We’ve made it through the Eastern Conference unscathed. With the NBA on hiatus, on shutdown, on lockdown, not currently happening, I’ve been going through all of the hypothetical playoff scenarios. We’re onto the West, starting things off with the 1-8 matchup that could be the Los Angeles Lakers hosting the Memphis Grizzlies. Do the Grizz and Ja Morant have what it takes to knock off the Lakers and pull perhaps the greatest playoff upset of all-time? Probably not, but we’re going to look at things anyway.
Grizzlies vs. Lakers series breakdown
Lakers record: 49-14
Grizzlies record: 32-33
Season series: LAL 3-1
In the history of the NBA — like the entire league — the No. 8 seed has won just five times. The past two times it happened we have to throw an asterisk on there. In 2012, the Sixers beat the Chicago Bulls in six games after Derrick Rose tore his ACL at the end of a Game 1 blowout win. Before that, these same Grizzlies pulled off the upset over the San Antonio Spurs in six games. Manu Ginobili was injured in Game 1 and the Grizz were able to pull off the upset. After that, the home team ended up winning every game and Memphis advanced. No. 3 on this list is the memorable Golden State Warriors team that knocked off the Mavericks back in ‘07.
Now, what are the chances we see something similar happen this season if we get basketball back? I would say at less than 5% chance of happening and that seems generous. Even if something catastrophic were to happen like LeBron James or Anthony Davis going down, the only way the Grizzlies win is if both of them get hurt. God forbid that doesn’t happen to us after all this coronavirus business. Even without AD and LeBron, I think the Lakers would have a shot at beating the Grizzlies in seven games. What would Memphis need to do otherwise in order to win?
Well, for one, they’d likely need to contain Davis over LeBron. James can be passive at times, trying to force plays rather than being aggressive on offense. Davis is virtually unguardable and would need to be held in check in order for the Grizz to win. If we look at that last game between these two teams, the Grizzlies won through defense and forcing the Lake Show to shoot miserably all night. LeBron and AD only combined for 30 field goal attempts and went 3-11 from distance. L.A. played OK on defense, but Morant and Jonas Valanciunas killed the Lakers. Again, this is one game out of four this season. After a 3-4 month break with every team on a clean slate? Anything is possible.
Does that mean I’m going to expect the Lakers to get upset? No. The Lakers probably roll in 4-5 games. Two things can derail this: injuries and the layoff. I fully expect LeBron and AD to come out ready to go and chase that title. Still, when we look at the East and that Bucks-Magic potential matchup, Milwaukee has it easy. Memphis can make life tough for L.A. and slow the Lakers down a bit moving forward. Clean slate, though, so it shouldn’t matter too much. Let’s get off of this and look forward to more competitive matchups in the West later this week.