Tonight was yet another must-win game for the Lakers. This time the team they had to take down was the Memphis Grizzlies. Being in a race for the final seed in the playoffs with the Utah Jazz, tonight was an important one. The Jazz were able to win their game against the New Orleans Hornets, so the Lakers needed to win to stay a half game ahead of the Jazz. The Grizzlies are no joke, and the Lakers couldn’t afford to take them lightly.
The Lakers seemed to come out of the gate with some energy. Pau started off hitting his first three shots, which was a good sign for not only the rest of the game, but the rest of the season. He looked to be healthy, for the most part. The Kobe to Pau pick-n-roll was really working for them in the quarter. Earl Clark once again brought his A-game. He scored seven straight points for the Lakers at one point in the quarter. The Lakers defense was also great. They were able to hold the Grizzlies to 40% shooting, and went into the second quarter up 25-18.
The second quarter started off a little chippy. It was a battle of the Gasol brothers. Marc threw an elbow that hit Pau in the face. A flagrant was called, and Marc was just a tad angry after that. The Pau and Kobe pick-n-roll was working again in the quarter. Kobe actually sat for a whole two and a half minutes, the longest he’s sat in over two games. For some reason, the wheels started to fall off on defense. The Lakers gave up a 14-5 run that had the Lakers lead down to four. Kobe hit the last shot of the quarter, a ridiculous and-one that gave the Lakers a seven point lead at halftime.
The Lakers started the third quarter in terrible fashion. Memphis started the quarter on a 10-0 run. Dwight finally ended the run with a free throw (!!). The Lakers couldn’t hold onto the ball if their lives depended on it. Pau made the first basket of the quarter with 5:55 left. 40 seconds later, Dwight picked up his fourth foul of the game, and was taken out. That seemed to rejuvenate them a bit. The Lakers went on a run of their own, 9-0, and went into the fourth quarter up 68-63.
Earl Clark was the story to start the quarter. He had an amazing block on what would have been a dunk by Quincy Pondexter. With six minutes left in the game, Dwight picked up his fifth foul, and had to come out of the game again. The Grizzlies took the lead, but on the next possession, Steve Blake hit a three. Mike Conley came right back with a three of his own, putting the Grizzlies up 80-79.
With 20 seconds left, Kobe took a mid-range shot, but missed. That shot would have put the Lakers up by three. Mike Conley brought the ball up, and took a shot. He missed, and Dwight Howard grabbed the rebound. Zach Randolph fouled him, sending Howard to the line with a one point lead, and 4. 1 seconds remaining. Howard missed the first free throw, and made the second (!!!!). With the Lakers up by two, the Grizzlies took a timeout. After the inbound at half-court, Conley drove to the rim, but missed the layup. Some people would argue that there was a foul, but nothing was called.
The Lakers won the game by a score of 86-84.
Kobe didn’t have a spectacular game. Having played 43 minutes this game, you could tell he was exhausted. He shot 10-23. He had 23 points to go along with 9 assists, 5 rebounds, and 4 turnovers.
Pau looked great tonight. He had his mid-range game going all night long. He scored 19 points on 8-14 shooting. He also added 9 rebounds.
Dwight had an off game. He only took seven shots, making three of them. He had 9 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 turnovers. With his foul trouble, Earl Clark played big minutes (37). He scored 13 points on 5-8 shooting, and also added 5 rebounds. Antawn Jamison also scored 13 points and grabbed 5 boards.
The Lakers next game is on Sunday against Chris Paul and the rest of Lob City. The Clippers have struggled lately, going 2-3 in their last five games. The Lakers need to keep this defense up if they want a shot at beating the Clippers. They also need to minimize their turnovers (18 tonight). Being in a race to make the playoffs, and a game against the little brother Clippers should bring out a motivated Lakers team.