Five things to take away from Lakers' 124-105 victory over Memphis Grizzlies
1. Pau Gasol wins the match-up with his brother, Marc: The two remain close, but there are plenty of signs that indicate how competitive the match-up has become. Leading into the Lakers' 124-105 victory Tuesday over the Memphis Grizzlies, it was Coach Phil Jackson that proved the main instigator behind it all. He frequently has joked to Pau that the Lakers were on the raw end of the deal when they acquired him from Memphis in February 2008 for Kwame Brown, Aaron McKie, Javaris Crittenton, two first-round picks and the rights to Marc, whom the Lakers drafted with a second-round pick in 2007. Jackson even predicted before Tuesday's game that Marc "would beat the ... out of" Pau even though Pau just earned Western Conference player of the week honors for the seventh time in his 10-year career and has averaged a team-leading 25.3 points on 52.5% shooting and 10.3 rebounds in 38.3 minutes per contest. Pau had the last laugh, scoring 21 points on nine-of-16 shooting with 13 rebounds, while Marc scored 11 points on three-for-eight shooting with eight boards.
Pau didn't waste any time, drawing an offensive foul on Marc and then throwing down an alley-oop from Lamar Odom. On one play, Pau appeared in triple-threat position, drove right and then used his shoulder to create separation over Marc. On another play, Pau drove baseline and performed a wrap-around dunk over Marc.
The trash-talking didn't stop, though.
Marc conceded Pau's superiority, but insisted he's still stronger than his brother. That led Pau to challenge him to a weightlifting contest. The back-and-forth exchanges don't reveal any tension between Jackson and Pau, as it speaks to Jackson's wanting to needle Pau anyway possible to show his affection for him and to push him. There's no contentiousness between Pau and Marc either, as the two enjoyed sushi Monday night and talk frequently each week.
Still, there's nothing like a sibling rivalry.
2. Lamar Odom helps all over the place: Forgive me if you've heard this one before, but it's impossible not to mention it. Countless times through the preseason and the four regular-season games thus far, the Lakers have seen Odom dominate the post and glass, fire outside shots and set up teammates through outlet passes, timely screens and leadership presence. But it's still a marvel to see.
That's why it's fitting that his stat line of 17 points on six-of-seven shooting, eight rebounds and six assists made him the 29th NBA player to reach 11,000 points, 6,000 rebounds and 3,000 assists. His swing pass to Derek Fisher resulted in an easy three-pointer. His pick for Shannon Brown resulted in an up-and-under. Odom picked up a loose ball, fired an outlet pass to Brown, who drove in for a right-handed layup, and Theo Ratliff converted on the putback. And Odom hit numerous jumpers on the block to keep the defense honest.
Most important, however, was that part of Odom's 34 minutes came with the Lakers' second unit in Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, Brown and Ratliff. The Killer B's (Blake, Barnes and Brown) have consistently meshed well among the starters, but the entire reserve unit still makes mistakes. That's why Odom's presence helped so much in minimizing those errors and making his teammates comfortable playing with him. These kinds of opportunities will pay off once Andrew Bynum returns around Thanksgiving, when Odom will assume the bench role.
3. Kobe Bryant makes O.J. Mayo look ridiculous: Bryant's knee obviously continues to get better, and there was no better way to take another step than go through what amounted to a practice-shooting session. Mayo appeared incredibly intimidated on defense, and Bryant took full advantage by scoring 21 points on seven-of-13 shooting. He showed effective elevation when he pulled back for jumpers. He showed his quickness when on an isolation play, resulting in an open shot. And he punished the Memphis zone defense with a pair of consecutive three-pointers. A little head-scratching that Tony Allen wasn't assigned to Bryant, considering his success against him with Boston in the 2010 NBA Finals. But Bryant took full advantage.
4. Ron Artest struggles against defending Rudy Gay: Even if Artest insists that team defense has the most importance, he takes pride in shutting down scorers. In this case, Jackson remarked that Artest struggled while defending Gay last season because his bulk prevented him from matching Gay's quickness. Despite entering training camp weighing 250 pounds and having increased mobility, Artest didn't exactly give Gay fits. Gay scored 30 points on 12-of-18 shooting, including a three of three from three-point range.
To be fair, Artest didn't guard him all the time, often switching so the Lakers had help inside. But for all the shots that featured Artest not allowing Gay to breathe, there were plenty of sequences in which Artest couldn't keep up with Gay's quickness, resulting in open shots that Gay converted.
5. Phil Jackson still wants more: Jackson entered the news conference room with a tone suggesting that the Lakers lost. He sternly joked that the Lakers spent the second half watching the election coverage, lamented the 19 turnovers and the fact that Memphis outscored them 30-24 in the third quarter. Gasol wished he didn't have to return with 5:24 remaining in the game. And the bench stressed the need to improve, despite featuring some signs of progress, such as Barnes overcoming his six-for-16 shooting with 14 rebounds and effective cuts in the lane, and Ebanks slamming home an alley-oop lob from Blake.
The Lakers have mostly played with the professionalism, effort and pacing needed to get through a long season. But it is four games, after all. Jackson's displeasure at the blown lead, his limited praise for Gasol's performance and no mention at all about Odom clearly shows his expectation that the Lakers must not try to mail in performances when it becomes more tempting to do so during the NBA dog days.
Quote of the Night: "We had two people at every position that were quality players. Except Salley for Shaq." -- Lakers Coach Phil Jackson on the depth of the 1999-2000 team.
-- Mark Medina
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Upper photo: Memphis center Marc Gasol, front, tries to pass as his older brother, Lakers center Pau Gasol, defends during the Lakers' 124-105 victory Tuesday at Staples Center. Credit: Jeff Gross / Getty Images
Lower photo: Lakers forward Lamar Odom tries to beat Memphis guard Mike Conley to a loose ball during the second half. Credit: Danny Moloshok / Reuters