Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Wednesday evening contest at Memphis, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Nash, Bryant, World Peace, Clark and Howard
Grizzlies: M. Conley, T. Allen, R. Gay, Z. Randolph, M. Gasol
5:00 The big storyline for the Lakers out of Memphis came out of shootaround, as a team meeting was called in order for the players to air out their concerns about a team suddenly seven games under .500, something nobody imagined was possible before the season started. Among the topics were how the team had to start playing as one, particularly on D, and not let offensive shot distribution get in the way of how players worked together on the other end. For the first several minutes of the game, the meeting appeared to do a lot of good, as Dwight Howard in particular was flying around on defense, his team taking an 11-7 lead with both Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph sitting with two fouls. L.A. was missing shots, hitting only 4 of 11, but had a good vibe on the floor.
0:00 Memphis, however, found its footing with two bench players, as Darrell Arthur scored a combined 11 points, mostly on jump shots, to give the Grizzlies a 24-23 lead after one quarter. Both had been empowered in their roles with Memphis trading away fellow subs Wayne Ellington and Marreese Speights, and were certainly playing like it.
4:00 The Grizz have barely scored more than 85 points in two weeks, but with a sustained second quarter run in which nobody was missing (including little-known Tony Wroten, who had seven points) they suddenly took a 52-39 lead. L.A. had been up 30-28 when Gasol scored at the 9-minute mark, and then begun to turn the ball over (Nash had three and was struggling with ball pressure) and see Memphis score on the other end. L.A. was able to stop the bleeding a tough, with MWP hitting a corner three, Clark an and-1 layup and Bryant a tough reverse at the rim.
0:00 In what’s been a Murphy’s Law season, the Lakers got more bad news as Howard re-aggravated the shoulder injury he originally suffered on Jan. 4 against the Clippers. He was out for the game, and would be re-evaluated back in Los Angeles on Thursday. Meanwhile, Memphis took a 59-50 lead into halftime despite L.A. cutting it to six in the final seconds. Gasol, Clark and Bryant were all at the rim, but couldn’t convert several chances, and Rudy Gay took advantage by hitting a transition three on the other end with six seconds left.
8:57 With Howard on the bench and Gasol starting at center, it was Kobe still getting buckets, making his 10th shot in 13 attempts towards 22 points, enough to cut what had been a 15-point Grizzlies lead to three. Tony Allen, however, countered with consecutive buckets at the rim, taking advantage of the fact that L.A.’s rim protector was in the locker room icing his shoulder, to make it 65-58.
0:57.2 Bryant had been excellent on offense, but was carrying a heavy burden. Three straight misses dropped his total to 11 of 18, and he missed the third of four late free throws in the middle of consecutive Memphis dunks, first Arthur and then Marc Gasol, that put the home team up 83-70. Jodie Meeks did manage to help the Lakers at least close the quarter well by hitting a triple and then blocking Tony Wroten on the other end, but the deficit was 10 heading into the final quarter. L.A. had cut the lead to as few as four on the third World Peace three-pointer (he had 15 points on only five FGA’s and did a terrific job battling the bigger Zach Randolph on the other end), but couldn’t sustain it.
0:00 The Lakers just didn’t have it, falling behind by 15 early in the period, and despite a final attempt to come back with Nash, Kobe and Gasol returning around the 9-minute mark, they deficit remained in double digits until being pushed to 21 with 2:06 to play. Kobe had 29 points, but made only four of 12 shots in the second half, a few of the misses due to no-calls at the rim when he took contact but got no whistle, producing one technical foul. Gasol checked out with 13 points and eight boards, but didn’t go inside much despite Howard’s absence, while Nash had a tough night with seven points on 2 of 6 shooting with eight assists and six turnovers in 34 minutes.
The final: 106-93 Grizz. It was the fourth consecutive loss, and 10th in 12 January games, as L.A. fell to a season-low eight games under .500 at 17-25. L.A. goes back home for a Thursday game against Utah; we’ll see you there.