Lakers/Grizzlies: Kobe Closes Door In The Clutch

Darius Soriano —  February 23, 2010

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What a finish.

In what is becoming standard operating procedure in games that the Lakers play against the Grizzlies, this game was a close one that came down to the final possession.  Only, in this game, there wasn’t a Kobe pass and an Artest miss.  It was all Kobe and he left no doubt down the stretch who would be the guy to take the last shot.  And while this game shouldn’t have needed another Kobe game winner (you can add the Grizz to the Heat, Bucks, Kings, and Celtics on the list of teams that have suffered defeat by Kobe daggers in the final seconds), I think we can all agree that we’ll take it.  In a game that saw all the ups and downs and shifts of momentum that drive fans crazy, it was Kobe that saved the day with another batch of heroics.  It never gets old watching #24 in the closing seconds of a tight game.

The game started out with the Lakers taking control early by doing what they’d done in the five games with Kobe out of the line up.  The ball movement was crisp and directed toward the post.  Both Gasol and Bynum got touches early and took advantage of Memphis inside.  Kobe was working the offense to get good looks on mid-range post ups and penetration.  On defense the Lakers were chasing the Grizzlies around screens and contesting shots both on the perimeter and on the inside.  The pressure led to turnovers and fast break chances that the Lakers converted for easy buckets.  Everything was looking good and if the Lakers would have continued with this style of play, they likely would have maintained their eleven point first quarter lead and comfortably won the game.  Alas, it was not meant to be.

In the middle quarters, Memphis once again showed why they are a tough match up for the Lakers.  The combination of versatile scoring from Randolph, savvy and hustle from Marc Gasol, and relentless dribble attack from Rudy Gay got the Grizz back into the game. The Lakers added to Memphis’ success by an utter reluctance to go with what worked early.  Too many rushed offensive sets dictated by dribble penetration.  Too many one-pass-then-jumper offensive possessions.  Too many times the Lakers played a style that was just sloppy, leading to turnovers (17 for the game) and Memphis was more than capable of capitalizing.  By the time the the 3rd quarter ended, the Grizz had a 5 point lead and had seen leads as big as eleven.  But just as the game had turned for Memphis in the middle portions, the Lakers would control the bookends.

In the fourth quarter the Lakers would find their stride again, especially on defense.  Almost every Memphis shot would be challenged and every rebound would be contested.  And slowly but surely the Lakers would come back and make this a game in the final minutes.  Yes there was faltering down the stretch.  The Lakers would miss five consecutive free throws and would see a deficit in the final two minutes would match that miss total.  But in the end, the Lakers would make enough plays to pull out the win.  Scratch that, Kobe would make enough plays to pull out the win.  When the Lakers needed him most, Kobe was there with a long two pointer to cut the lead to 3.  When the deficit was still three, Kobe would nail an even longer three pointer to tie the game as the players at the end of the Grizzlies bench buried their heads in their hands.  Then, after a missed Pau jumper and even more important FT’s missed by OJ Mayo, Kobe would have one last chance to make his mark on this game and make his return even more memorable.  Of a beautifully diagrammed inbounds play (give Phil credit here, he drew up a fantastic play that sprung Kobe clean), Kobe would circle to the extended right wing and find himself wide open.  Much like the game winner against Sacramento earlier this season, Kobe knew exactly what to do with the game on the line with no defender in sight.  In a moment that has become all too familiar for Lakers’ opponents, Kobe rose up and nailed another game winning shot.  The fact that there were  4 seconds left really didn’t matter as OJ Mayo’s shot – a very good look, though over an outstretched Pau Gasol arm – went long.  Ballgame.

As I mentioned earlier, watching Kobe close out games never gets old.  Yes, the team could have played better.  Once again our back up guards played forgettable (their stats were okay, but they had no impact and played outside the system for most of the night).  And we had another game where our three point shooting was sub par.  Plus Artest shot poorly again (though he did play inspired defense in the 4th quarter).  I haven’t even mentioned Bynum being unable to stay out of foul trouble for the entire second half and how he ended the night with only four rebounds.  Nor have I mentioned that Odom played without the energy that he’d displayed over the past two weeks when Kobe was out.   You know why none of that got mentioned?  Kobe made me forget until now.  He’s been doing that a lot this season.  Cherish these moments, Lakers fans.  We’re blessed with watching one of the all-timers make his mark on this league.

Darius Soriano

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22 responses to Lakers/Grizzlies: Kobe Closes Door In The Clutch

  1. Phil Jackson was asked: What is it about this guy [Kobe] that lets him hit those last second shots.

    Phil: “He’s Lucky”

    Classic.

  2. Odd isen’t it. Camby hurt, Howard out for season, Mcgrady out with knee injury. Trades at mid-season equal injury this year.

  3. He’s Back…

    Great to have Black Mamba back doing what he does best. Hitting the game winner like he does so many times. The Cavs should take a pre- game picture of that… hahaha. The real class and MVP of the league.

    Go Lakers… another 3peat!

  4. To continue on from the last thread…

    Ray,
    You are 100 % right. Fans on this sight and maybe everywhere overreact after almost every game on everything ranging from players to coaching to the team as a whole. Guys… one game or even a few games in a row does not a player or a season make. If Artest has one bad game shooting it doesn’t take away that he has been our best 3 pt shooter this season. If we lose a game it doesn’t take all the other W’s off the board. And even if Derek Fisher plays one average game it doesn’t make him an average PG all of the sudden. This team is what it is. We are not adding anyone and everyone besides maybe Bynum will be the player in June that they were in October. Maybe Bynum has the youth and the talent to become a better player throughout the season… but other than that there is no reason to jump to new conclusions from game to game.

  5. Are the Lakers ever going to play up to their potential?

  6. Um Ken, all of those players are known to be injury-prone.

    Tomorrow night is going to be a legit test for the Lakers. New look Mavs are going to be out to make a statement.

    I’ll take the result of tonight’s game knowing that not much has changed. Kobe Bryant is still absolutely ridiculous. It’s incredible that I will have grown up watching one of the greatest players to ever pick up a basketball. Kobe constantly amazes me.

    Our guards sans Kobe continue to play poorly. LO has returned to his inconsistent ways. Bynum gets a reprieve from me. (Just happy the game ended with him healthy).

    This team needs to start putting it together over the final 25 games. Start tightening the rotation a bit, get Sasha and Luuuuuke back healthy. Hope that Ron and Shannon can improve on their knowledge of the Triangle. Hope Fisher can return to playing manageable basketball as opposed to the atrocious play as of late.

  7. darius, thanks for this wrap up, I just sat there and smiled, it was so cool. kobe was also so cool about it all, pretty impressive to deliver daggers like that and be so calm about it.
    LO and drew gotta work on consistency, Ron too.
    I have found that I don’t enjoy reading the game threads as much any more, or maybe I go back the next day for grins, I could imagine this game was full of gripes, about how we’ve blown the lead, the sky is falling, etc, then about late in the 4th, I’d see, “yes! kobe time!” etc, then, wow, amazing, knew we’d win, etc etc.
    but anyway, it was a pretty darned amazing finish!
    you’re right, we are watching history in the making, like watching babe ruth, and not knowing he’d be an all world legend one day.
    I was also fortunate enough to live and be a fan during the magic-bird era, that too was classic.

  8. I am a little worried, the World Champion Lakers have almost been taken out twice this season by this Griz team. We won tonight though which was very good, but are they that good of a team, they are .500 aren’t they? We should be cleaning up the court with teams like this as far as I am concerned. But I am happy about the W, don’t get me wrong here.

  9. In case you all haven’t heard, Kobe “The Black Mamba” Bean Bryant has been hitting game winners every month since October. :)

  10. I wouldn’t blame Drew for only getting four rebounds. I saw him block out on his man many times on the defensive boards, only to see the ball bounce away from him to another Laker. I don’t remember even one time where his man got an offensive board over him. He did close a couple times on shooters, forcing misses that the Griz bigs cleaned up, but those aren’t his fault.

    He also lobbed a perfect alley-oop to Pau, who blew the layup. So he’s at least looking for his teammates sometimes. The biggest downer to his game tonight were the two or three shots near the rim in the second half where he was off balance.

    Kobe is just amazing. Conley is a perfect matchup for Fish. Ron and Lamar had off games, but it happens.

    This year’s Memphis team gets up for games with the Cavs and Lakers. They’re tough, all they need is more depth and experience. I read a column that was linked to ESPN in which it was mentioned that nine players on the current Memphis roster were obtained either directly or indirectly (via cap space) by virtue of the Pau trade. Anyone who thinks that trade was more lopsided than the Boston/Garnett-Minny/Jefferson trade is crazy. Just look at the respective records of Minny and Memphis this season, which was two seasons after those trades. In addition, Memphis still has two 1st-round picks coming to them as a result of that trade (the Laker pick in 2010, and their own protected 1st-rounder that they reacquired from the Wizards in exchange for Crittenton).

  11. Ken (2),

    You say,

    ” Trades at mid-season equal injury this year.”

    but your empirical support for that claim is confused.

    You missed the injury to Brewer (who otherwise would have been guarding Kobe)–and McGrady is more gassed than injured (though he did “bump knees”).

    Some players who were not traded (like Sasha) have just gotten injured.

    Maybe you’d like to soften that wild generalization just a teensy weensy bit?

  12. Dude, I saw it flash on the screen since it was aired here live. If I am not mistaken, these are the assets that directly or indirectly went to MEM due to the Gasol trade:

    – Zach Randolph (cap space freed up)
    – Marc Gasol (Lakers 07 2nd)
    – Darrell Arthur (Lakers 08 1st)
    – Javaris Crittenton (Lakers 07 1st)
    – Sam Young (not sure how, perhaps via WAS)
    – OJ Mayo (via sucking and trade w/ KLove)
    – 2010 Lakers 1st
    – Steven Hunter (via cap space)
    – Nuggets 1st

  13. I hope the Lakers hit their stride real soon. Im confident they will. This will be a playoffs for the ages. The First round in the western conference is going to make for some great basketball.

    Really looking forward to watching Oklahoma in the playoffs, their a young team but I can see them advancing to the secound round as long as they don’t end up playing The Nuggets or Lakers. They rebound very well and play tough defense and have an all-world scorer.

  14. On a sort of related note (kind of stretching it here, but there were two Spaniards named Gasol on the floor last night!)…but it appears that another Spaniard on Portland’s team is seeking to leave because he is not comfortable playing there anymore since his buddy Sergio Rodriguez bolted town.

    I think that the best Spaniard baller of all time should try to persuade Rudy to give the NBA another shot, and give LA a look as well. I wouldn’t underestimate the pull that Pau would have with regards to something like this.

    (link is in Spanish)http://www.marca.com/2010/02/24/baloncesto/acb/1267001380.html’,’103′

  15. Using the Gasol steal of the century logic, take a look what we got for Shaq:

    Odom
    Farmar-(Miami’s draft pick)
    Pau-(via Caron Butler, then Kwame)
    Shannon Brown/Ammo ( via Brian Grant CAP space to sign Radmonovich)

    It’s definitely a strech but in hindsight, we made out pretty good…

    JLV

  16. The Dude Abides,
    I agree with you about Bynum. The biggest problem is that people want to examine the statistics after the game to tell you how the players played – say John Hollinger. There is so much about basketball that is within the game, but not measured by statistics. Even when we have actually seen the game, years later what we have seen is distorted by what we saw and read later. This is my biggest gripe about comparing players from different eras – or about trying to define a #1 in any sport.

  17. With all due respect to the Gasol, Shaq was an altogether different beast at that point in time. I would still say we got worked over in that trade, by not getting D-Wade. I remember reading somewhere that Riley absolutely said No to throwing Wade in. That was prescient, to say the least.

    On a side note: I’ve given up hope that the currently constructed Laker team will ever be a seamless Triangle unit. Although, the improved defensive focus is a good base for our playoff run, a part of me just wishes for a bit more faith from our guard corps in the Tri.

  18. Using the Pau Gasol Steal of the Century logic, look what we got for Shaq:

    Odom
    Farmar (Miami’s draft pick)
    Pau (via Caron Butler then Kwame)
    Shannon Brown/Ammo (via Brian Grant CAP space to sign Radmonovich)

    I know it’s a strech but in hindsight doesn’t look too bad at all…

    jlv

  19. What an exciting finish. Man Kobe really was amazing last night. The rest seemed to help a lot as he looked like a young Kobe last night in dunking and getting to the basket.

    As for the rest of the team, I am really down on them.
    Pau & Drew – They can’t complain about touches this game. They got the ball, just weren’t very effective
    Artest – Obviously an off game, but I am still worried about him keeping small forwards in front of him. He has lost a great deal of foot speed
    Odom – What happened to the Odom of the last 4 games? Does he need to start to be effective?
    Farmer – Disapointed in his play the last 2 games. We need him to step up and take the job from Fisher
    Fisher – I’m really down on him. He did hit 2 big threes, but he just isn’t good enough night in and night out to compete against the point guards of the west
    Brown – I have been down on him more than anyone. He is just playing out of control. I understand that Phil probably tells the bench players to be aggressive, but you still have to play smart out there.

    I think this is going to be an interesting stretch run. The biggest question I have is, how do we get everyone else to play up to the same level with Kobe in as they did when Kobe was out?

  20. This was MVP Kobe! If he plays, not with these stats, but with this mentality, then he would win the MVP over Lebron. When Kobe shoots roughly 20 shots, the Lakers have a great chance to win. And that’s when the other teammates play well. Kobe took less than 20 shots while hist teammates played horrible! Usually when his teammates re playing bad, Kobe attempts to takeover. Not tonight. And i think that this is a mental change by Kobe compared to earlier in the season.

    This is incredibly important. When Kobe shoots roughly 20 shots he is in facilitator mode. This is when he makes his teammates much much better. I mean, let’s face it, if Kobe wasn’t there last night and the rest of the players played the same way, the Lakers may have lost by 45 points.

    Kobe played this way during last year’s playoffs, and I hope he plays this way the rest of the way out. Kobe’s play resulted in a win away from home against the Grizzlies when every other player played HORRIBLE basketball.