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We took a look at the Lakers – Grizzlies contest in Memphis while it was happening, entering a thought or three each quarter as the Lakers played their first post All-Star road game.
Lakers: Sasha Vujacic (shoulder)
Grizzlies: Ronnie Brewer (hamstring), Lester Hudson
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Grizzlies: Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol
Phil Jackson Pregame Session
The highlights of Phil Jackson’s seven-minute pregame session with the Lakers media in Memphis (including first minute and change is above on video): CLICK HERE.
10:02 As mentioned extensively before the game, LA’s plan was very clearly to pound the ball inside to Bynum and Gasol right from the outset, and that’s what happened. Bynum nailed a turnaround and drew two free throws, making both, while Gasol hit a turnaround of his own to put LA up 8-2.
8:44 Welcome back, Kobe. In get-teammates-involved-and-just-fit-in mode to start, No. 24 had to take his first shot when he was given the ball with three seconds or so left on the shot clock outside the 3-point line. Instead of shooting, he up-faked Mayo, drew contact, then rose and nailed a line drive, plus the free throw. More importantly than the four-point play, Bryant appeared to be moving very well at both ends of the floor.
0:21.4 The Lakers were simply fantastic defensively in the first quarter, forcing six Grizzlies turnovers (five steals), and conceding little but deep jumpers, which LA then cleared off the boards. The Grizz shot 8-of-20 from the field (40 percent) and caused only two Lakers turnovers themselves. Bryant, who swatted Rudy Gay’s shot and fed Farmar for a quarter-ending hoop, finished with nine points, five rebounds, three assists, a steal and that block in quite the come back from five games off.
5:35 Bryant’s first shot of the second came six minutes in on a slick driving finger roll off glass, putting the Lakers up 41-32. The lead was actually not reflective of LA’s dominance, since they weren’t shooting particularly well (43.5 percent in the first quarter), but still marked an impressive return from four days without games.
3:31 To their credit, the Grizzlies certainly didn’t lay down and die under LA’s defensive onslaught, settling down in their offense to convert 4-of-5 buckets to cut the Lakers lead to just three on Mayo’s corner three.
0:04.4 Speaking of credit, give some to Phil Jackson for an assist on this one: after being inserted by his coach for a final offensive play, Brown came off a curl on the perimeter and cut to the basket, receiving the inbounds pass thanks to a pick for an easy finish at the rim that put LA up 53-48 heading into the half.
7:07 Well, that happened fast. The Grizz capped a 15-3 run with Gay’s layup in transition, sparked by four Lakers turnovers at the other end. Memphis seemed to make the proper halftime adjustment in beginning to flood the paint defensively as the whistles went away, and got most of their offense in transition with little contention from LA, which found itself down seven points.
4:37 One area in which LA was struggling throughout the first two and a half quarters: three-point shooting. They’d made just 1-of-9 attempts … until Derek Fisher hit back-to-back triples to cut Memphis’ lead to 68-66.
1:31 The turnovers continued to mount for LA when Shannon Brown simply threw the ball out of bounds while intending to find Farmar. It was TO number eight for the Lakers in the quarter, and resulted in Randolph’s bucket at the other end to give Memphis its biggest lead of the game at 81-70. As such, the Lakers really needed the 6-0 push in the final minute to chop the lead down to five, a 10-point turnaround from halftime.
7:15 Lamar Odom had been almost silent for his first 19 minutes of burn, scoring only two points with three rebounds, but after entering for Bynum (whistled for his fifth foul), Odom’s nailed a sorely-needed three to cut the Grizz lead to six.
2:59 Oddly, Gasol and Fisher combined to miss five straight free throws, Gasol hitting 1-of-2 before both normally excellent foul shooters went 0-for-2. Had all five gone in, the game would have been tied; instead, LA trailed 95-90. Not what LA had in mind.
54.0 On the other hand … how glad are the Lakers to have their MVP back? With LA down three, Bryant coyly pulled up from well beyond the arc in the middle of the floor and swished a game-tying triple. In related news, he’s pretty good at hitting shots late in games. We should also mention that his legs appeared to be well under him, offering full lift on his jumper. Gay responded by getting a two-second roll on the rim to fall to put the Grizz up 98-96, and after Pau couldn’t get a leaner to go (he looked to have been mugged), Mayo missed two free throws to set up a final chance for LA.
0:04.3 And oh my, did Kobe take it. In a set play out of a time out after his attempt with eight seconds left was blocked out of bounds, Bryant ran around a screen, caught Odom’s pass from the top of the key and absolutely buried a deep three-pointer. Just splashed it through. Mayo had a chance to answer with a deep two, but Gasol’s help defense was key in the shot going wide. As such, the Lakers escaped with a 99-98 victory.
Kobe, Kobe, Kobe.
LA’s back in action tomorrow night in Dallas, but until then, your numbers:
8 Turnovers in the third quarter alone for LA, helping Memphis post a 33-23 quarter to turn a 5-point halftime deficit into a 5-point lead leading into the fourth quarter.
13 Rebounds for Pau Gasol to pace the Lakers, while Ron Artest and Kobe Bryant added seven each. Gasol also contributed five assists, two blocks, two steals and 22 points.
32 Points for Kobe Bryant on an outstanding performance from the field (13-of-19). He nailed 3-of-4 three-pointers, including two in the final minute.
52 Points in the paint for LA, much improved from its 26 paint points in the team’s Feb. 1 in this building. Andrew Bynum had 15 points in only 23 minutes (foul trouble), while Gasol added 22 in 41 minutes.
1,000 Career games for the Lakers played in by Bryant, and what a way to do it.