The Los Angeles Lakers came into tonight’s matchup losing two straight games, and they were determined to get back to their winning ways. The Lakers flew into Memphis to take on the upstart Memphis Grizzlies. The Gasol brothers had their second meeting of the season and Kobe got to a chance to see the young Rudy Gay perform. A third straight loss tonight would surely knock the Lakers out of the second seed in the West.
The Lakers and Grizzlies both opened up the game with high energy and a sense of focus. Both teams were crashing the boards and were trying to get in the open court. The opening minutes of the game went back-and-forth, as the teams would trade makes and misses. Half way into the first quarter, Lakers were leading by only one point, 12-11.
There was a common theme developing in the game–little defense and a lot of offense. Both teams would score on one end, and hope for the best on the other. The Lakers would usually find success scoring the basket, but they would not force the Grizzlies to take tough shots. The “Killer Bs” were subbed into the game, but they followed the style of play set forth by the starters. They would get easy shots in the paint and from the free-throw line; however, the Grizzlies’ players would do the same thing. The opening quarter ended with the scored knotted up at 27-27. The Lakers shot 50% from the field, while the Grizzlies were shooting 57%.
Ignoring the score and only paying attention to the crowd and the style of play, one would have guessed the Grizzlies were leading by double-digits. However, the Lakers matched every Grizzly move with their own. Kobe started to take matters in his own hands, and took over the scoring load. After back-to-back buckets the Lakers recaptured the lead, 37-34, and momentum was starting to shift toward the purple and gold.
At first, Kobe was the only Laker who found a rhythm on the offensive end; however, the streaky Ron Artest began to “catch fire.” With Rudy Gay on the bench the Lakers took advantage of the offensively-challenged Grizzlies, half way into the second quarter the Lakers found themselves up 43-37. However, the Lakers’ success was ephemeral and the Grizzlies quickly recaptured the lead and the momentum. The first half ended with the Grizzlies leading the Lakers 51-49; the Lakers shot 44% from the field while the Grizzlies shot 50%. Kobe Bryant was the game’s leading scorer with 19, followed by Mike Conley with 13.
The Lakers opened up the third quarter playing carless basketball, and their effort was essentially non-existent. The Lakers would not attack the rim, and instead they would settle with long jumpers. Their shots would not fall and the Grizzlies made sure they capitalized. Four minutes into the second half the Grizzlies expanded their two point lead to 11, 64-53.
The Lakers’ stagnant offense was to blame for their poor play in the third quarter; they would feed the ball to Kobe for an isolation play. There was no movement, no back-door screens, just an isolation play on the top of the key. However, the Lakers were forced to play as a team once Kobe was subbed out of the game. There were more touches on each possession, and the offense became less stagnant; at the end of the quarter the Grizzlies were leading the Lakers 70-65.
The fourth quarter could not have opened up worse for the Lakers, less than a minute in the quarter the Grizzlies hit back-to-back threes and brought the lead back up to 11.
The Lakers continued to play with Kobe on the bench, but did not suffer as one would guess. Thanks to Steve Blake’s consecutive threes, the Lakers cut the lead down to seven with 8:43 left in the fourth quarter. As the game reached the midway point of the fourth quarter, the Lakers managed to erase an 11 point deficit to five. Pau Gasol and Shannon Brown finally found an offensive rhythm and they were the leading force in the late fourth quarter run.
The game was coming down to the wire and the Lakers trailed by four, 91-87, with a 2:50 left in to play. The Lakers eventually failed to complete the comeback, as Ron Artest’s final three was blocked. The Lakers have lost their third straight game, 98-96. Kobe Bryant was the leading scorer with 29 points; however, in a losing effort.