Going into halftime with a 19-point deficit staring them in the face, the Lakers looked poised for another beatdown. They’d shot just 43% in the first two quarters, while the Grizzlies went 57% from the field to help in that 65-46 advantage. They’d committed 10 turnovers already, producing 16 points for Memphis. The final two quarters were going to be a long one.
In a strange turn of events, however, the Lakers actually played a better second half. They outscored the home team by 14 points and forced turnover after turnover, fueling a run that cut a 22-lead down to just six to open the final quarter. A few three pointers got them closer and closer, but time had run out. Again, it was too little, too late and in their 58th game, the Lakers suffered their 39th loss, 108-103.
Gasol and Company – Pau Gasol led the team with his double-double, 17 points on 7-14 from the field, 10 rebounds, three assists and a block. But he had help from his teammates. Jodie Meeks, picking up where he left off before he had to sit out a few games due to injury, led the game with 19 points on an efficient 7-10 from the field, including 2-4 from downtown. Wesley Johnson, continuing a string of productive games, chipped in 18 points on 7-14, including 4-8 from behind the arc. His offense aside, he also grabbed five rebounds, and four blocks. It’s the kind of game the team needs from Johnson each night. The two Laker newbies, Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks, chipped in 14 points apiece. Bazemore had four assists, but he also had four turnovers to cancel them out. He handled the ball more than he should have. Jordan Farmar had just five points heading into the fourth quarter, but it was then that he scored 11 of his 16 points. Farmar went 4-7 from the field , including 3-4 from behind the arc. Two of those threes, he hit within five seconds of each other towards the end of the game. Unfortunately, despite the scoring efforts of six players, it was still not enough.
Threeball – The Lakers missed six of their 18 free throw attempts, but they shot 15-28 from behind the arc, led by Johnson and Farmar who converted four apiece. Had the team taken better care of the ball and prevented the Grizzlies from controlling the glass, this game may have gone in the Lakers’ favor.
Second Half – After a first half in which they committed 10 turnovers and allowed Memphis to shoot 57% from the field, the Lakers came in after halftime with more focus and resolve. They still didn’t win the rebounding contest, but did other things to make the game competitive again. They outscored the Grizzlies 27-17 in that third quarter, and 57-43 for the entire second half. Memphis shot just 40% from the field and after committing just five turnovers in the first and second quarters, committed eight, which turned into 12 points for the Lakers. Gasol led the half, scoring 12 of his 17 points. If they’d played this way in the first half, well, you know…
Odd Men Out – Four of the starters played over 35 minutes, three more players played over 20, but Jordan Hill and Robert Sacre played just six to seven minutes, and Ryan Kelly, who had a surge not too long ago as a starter, played just10 minutes. Ryan Kelly hit one three pointer in the fourth quarter and except for three blocks, produced another stat line filled with zeroes. Kendall Marshall, despite going 0-6, did lead the game with eight assists. His scoring has gone dormant the last few games, but at least he’s still facilitating.
Closing Issues – Yes, they fight back, but they fight back sometimes too late. The Lakers either start well early and finish badly, or play badly to start, but are unable to adjust in the latter part of the game. Sustaining a focus from tip-off to the final buzzer has been a real challenge for them, and it’s caused nothing but disjointed efforts from one part of the game to the next.
Each time the Lakers face the Grizzlies, one topic is noted regularly during radio and television broadcasts – the Pau Gasol trade back in 2008; February 2008, to be more exact. That was six years ago this month. Back then, the Lakers were looking for one piece to complete their championship puzzle, and they found it in Memphis. Since then, Gasol has helped lead the team to three straight Finals appearances and back-to-back championships. He was the missing link. Now, Gasol is no longer considered a significant piece for the Lakers’ success. He’s only a semi-valuable antique to be dangled in front of other buyers. It’s unfortunate how quickly times and team philosophies have changed.