Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday evening road contest at Memphis, the Lakers searching for their first road win of the season, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Morris, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Howard
Grizzlies: M. Conley, T. Allen, R. Gay, Z. Randolph, M. Gasol
6:25 A strong Lakers start produced early leads of 6-0 and 8-2, until a 9-0 Grizzlies response had L.A. down by as many as five in the early goings. Two Rudy Gay triples were the difference, typifying what’s been much improved 3-point shooting this season, enough to have them ranked 8th in the NBA (they’ve been in the bottom 1/3 in the past three seasons).
0:00 That good start was very much a thing of the past by quarter’s end, the Grizz starting to run away from it early by nailing 8 of 9 shots late in the second half of the period to open a 34-18 lead, even with back-to-back hoops inside from Antawn Jamison off L.A.’s bench. Pau Gasol really struggled, hitting only one of his six shots, mostly on jumpers.
6:00 As poor as the Lakers were in the first, they were just as good to start the second, reeling off a 17-4 run as the second unit had – by far – its best stretch of the regular season. The key change: Jamison was in at the 4 alongside Howard at the 5. Previously, Jordan Hill had been playing with Howard, a group that struggled to generate looks, but Jamison’s ability to spread the floor helped the Lakers get three triples amidst that run. His nine points led the Lakers.
2:42 That rhythm established by the second unit? It disappeared with the starters back on the floor, Memphis methodically taking advantage to push a lead that had been cut to three right back to 12. Rudy Gay’s third triple plus alley-oop dunk in transition after L.A.’s 11th turnover keyed the spurt, with L.A. looking disorganized on offense. Darius Morris – who was effective early with six points at the rim – struggled to get L.A. into good sets, doing a lot of dribbling with shots late in the clock coming off.
0:00 A halftime deficit of seven at 56-49 wasn’t all that bad for a team that trailed by as many as 16, but the starters would need to play much better to provide a chance to win in the second half…
5:46 … And L.A.’s starting five certainly did not deliver in the third, allowing Memphis to build its lead right back to 16 at 71-55. Jamison and Chris Duhon returned for Morris and Howard, D’Antoni searching for something effective, having just watched the 14th turnover lead to a Grizz hoop in transition.
1:40 With Metta World Peace rolling on offense, scoring four straight to reach 16 points (to match Bryant’s team lead), L.A. continued to struggle on D. Jamison fouled Bayless while the Grizz sub took a three as the shot clock expired, then Quincey Pondexter got all the way to the rim to draw Gasol’s shooting foul. Two free throws kept the lead at 14.
5:00 Just as he did in Sacramento, Kobe pulled up and dropped a few ridiculous triples, hitting back-to-back from deep without the benefit of a dribble. That trimmed the Grizz lead to only five. Meanwhile, Jamison continued to have success, reaching 16 points with seven boards with a tip in of MWP’s miss.
2:20 Trying to make a final push, a few defensive stops allowed L.A. to keep the deficit at six when Bryant hit two free throws, but Marc Gasol answered with two free throws earned off a nice slip screen to make it 100-92. Meanwhile, his older brother continued to sit, as even with Jamison fouling out, D’Antoni went with Darius Morris, pushing MWP to the four.
0:00 Bryant kept getting to the foul line in the final minutes, but the Grizz kept answering at the other end, thus a 106-98 margin with 24.4 left to essentially end the game. Mike Conley hit two big jumpers in the final moments, and the hole L.A. dug itself in the first quarter ultimately proved too big a hole from which to climb out. Kobe’s 30 points were helped by 16 apiece from Jamison and World Peace, but Gasol and Howard combined for only 13 points and four boards apiece one game after totaling 15 points at Sacramento. L.A. would simply need much more from its two bigs, double teams coming or not, to get the team’s first road win at Dallas the following night. We’ll see you there.