…when O’s not strong. And the Lakers’ offense was definitely not in its finest hours this night in Memphis so thank goodness they had some good ol’ defense to rely on. It’s been a while since they’ve been able to fall back on that, but we’re sure glad they remembered how to use it.
The Memphis Grizzlies have defeated the Lakers twice this season, including a 19-point beatdown on the Staples Center floor. On the hunt for a playoff spot at the end of the season, every win from here on out is a must for Memphis, who at the moment sit at the 9th spot in the Western Conference behind the Portland Trailblazers, and one up from the Phoenix Suns, who aren’t far behind. Defeating the defending champs for a third time this season would’ve been something they could build on, but the Lakers were not having it.
The first quarter looked much like the two losses against Pau Gasol’s former team. The Lakers fell behind by as much as nine points in the first 9 ½ minutes of game time, with Mike Conley hitting all of his attempts from the field. It took an 8-4 run by the road team to get to within four points to end the quarter. Suffice it to say, the Lakers’ defense was a slow cooker. Memphis shot 55% in that first quarter for their 29 points, but that was as good as it got for the Grizzlies.
The Lakers started moving the ball and running their offense. Shannon Brown (5 points on 2-7) hit a jump shot. Then Andrew Bynum (11 points on 4-6, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks) converted a lob from Lamar Odom. Then Odom (15 points on 5-14, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 blocks) scored on two layups in a row. Suddenly the Lakers were up two points, a lead they would never relinquish (save a few moments when the scored was tied).
The Lakers didn’t shoot particularly well in this game. In fact, they only shot 43% for the night. But the point distribution was commendable, with every starter and Odom scoring in double figures and every player who got floor time handing out at least one assist. It was a strange game offensively for the Lakers, with Bynum missing some easy hoops a few feet from the rim and even Kobe Bryant (19 points on 6-17, 7 rebounds, 6 assists), as efficient as his game has been lately, flubbed a few layups himself (the question of whether or not he was fouled is up for debate because he did get mauled on a few occasions with ne’er a whistle to recognize it). Also, Bryant’s six turnovers certainly didn’t help either.
Also something that didn’t help was the Lakers’ free throw shooting. 21-35 from the charity stripe. It’s one thing to miss a handful with that many opportunities but a dozen?! Without Bryant’s perfect 7-7, the rest of the team would’ve shot just 14-28, 50%. Even Gasol, good as he is from the line, missed four of his nine attempts.
It certainly was not the offense that pulled a win for the Lakers. It was their defense. After allowing Memphis to shoot 55% in the first quarter, the road team allowed just 23 points in the third quarter and 16 points in each of the second and fourth quarters. As for the players who killed the Lakers in that 19-point loss when the year began? Zach Randolph was held to just 2-14 for his 8 points, Mike Conley went just 5-12 for his 13 points, and Marc Gasol had just 10 points on 5-14. The leading scorers for the Grizzlies were Rudy Gay, who didn’t have as bad a shooting night with his 18 points on 7-15, and Sam Young with 22 points on 9-19, filling in a spot in the rotation for the suspended O.J. Mayo. Memphis shot just 39.8% for the night, racking up 15 turnovers (though the Lakers were no better with their 14 giveaways).
It was a rough and tumble kind of game, with Marc Gasol accidentally whacking Ron Artest (13 points on 4-11, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals) into a bloody nose, which he was absolutely NOT happy about; Andrew Bynum getting slapped in the face; and Lamar Odom hitting the ground on a few occasions.
The best things to take from this game, however, were that the Lakers didn’t let their rhythmically-challenged offense discourage their ability to win this game. They continued to run their offense, getting some uncharacteristically efficient production from behind the arc, where they went 8-16. Good things happen when a pass to the shooter begins from the inside, and the Lakers kept to form to get those good-looks from downtown. They lost a 13-point lead in the second half, but they remained poised, building and building their lead until it reached another double-digit deficit for the home team.
These last two road wins are solid victories to take into Boston in two days. It’s gamble as to which Lakers team will show up on the parquet floor, but one thing is for sure – it’ll be a battle. Some analysts have already picked the Celtics to win on Thursday, but if the defending champs show as much fight as they have in the closing minutes of the last two games, don’t count them out just yet.
Pre-game Thoughts: The Grizzlies have beaten the Lakers twice. Just think of how confident they’d feel if they beat them a 3rd time. Can’t look past a team who is vying for a playoff spot. The Lakers need to hold down the players who have killed them in the past, namely Zach Randolph, Mike Conley and Rudy Gay.
Half-time Thoughts: 50-45 – The Lakers couldn’t get a hoop and they couldn’t defend a lick to start, but after allowing Memphis to shoot 55% in the first quarter, they picked up the D and the Grizzlies offense fell to 40% to end the half. Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant lead the Lakers with 10 points a piece, but Memphis’ Sam Young leads all scores with 14. The Lakers have 12 assists on 19 makes so they’re moving the ball. They need to ramp up the defense just a bit more to put this team away. Memphis can get their runs in, no doubt about it.
Most Thoughtless Play(s)/Player(s) of the Game: Lakers’ free throw shooting. 21-35 from the charity stripe? That is, in a word, ABYSMAL. They’re lucky this game wasn’t any closer.
Most Thought-filled Play(s)/Player(s) of the Game: Lakers’ defense – The Grizzlies scored just 16 points in the second and fourth quarters. The Lakers got 12 steals and blocked seven shots.