LAL 96, MEM 102: March 25 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday evening home contest against Memphis, the Lakers looking to win a third straight game, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Sessions, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
Grizzlies: M. Conley, T. Allen, R. Gay, M. Speights, M. Gasol

FIRST QUARTER
12:00 A less obvious benefit of having Ramon Sessions in the line up, aside from the obvious offensive boost gained through pick and rolling and in transition, is what he takes out of opposing point guards. Grizz PG Mike Conley told me before the game that he has to prepare for the Lakers in a different way, knowing that he not only will get run around screens on the pick and roll, but also must get back in transition immediately, which takes a lot of energy and might take away from his offense.

5:21 L.A. claimed an early 14-12 lead after falling behind 6-2, Pau Gasol missing his first five shots in uncharacteristic fashion. He did, however, score six points shortly thereafter, and combined with Bynum’s three field goals, had the home team’s bigs dominating the paint.

0:00 The quarter ended poorly for the Lakers, who conceded back-to-back threes to Allen (who’d attempted only 17 on the season) and Gay that allowed Memphis a 28-24 lead after one. L.A. missed several wide open shots and weren’t as solid defensively as their coaches would like.

SECOND QUARTER
6:00 Another poor stretch from L.A. allowed the Grizz to build a 40-31 edge, the bench failing to get good looks (three turnovers) and Memphis capping an 8-0 run with a relatively uncontested layup from O.J. Mayo.

0:00 While Bryant and Gasol combined to hit only 4-of-17 field goals, the Lakers may have been more concerned about their defense in the first half, which allowed Memphis to shoot 50 percent from the field. Conley’s three made it a 12-point game in the final seconds, but Sessions did manage a buzzer-beating runner (moments after his driving lay up) to cut it to 56-46 at the break. Make no mistake, defense was to be heavily discussed at the break.

THIRD QUARTER
7:47 Another Gay three plus a Marc Gasol lay in gave the Grizz its biggest lead, at 65-51, L.A. failing to come out with the kind of energy one might expect with a 10-point halftime deficit. However, once the Grizz lead reached 14, Kobe finally got going, scoring six straight points to cut it to 65-57 into a Memphis time out.

3:22 L.A. had found its defensive focus, swarming around Memphis especially when the Grizz approached the paint, creating a series of misses that were converted on the other end to the tune of a 15-0 run. After Kobe’s 6-0 push, Gasol banked in a jumper, World Peace scored in transition after blocking a shot on the other end, Bynum scored in the paint, and Sessions nailed a top-of-the-key three to make it 66-65. The deficit of 14 points, the biggest L.A. had seen at home all season, was entirely gone.

0:00 And three minutes later, the momentum L.A. had built was entirely gone, Memphis responding with an 8-0 run propelled by Lakers turnovers. Some careless giveaways, like the second three seconds call (Bynum, as Kobe dribbled on the perimeter) and World Peace mishandling a pass in front of the Grizz bench, saw the deficit climb back to seven. The pendulum then swung back the other way, L.A. getting the final five points of the quarter, capped by a ridiculous running left-hander from Kobe after multiple pump fakes and the usual array of footwork.

FOURTH QUARTER
10:57 Steve Blake’s three-pointer was just his second in the past six games including tonight, a potential confidence builder as he reacquaints himself with the second unit, here cutting the Grizz lead to two.

7:18 The lead was suddenly back to 13 after seven straight points from O.J. Mayo, making it 89-76. LAL’s D was great in the third, then slipped back to where it was in the first half, with an improbable second home loss in a week about to occur after L.A. had lost only twice in its first 20 home games.

1:51 L.A. tried to make one last push, cutting the lead to seven on two Gasol free throws, but Memphis answered with back-to-back jumpers to bury the home team. It was a disappointing defeat for the Lakers, who felt so good after a Portland victory with the offense coming quite easily since Sessions came to town. Memphis brought a great deal of intensity, fighting after three straight road losses, and L.A. simply didn’t match the energy until it was too late. Up next: Tuesday’s road game at Golden State. See you there.