From one team trying to get by with injuries to another, the Lakers faced a different Memphis Grizzlies group from the one they met a month ago at Staples Center. Tonight’s version of the Grizz is missing two important players – Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, both of whom give the Lakers problems each time the two teams meet.
Without Conley and Gasol, the Lakers took advantage to start, gaining a 15-point lead early in the game. As has been their M.O., however, the lead depleted then turned into a deficit. The difference tonight is that the Lakers found a way to take the lead back and hang on until the final buzzer.
Led by the spirited play of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, the visitors took the 96-92 victory.
Kobe & Pau – It’s the duo that, apparently, time has not forgotten. Getting past their troubling play lately, Bryant and Gasol played the way we have known them to play. Bryant, clearly getting his timing and conditioning up to speed, forgot about his terrible game against the Hawks last night and put on a show for the fans in Memphis. He was more aggressive than he has been since his return; driving to the basket to score and even hitting (finally) a three from about three feet beyond the arc. Bryant finished with 21 points on 9-18 from the field, added five rebounds, four assists and a block. The four turnovers didn’t help the team, but it’s half what he had in his first game back against Toronto. Gasol – the trade rumors will never go away…except maybe if he plays like he did tonight. This is the Gasol we wish would make a more consistent appearance. 21 points on an efficient 9-12 from the field, nine rebounds, two assists and three blocks. He was not only active on the offensive end, but alert on the defensive end as well. Gasol played a solid game against his old team, and here’s hoping it’s a version
Nick Young – Instant Offense – that’s what SwaggyP’s nickname ought to be on this team. He started 4-4 from the field, but dipped down to just 2-7 the rest of the way. He did, however, shoot 3-6 from downtown. He finished with 18 points.
Wesley Johnson and Robert Sacre – The impact of their presence may not be obvious at first look, but Johnson and Sacre did a lot of little things that helped get this win. Johnson, for starters, handed out six assists and collected five rebounds. Sacre, having played just over 18 minutes, hit 5-6 from the free throw line. Moreover, it is their energy on the floor that is the exciting part. Johnson lurks in the passing lanes, waiting for the opposing team to make a mistake, and Sacre has been a nice surprise off the pine, especially when it comes to defense. They’re truly unsung heroes of tonight’s game.
Leads Lost – The Lakers led by 15 points in the first quarter, had a 12-point advantage in the second, and managed to rebuild with an 11-point lead in the final quarter. Unfortunately, none of these double-digit leads stuck. The Lakers seemed to use the possessions after creating these advantages as a time to experiment and stray from what got them those leads in the first place.
Rebounding – The most glaring stat tonight was the rebounding. The Lakers were outrebounded by the Grizzlies 49-37. On offensive boards, the stat is even more disappointing. Memphis grabbed 18 offensive boards, awarding themselves with 16 second chance points as a result (18 offensive boards!) and the Lakers grabbed four offensive rebounds the entire game.
2-2, that’s what the Lakers will go home with after this road trip, and despite knowing they should have won last night’s game, it’s better than coming back to L.A. with no road wins at all. Next up is the second meeting with the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday.