The Los Angeles Lakers came into this game winners of two consecutive games, and after beating the Celtics on Sunday in Los Angeles, it was imperative for them to grab a key road victory. The Lakers have been very inconsistent on the road this season and are a completely different team when they wear the away jerseys.
Memphis is a tough team at home and a win today could have helped increase the Lakers’ confidence.
The Grizzlies were much more energetic than the Lakers to start the game and it was obvious that they wanted this one more than Los Angeles. The home crowd was rallying behind their team and whenever the Lakers are in town, the home squad is pumped to play the legendary franchise. At the 10:20 mark of the opening quarter, the Grizzlies opened up a quick 6-0 lead.
Without Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph, the Grizzlies were extremely short-handed, but their energy allowed them to stay ahead of the Lakers. Unlike Los Angeles, the Grizzlies had role players who could fill voids for the starters and give the coaching some extremely efficient play. With 7:30 remaining in the quarter, Memphis was ahead 8-5 and were holding the Lakers to 1-5 shooting (20 percent).
A Derek Fisher three-point field goal at the 5:17 mark of the quarter brought him into the NBA’s 10,000 point scorer club.
After the timeout was called, the Lakers increased their level of play and started to feed the ball to their big men. No one on the Grizzlies could guard both Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, which meant that the Lakers needed them to dominate the ball. Once the offense revolved around the front-court, the Lakers made a push and cut the lead down to one, 18-19 with 3:00 left in the period.
However, the Grizzlies closed out the period strong and took control of the momentum. The Lakers had a chance to take the lead in the opening period, but after 12 minutes of play, the Grizzlies were ahead by eight, 29-21. Kobe Bryant led the way with eight points, followed by Fisher with six.
The Lakers’ second unit opened the quarter extremely well and their 8-0 run helped the tied the game at 29 with 9:28 left in the half. As usual, Bynum was the only starter on the court, and because he was able to dominate the ball, his effectiveness on the court was evident. The Grizzlies had no one who could defend him in the paint and that allowed him to get easy looks near the basket. On top of that, the Lakers’ reserves ran the floor well and were knocking down their shots when open.
The game then turned into a battle of the bigs as Bynum and Marc Gasol went at a back-and-forth affair. Still, Bynum was just too much of a threat and although Gasol scored on occasion, he had no answer for the Laker center on the other end of the court. However, the Grizzlies starters slowly reinserted themselves into the game, and the Lakers players shooting up ill-advised perimeter shots hurt their cause. Thanks to careless shots and turnovers, the Grizzlies got the lead back, 37-35, with 6:17 remaining in the period.
Ironically, once the Lakers starters came back into the game, the team struggled mightily. The Grizzlies went on a 10-2 run and opened up a 47-39 lead with 3:11 left in the half. The Lakers were not going back to the big men inside and were relying mostly on the perimeter shot. On top of that, the Grizzlies were running the floor and that hurt the Lakers as they lack speed.
However, the Lakers made a strong push as the quarter progressed sparked by Kobe Bryant. Bryant had a slow start to the game, but he sensed that the team was slumping, so he stepped up his game. After two quarters, the Lakers were down by just one, 52-51, with Kobe scoring 12 points and Bynum putting in 18.
Once again, the Grizzlies outplayed the Lakers in the opening minutes of the half with their hustle and intensity. The Grizzlies were knocking down their shots and Tony Allen continued to hurt the Lakers with his perimeter game and outstanding defensive activity. Less than two minutes into the third quarter, the Grizzlies opened up a nine point lead on the Lakers, 60-51.
The Grizzlies did not let their foot off the gas pedal and continued to pound the Lakers. The team was able to hurt the Lakers inside the paint and outside, something Los Angeles could not do anything about. The Lakers were being outplayed on both ends of the court, and their sloppy offensive possessions were helping the Grizzlies greatly. With 6:52 remaining in the quarter, the Grizzlies were ahead by 13, 68-55.
The Lakers could not get anything to go, and even their reliable scorers were having trouble from the field. Gasol could not beat his brother with the ball in his hands and it was tough seeing him struggle on the court. Kobe was also missing field goals and the majority of his points came from the free-throw line. The Grizzlies, however, were clicking on all cylinders and the Lakers did not have any answers for them. With 3:40 left in the third period, the Grizzlies held a 14 point lead, 74-60.
However, the Lakers made another push to end the quarter and their free-throw shooting allowed them to creep back into the game. Their ability to draw fouls turned out to be a major boon and that allowed the Lakers to cut the deficit down to single-digits. Still, the team could not sustain the run and the Grizzlies never let the Lakers make a major dent in their lead. At the conclusion of the third quarter, the Grizzlies held a nine point lead, 80-71.
The Lakers were shooting much better in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter and Kobe Bryant was much more assertive on the offensive end. Bryant was fairly quite in the previous three quarters but after scoring five consecutive points for the Lakers, he helped Los Angeles cut the deficit to six, 84-78 with 10:16 left in the game.
The Lakers remained in striking distance and their offense was beginning to click. However, the team had trouble preventing the Grizzlies from scoring, which ruined the chances of a major run. Memphis was able to find nice looks in the paint and their perimeter shooting allowed them to keep some separation from the Lakers. With 7:00 remaining in the period, the Lakers were still facing a six point deficit, 88-82.
The Grizzlies were doing everything in their power to keep the Lakers away, and their great offensive rebounding allowed them to maintain their lead. However, in the latter half of the fourth quarter, Kobe Bryant became the Lakers’ closer and was doing everything in his power to help the team.
Kobe was either knocking down shots from the perimeter or finding his teammates for open baskets, which eventually guided the team to a two point lead, 97-95, with 50 seconds left in regulation.
The Grizzlies had the opportunity to win the game at the buzzer with the game tied at 97, but Mike Conley’s three was not good and the Lakers headed into another overtime match-up.
The teams had problems scoring the ball in the first half of the overtime play and at the 3:21 mark of the extra period, the Lakers and Grizzlies were knotted up at 99. The squads were relying more on their defense to carry them and it was clear that the game was going to be won on that end of the court.
However, the final minutes of the game turned into an offensive fest and at the end of the day, neither team was able to prevail and the game headed into a second overtime. This time Kobe Bryant had a chance to win the game, but he could not connect on the shot and was forced to play an extra five minutes.
The Lakers began the second overtime much better than the first, but their sloppy play killed their chance of controlling the momentum. The Grizzlies were not hitting their shots, but once they got an easy one off a turnover, they regained their confidence and the lead, 107-106, with 2:45 left to play.
However, the Lakers turned the tide in the latter half of the period and continued to dominate the Grizzlies in the paint. Bynum was once again torching the opponent near the basket and his alley-oop dunks proved to be vital for the Lakers. Kobe Bryant also made big shots for the Lakers and those two things eventually helped them take the lead for good, 116-111.
The Lakers will be back in action tomorrow when they travel to New Orleans to play the Hornets at 5:00 p.m. PST.