Lakers vs. Grizzlies: Fans lose patience with sleepwalking champs
Grizzlies 104, Lakers 85 (final)
Sure, the Lakers have won the last two NBA titles. But for the sellout crowd at Staples Center on Sunday, it was strictly a case of "What have you done for us lately?"
And judging from the crowd's reaction, the answer was "not much."
Even a blistering third quarter by Kobe Bryant, who scored 17 points in 10 minutes, couldn't wake the sleepwalking Lakers in their first game of 2011. And the fans registered their disappointment with boos.
Loud boos. Long boos. And lots of boos. Thankfully, perhaps, for the Lakers, not many in the crowd stayed to the final whistle, though.
The loss was the fourth in six games for the Lakers -- and all four have been by at least 15 points.
Bryant finished with 28 points on 10-of-22 shooting. But he was the only Laker with more than 10 points. The Lakers also turned the ball over 19 times -- leading to 18 Memphis points -- and never led after the first period.
The white flag came out with 4 minutes 36 seconds to play when Coach Phil Jackson emptied his bench, sending in Joe Smith, Luke Walton and Derrick Caracter.
The Grizzlies, who have beaten the Lakers twice in three meetings this season, had five players score in double figures, led by Rudy Gay with 27 and Zach Randolph with 21. Andrew Bynum had a game-high 11 rebounds for the Lakers.
Grizzlies 79, Lakers 62 (end of third quarter)
After a lethargic first half, Kobe Bryant came out with his jump shot blazing in the third quarter, scoring 17 of the Lakers' first 21 points in the period. That cut the once-large Memphis lead to just a bucket several times. Bryant also did a good job getting to the line, drawing three fouls.
Bryant, with 24 points, is the only Laker in double figures. Memphis, meanwhile, has gotten 17 points from Rudy Gay and 19 more from Zach Randolph. The period ended with scattered boos from the Lakers faithful.
Grizzlies 48, Lakers 39 (halftime)
This one could be setting up for Kobe Bryant.
He sat out the first five minutes of the quarter before coming on 6:48 before the intermission to hit a big three-pointer, helping the Lakers close to within a point. But eight points by Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph to close the half helped pushed Memphis comfortably back in front.
Aside from that one shot, Bryant has been a nonfactor, scoring seven points on two-of-six shooting. But you know he won't finish the night that way.
Here's how bad it's been for the Lakers: Pau Gasol had an airball from the paint. And Memphis has dominated on the boards, outrebounding the Lakers, 23-18. Memphis has been unselfish, too -- the Grizzlies' 15 assists are nearly twice as many as the Lakers' eight.
While Bryant has struggled, Andrew Bynum has played well, with seven points (on three-of-six shooting), a game-high seven rebounds and a big blocked shot.
Grizzlies 23, Lakers 18 (end of first quarter)
This was the best quarter the Lakers have played all year. Given that it was also the only quarter the Lakers have played so far in 2011, it was also their worst. So what do you prefer first, the good news or the bad news?
The good news is Pau Gasol hit his only three field-goal attempts to score a team-high six points while Andrew Bynum grabbed four rebounds and had five points. That's about it for the good news, though.
As for the bad news, the Lakers committed five turnovers -- four turnovers in the opening minutes, Kobe Bryant did not hit a shot until there was just 4:41 left in the period and Laker killer Zach Randolph went off for nine points on four-of-six shooting.
Bryant finished the period one for three with two points while Memphis' Rudy Gay led all scorers with 10 points.
Pregame: Education, not revenge
The last time the Lakers saw Memphis, they wound up on the short end of a 98-96 result in Tennessee.
But the Lakers didn't have Andrew Bynum for that one, which left Coach Phil Jackson having to use Pau Gasol at times to guard his younger brother Marc. And the Grizzlies' 7-foot-1 center had a big night, falling a rebound short of a double-double.
The sibling rivalry won't be a factor in how Jackson defends Memphis on Sunday. But Bynum's return will give the Lakers a different look against forward Zach Randolph, the Grizzlies' leading scorer at 18.8 points a game
"We don't really consider that a pivotal factor. It's about who guards Zach," said Jackson, who is hoping to get some long minutes out of Bynum despite lingering soreness in the center's right knee. "Randolph's a factor in the ballgame and maybe length will help us on it and we can throw a few people at him during the course of the game, which changes it up."
Jackson said he reminded his team Sunday morning about what happened in their last meeting with Memphis, where the loss was part of a season-long four-game losing streak. But he didn't dwell on it.
"We know that was a pivotal part of our season at that point. And we don't have to go back and relive it," he said.
Which isn't to say the Lakers have completely moved on. Rematches against a team they lost to previously don't present an opportunity for revenge, Jackson said, as much as they present a chance for the Lakers to take their game to a higher level.
"We talk about it as a growth factor, not as revenge so much," Jackson said. "That's not the motivation I use. I use motivation about getting better and about improving our game."
-- Kevin Baxter
Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant goes to work in the post against Grizzlies guard Tony Allen on Sunday. Credit: Jeff Gross / Getty Images