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns

    Freed from Chris Paul's shadow, Bledsoe could be reuniting with his former teammate in February if he keeps putting up All-Star numbers (21.1 points, 7.1 assists, 4.3 boards and 1.8 steals).

    Going full-throttle in Suns coach Jeff Hornacek's uptempo offense has been a gift for Bledsoe. He's too fast for bigger guards and too strong for smaller, quicker defenders.

    The Nets are having a tough time stopping anyone right now (102.8 points allowed per 100 possessions, 13th most in the league). But the thought of Brooklyn's older bodies chasing the athletic Bledsoe around all night makes my legs hurt.

    Bledsoe has had at least 23 points and six assists in each of his last two games. I bet he clears both of those marks tonight.

     

    The Sleeper

    Jordan Hill, Los Angeles Lakers

    Somehow still available in nearly 80 percent of ESPN.com fantasy basketball leagues, Jordan Hill needs to be on your roster now. If you need to step away and make that waiver claim, I'll wait.

    It might sound strange recommending a player going up against the Grizzlies, but it's time to get that thought out of your head. This is not the same Memphis defense from last season, not even close (105.5 points allowed per 100 possessions, fourth-worst in the NBA).

    After finding his way from the end of Mike D'Antoni's bench and into the starting lineup, Hill finally looks like a former lottery pick. He's averaged 19.5 points (on 56.5 percent shooting) and 13.0 rebounds in two games with the opening group.

    Even D'Antoni wouldn't tighten Hill's leash at this point. In fact, the coach told B/R's own Kevin Ding that Hill's role is "pretty solidified." His spot in your fantasy lineup should be just as stable.