Five things to take away from Lakers' 93-84 victory over Memphis Grizzlies
I'll detail later why this game isn't exactly something the team will tack on its resume. But the way the Lakers closed out the game serves as the right momentum boost heading into the Lakers' matchup with the Boston Celtics on Thursday. That game will surely prove how much, if any, the Lakers actually improved since their underwhelming loss last week to the Celtics, but the Lakers surely will feel good the next two days knowing they captured the moment, particularly after avenging their two earlier losses this season to the Grizzlies.
Far too often, it appeared the Lakers would have plenty of runs then fail to stop Memphis from responding. The Lakers changed course in the second quarter by holding Memphis to 16 points. More importantly, they changed course in the final 5:46 of the fourth quarter where the Lakers held the Grizzlies to three-of-nine shooting, forced three turnovers and featured a Lamar Odom stuff on Zach Randolph. Part of Phil Jackson's criticisms regarding his team's play against sub-.500 teams involved the fact that the Lakers often lacked the proper preparation. Even if the execution was far from perfect this time around, the Lakers made the necessary adjustments to secure the win.
2. The Lakers made the game unnecessarily close because of turnovers
Credit the Lakers for securing the win through adverse circumstances. Criticize them for allowing such a scenario to happen. The game wouldn't have proven as difficult had the Lakers not committed 14 turnovers, which resulted in Memphis scoring 15 points in transition. The Lakers entered the contest knowing that area would be a concern, considering the 20 turnovers they committed in a 104-85 loss on Jan. 2 to Memphis and the 14 they had in a 98-96 loss on Nov. 30 to the Grizzlies. It also appeared the Lakers were more cognizant of running a deliberate offense and making better decisions, as indicated by their five first-half turnovers. But the Lakers' failure to secure the ball allowed Memphis to come back, particularly when Kobe Bryant (six total) and Derek Fisher committed consecutive turnovers and allowed Memphis to cut the gap to 78-76 with 7:01 remaining in the game.
Had the Lakers shot better than 21 of 35 from the line, a measly 60%, the refrigerator would've been closed much earlier. Should the Lakers replicate this kind of performance at the line against, say, Boston, well already chalk it up as a loss. The number of attempts the Lakers earned against Memphis showed that the they appeared more aggressive on offense, but that's not going to mean as much should they fail to cash in on free throws. Bryant did his job with a seven-of-seven mark. Ron Artest (two of six) could also be partly excused because two of them came after Marc Gasol's inadvertent elbow clouded his vision. But Odom (four of seven), Gasol (five of nine) and Andrew Bynum (three of six) collectively made the outcome more difficult to secure because of their misses at the line.
4. Odom and Artest hit crucial late-game shots
Just when it appeared the outcome was in doubt, the Lakers secured a sizable lead thanks to some critical shots. It started with Bryant kicking the ball out to the top of the key to Odom, who drained a three-pointer that gave the Lakers an 81-76 lead with 6:17 left in the fourth quarter. On his way to the bench following Memphis' timeout, Odom chattered in an enthusiastic mood, prompting Jackson to smile in amusement considering the game was far from over. The Lakers made sure Memphis didn't answer, not only by making defensive stands but by continuing to hit shots when it mattered. Off the timeout, Bryant drove the lane and missed, but Gasol grabbed the rebound and kicked it out to Artest, whose far corner three-pointer widened the lead to 84-76 with 5:46 left in the game. Two possessions later, a pick-and-roll sequence between Bryant and Gasol resulted in El Spaniard receiving an open look on the far wing. He then fed Odom as he cut into the lane, converted on a three-point play and gave the Lakers a secure 87-76 advantage with 4:43 left.
5. The Lakers played aggressive offensively
Forget about the shooting percentages in some of these finishes. Bryant's 19 points on six-of-17 shooting, seven rebounds and six assists showed his continual effort in keeping his aggressive offensive approach and looking to share the pie with others. The latter facet wouldn't have happened, if not for increased aggressiveness. And whether it was Gasol (17 points on six-of-11 shooting, nine rebounds) continuously getting himself open in the post, Artest (13 points on four-of-11 shooting and three of six from downtown) feeling more in rhythm within the offense, Odom (15 points on five-of-14 shooting, 11 rebounds) constantly moving on offense and Fisher (10 points on four-of-seven shooting) showing more reliability from the field, Bryant had the supporting cast. Some examples of quality offense: Bryant feeding Gasol as he cut through the lane, Gasol and Bryant throwing lobs to Bynum, Artest feeding bounce passes to Gasol and Artest firing a cross-court pass to Fisher for an open three-pointer.
E-mail the Lakers blog at email@example.com
Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is fouled by Memphis guard Tony Allen as he attacks the basket in the third quarter Monday night. Credit: Mike Brown / EPA
Photo: Lakers power forward Pau Gasol looks to score against Memphis power forward Zach Randolph in the first half Monday night in Memphis. Credit: Alan Spearman / Associated Press