The Los Angeles Lakers came into this game looking to win their second consecutive game and their sixth in-a-row at home. They barely escaped against the Warriors on Friday, even with Stephen Curry off the floor with an injury.
As for tonight’s game, the Lakers were fortunate enough to avoid Zach Randolph, but the Grizzlies have a history of playing well against the Lakers.
This game carried more significance for Pau Gasol as he was going up against his younger brother, Marc.
The Lakers began the game slow and they were not matching the energy and hustle of the Grizzlies. Gasol and Andrew Bynum were not converting near the basket, but luckily Kobe Bryant was knocking down his shots from the field and the line. Despite a two-for-seven start for the Lakers, they found themselves tied with the Grizzlies at seven with 7:51 left in the quarter.
However, as the quarter progressed the Lakers picked it up on the offensive end and got into the open-court. Matt Barnes hit a fast-break three and Bynum finally scored inside the paint to give the Lakers a 15-13 lead at the 5:26 mark of the quarter. At that point all five Lakers starters had a plus/minus of +3 and were playing a very efficient game.
Kobe Bryant continued his stellar play to the end of the quarter, and after one he had five assists, two rebounds and 11 points. At one point, the Lakers connected on six consecutive buckets and nearly opened up a double-digit lead.
Still, despite the well balanced attack by the Lakers, the Grizzlies remained fairly close. With the teams heading to bench, the Lakers were up by nine, 31-22.
With Kobe Bryant on the bench for his usual rest, the Lakers’ reserves stepped up big and knocked down shots consistently. Steve Blake provided the team with great three-point shooting and Bynum was controlling the paint with his defense and shooting. At the 8:33 mark of the second quarter, the Lakers opened up a 14 point lead, 40-26, after a Metta World Peace dunk.
The game then adapted a quicker pace as the Grizzlies were making it a priority to score on the fast-break. With Kobe off the floor, the Grizzlies understood they must make a run now or else they could face a insurmountable deficit.
The Lakers were able to match the Grizzlies’ every move, and on top of that, played stellar defense on the opponent’s best scorers. Although the Lakers had trouble securing the basketball, they kept their distance from the Grizzlies. Whenever it seemed as though the lead would fall down to single-digits, Gasol or Bryant answered with a key basket.
At the 2:58 mark of the second period, the Lakers were up 12, 52-38, after a beautiful pass from Gasol to Bynum.
As a team the Lakers passed the ball extremely well and Kobe Bryant was not the only player who was feeling it on offense. When the Lakers share the ball like they did in the first half, the team cannot be stopped or defended.
When the buzzer rang for half-time the Lakers found themselves up 56-46. Kobe was the leading scorer with 15 points, and had six of the Lakers’ 17 assists. Still the score remained fairly close due to the fact that the Lakers had amassed 11 turnovers in the first 24 minutes. If it weren’t for the carelessness of the Lakers, this lead would have been well over 15 points.
The Lakers opened up the third quarter with two quick turnovers which resulted in two fast-break buckets for the Grizzlies. What seemed like a watershed run turned into nothing but a 4-0 spark for Memphis. The Lakers got the lead back to 10 points after a tough turn-around fade-away by Kobe and an alley-oop by Bynum from Fisher. At the 9:10 mark of the period, the Lakers were up 60-50.
The Grizzlies made another run mid-way into the quarter, but just when it seemed as though they would reclaim the lead, Kobe Bryant made a key bucket. The Grizzlies cut the lead down to six yet again, but a Kobe Bryant reverse dunk helped bring the lead back to ten.
The referees did not help the Grizzlies’ cause either as Kobe was clearly agitated with their lack of calls. And opponents do not want to see Kobe angry since he can score a handful whenever ticked off.
The Lakers’ lead remained at 10 after Steve Blake hit a three to end the quarter. Blake played a big role for the Lakers in the third period and had tallied up 13 points and three three-pointers.
After 36 minutes the Lakers were up 78-68, under the guidance of Kobe who had 22 points and eight assists.
The Lakers had a horrible start to the fourth quarter and the team had trouble creating its own shots with Kobe Bryant on the bench. The Lakers allowed the Grizzlies to go on a 6-0 run to open the period and just like that, the ten point lead turned to a 78-74 advantage at the 9:17 mark of the fourth.
The team missed its first seven shots and finally connected thanks to a great block and fast-break bucket by Matt Barnes. Barnes connected on his very next shot to bring the Lakers’ lead up to 82-74; at that point, Barnes racked up an impressive 15 points and eight rebounds.
Once the game entered its final four minutes, the Lakers switched into a different gear and used a total team effort to hold-off the Grizzlies. Bryant, Barnes and Blake played crucial roles for the Lakers and they all made key baskets when they were needed the most.
The final buzzer rang and the Lakers defeated the Grizzlies, 90-82. Kobe Bryant finished the game with 26 points, nine assists and two rebounds. Barnes had 15 points and 10 rebounds while Blake tallied 13 points with nine from behind the arc.
The Lakers’ next game will come on the tenth versus the Phoenix Suns, a game which can be seen on NBA TV’s Tuesday Fan Night.