Not sure if the Lakers should have even shown up for this game if they were going to put forward the type of effort they displayed against the Grizzlies. Sloppy play, suspect effort and decision making, and Memphis’ ability to take advantage of it all led to the Lakers getting mauled 104-85. They’ve now lost 3 of 4 at home and the “best” loss was the 16 point loss on Christmas.
The game started out well enough with Pau Gasol going to work against Zach Randolph all over the court. Pau hit his first three shots (two jumpers and a running hook) and things were looking much like the past two Lakers games where inside play and controlled offense would rule the day.
However, it just wasn’t meant to be. Soon after the Lakers showed that they could control the interior with their big men, they decided to shift their offensive focus to the outside and get lax with their passes while doing it. Turnovers and inattentiveness all while the Grizz played to their strengths meant that the Lakers found themselves in a dog fight with a hungry team that wanted this game badly.
Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay consistently attacked and scored easily against a Lakers defense that was step slow in their rotations both on the interior and perimeter. The only Laker that looked in tune with what the team wanted to accomplish on defense was Andrew Bynum who contested shots and rebounded well, but he alone (even with his 5 blocked shots) couldn’t stop an entire Grizzlies group. So as Memphis continued to attack and Bynum went to the bench to rest, the Lakers deficit only grew and ultimately the home team trailed by 9 at the half.
In the 3rd quarter the hope was that the Lakers lackadaisical play would cease and they’d finally make a push. However, the opposite occurred. In their first three possessions the Lakers had a turnover, a missed Kobe jumper early in the clock, and another turnover. The Grizzlies pushed the lead to 13 and ultimately seized control.
Kobe tried to combat Memphis’ lead by getting aggressive and to a certain extent he was successful. Working mostly in isolations, Kobe hit an array of shots that reminded everyone of how great a scorer he can be. But that fantastic work by #24 came with the price of his teammates falling out of the rhythm of the game and ultimately losing their feel for contributing. It’s difficult to really blame Kobe for looking to score in the manner that he did, but at the same time it was easy to see that his approach wasn’t necessarily getting the team anywhere in the big picture. Even though the Lakers were able to cut into the Grizz lead, the success wasn’t sustainable as Kobe started to miss shots and the Lakers’ defense never found a way to get the stops that they really needed. By the time the third period ended, the Lakers found their deficit had ballooned to 17 and the game was essentially over.
So, down the Lakers went again. The frustrations that we thought were mostly behind the team reared their ugly heads again. That said, at this point, I’m still not panicking. What ails the Lakers aren’t unfixable, fatal flaws but rather issues that can be addressed and worked through. It won’t be easy, but with better focus and commitment this team can find their stride. We saw it against the Hornets and for most of the game against the 76ers. And with a favorable home schedule coming up, this team definitely has it in them to make a push. I understand that losses like this are frustrating, but I actually don’t see this game as part of the bigger set of issues that was bothering the team in it’s really poor stretch but really the case of the Lakers taking the Grizzlies lightly. Maybe that’s a false assumption on my part, but for the entire first half I felt like the Lakers were still right in the game even though they mostly trailed. It wasn’t until the team couldn’t find it’s stride in the third that I was even slightly concerned and even 4 minutes into the 4th period I thought a run was eminent. In the end, it wasn’t their night but that’s a different feeling than the one of utter frustration that I felt just a couple of weeks ago. I think it’s going to take some time but I still feel very good about the team.