No energy, no effort, not even the slightest smidge of common sense. When a team is missing all this, they absolutely don’t deserve to win the game and that was the case with the Lakers tonight.
After a solid win on Friday against the scrappy Portland Trailblazers, the Lakers had Saturday to prepare for their third meeting against the Grizzlies; the first two contests going in the Lakers’ favor. Last time it took a second half effort from the Lakers to get over a large deficit, in addition to two overtimes to finally get the victory in Memphis, and that was without the services of Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph. Tonight, Gay and Randolph were in, and the Lakers looked like they were out.
They looked lazy at the onset, needing eight attempts to finally hit their first field goal, a layup from Pau Gasol after six missed jump shots and a missed tip-in. Jump shots, with Andrew Bynum patrolling the paint, the Lakers’ first six attempts from the field were jump shots. After the first quarter, the Lakers were down four points after shooting just 42% from the field and then fell behind by 10 points going into halftime after shooting just 39% in the first two quarters and allowing Memphis to shoot 50% from the field. The Lakers were playing like they’d just woken up and Memphis, who’d gotten blown out by the Clippers yesterday, had all the energy in this game.
After the half, the Lakers seemed to tap into some sort of energy source because they suddenly came alive, going on a 20-9 run to take the lead after Ramon Sessions hit one from downtown. It appeared the home team was finally ready to play and, going into the final quarter, got behind again, but only by three absolutely manageable points, or so it should have been.
The Laker defense came and went throughout the game, but it completely fell apart in the final quarter. In a span of two minutes, O.J. Mayo scoring nine straight points and the once manageable deficit turned into a 13-point hole at which the Lakers continued to chip away, but they let the game get away from them.
Kobe Bryant, with 5:45 left in the fourth, was oddly substituted out for Metta World Peace, and he sat on the bench until there was only 1:51 left in the game. By the time he checked back in, the Lakers were still down by nine points and any hope of a comeback had passed.
8:48 Minutes of the Third Quarter – It was the longest stretch of time, in the whole game, that the Lakers showed any sort of sustained focus. Their defense tightened and the Grizzlies began missing shots and turning the ball over. And after going just 2-7 from the field in the first half, Kobe Bryant shot 4-4 and hit all three of his free throws in that third quarter. A pull-up jumper then a fadeaway over Tony Allen, and his shot seemed to return. Pau Gasol, who had an awful shooting night, chipped in 2-3 from the field as well, even banking in a jumper after receiving a pass from Bryant. The Lakers shot 53% from the field and only allowed Memphis to shoot 37%. After getting outrebounded in the first half 27-19, they also improved on the glass 11-6. It’s a shame this effort didn’t last for the remainder of the game.
Ramon Sessions – Andrew Bynum may have scored 30 points and Pau Gasol may have collected 14 rebounds, but the most productive (in terms of all around effort) and efficient Laker of the night was the new point guard. 18 points on 4-9 from the field, 2-3 from downtown (including the trey that gave the Lakers their shortlived lead in the second half), 8-8 from the free throw line, five assists and two steals – Sessions was the only one on the floor who played on both ends, didn’t complain or question calls and just put in a solid effort.
Memphis Grizzlies – They had seven players in double figures, shot 51% for the game and outworked the home team.
Effort – And speaking of effort, where was the Lakers’?! They were outrebounded 42-38 (though the difference was much larger for the greater part of the game), they were outscored in the paint 52-36, outscored in second chance points 21-8, outscored in fastbreak points 15-11 and committed 16 turnovers. The Grizzlies have been on a three-game losing streak, they were routed by Clippers yesterday and have been beaten by the Lakers in the two previous contests. Do they have a lot of motivation? Yes. But their motivation shouldn’t affect the Lakers. The Lakers should have come into this game, four games behind San Antonio for the second seed in the West and just a few games ahead of the Clippers for the Pacific Division, and put in just as much energy as the Grizzlies, if not more. It’s their home court, for one thing. After laying an egg in last Sunday’s loss to Utah, and then letting one go in Houston, their effort, focus and energy should have been the very last concerns. Actually, they shouldn’t have been sources of concern at all.
Andrew Bynum’s Rebounds (or lack thereof) –This may be nitpicky, considering Bynum went for 30 points on 11-16 from the field, 7-9 from the free throw line and even hit a buzzer beating three to end the game, but those four measly rebounds simply stick out for attention on that box score. FOUR REBOUNDS in almost 41 minutes of playing time. Even Josh McRoberts, who played just 12 minutes, managed to collect five boards. It’s not just about Bynum not having a balanced game, it’s about the Lakers giving up 14 offensive rebounds to the Grizzlies because their center isn’t boxing out or doesn’t appear remotely interested in doing anything but scoring. Perhaps this is just a rare evening where Bynum wasn’t as apt in clearing the glass like he usually does, but why?
Pau Gasol’s Jumpers – Maybe he’s just giving Bynum space to work around the rim, maybe his jumper is something he’d like to perfect – whatever the case may be, Gasol’s field goal percentage the last two games have been atrocious. He shot just 5-14 on Friday against Portland and then 4-15 tonight again his old team. He’s working the boards, collecting double-digit rebounds in both games, but he’s falling in love with a jumper that hasn’t reciprocated the sentiment since Dallas two games ago and it’s going to be a problem for the Lakers if he continues to shoot this poorly. Gasol even missed an easy tip-in tonight, as if the rim had forgotten what he looked like and refused entrance. Surely a usually efficient Gasol will recover, but he needs to find a greater balance between his inside and outside games. Otherwise, it’s just a waste of his abilities.
Bench – This low point is getting old but 41-9? It had to be mentioned.
Kobe on the bench – What was THAT about?! Less than five minutes left in the final quarter, with the Lakers down 14 points and Kobe Bryant shooting a decent percentage and Mike Brown decided to bench him in favor of a line-up with Bynum, Gasol, Sessions, World Peace and Barnes? Far be it for anyone not holding a clipboard to question Mike Brown’s decision in that moment, but with little time to get the win, he benches Mr. Fourth Quarter? If Bryant was playing horribly, it would be understandable, but he was 7-15 from the field and had hit all three of his free throws, in addition to handing out a trio of assists. Coach Brown’s explanation in the post-game interview was that he just, “wanted to make a sub.” Hmm…
The Lakers let another one get away, and with just 17 games left in the regular season, they can’t afford to do it anymore. Every game needs to mean more and they have to play like it means more to them.