Boxscore: Lakers 90, Grizzlies 82
Offensive Efficiency: Lakers 94.7, Grizzlies 86.3
True Shooting %: Lakers 57.2%, Grizzlies 43.1%
Kobe Bryant makes another appearance in this section and I have a feeling it won’t be his last. Kobe controlled this game and put his imprint on it from the opening tip. In the first quarter he tallied 11 points on 4-6 shooting and set up his mates brilliantly by dishing out 5 assists. He worked inside and out, on and off the ball, and did everything he could to show the Grizz that this was going to be a hard night to hold him down. Aiding his cause was his drawing two quick fouls on Tony Allen, which brought OJ Mayo into the game to guard him instead of the all-defensive wing that he’s tangled with since his days in Boston. With Mayo in the game, Kobe got even more aggressive, calling for the ball early in possessions and making the Grizzlies commit extra defenders to him by attacking the paint off the dribble. By breaking down the D, the Grizz got into scramble mode and that only opened up the rest of the floor for the rest of the team. By the time the game was over, Kobe totaled 26 points on 11-22 shooting and had 9 assists. Not too bad for the guy we keep wanting to do a bit less but can’t help but continue to give us his all.
As an aside, one thing I need to acknowledge is the work that Kobe does in the post. We often marvel at Kobe’s footwork on the perimeter, what with his triple threat arsenal and work off the dribble that includes a variety of jab steps, pivots, and step throughs that befuddle defenders. But the way he uses his footwork to work the post is just as impressive. He moves into position so well, holds off and seals his man, and then is able to move to the ball to make the catch without surrendering any of the real estate he fought so hard for. He’s simply a monster on the block in a way that few big men can match. Tonight he was tremendous in this regard, consistently outworking his man to the benefit of his own offense and for the Lakers’ offense overall.
(Honorable mention goes out to Gasol, Bynum, and Barnes here. They too played fantastic and could have easily taken up the space above that was dedicated to Kobe. On the night they put up lines of 13 points and 15 rebounds, 15 points and 15 rebounds, and 15 points and 10 rebounds respectively and were the guys that did all the dirty work to help the Lakers win. Most impressive is how this trio outrebounded the entire Grizzlies team by themselves. Just tremendous work by those three.)
Many have been saying it for years but there were some of us that found value in the little things, the intangibles. But, it must be said tonight: Derek Fisher is bringing less to the table than at any other point in his career and his game, at increasing frequency, is hurting his team when he’s on the floor. Tonight he was 0-3 from the field and went scoreless in his 24 minutes. This, in and of itself isn’t a big deal when Kobe has it going and several other Lakers are having good offensive nights. However, even though he had 5 assists he had the same number of turnovers and made several poor reads with his passes that didn’t count as a turnover but also weren’t very good plays. Fisher’s a true warrior and he’ll fight every second he’s on the floor. He still makes good plays – deflections, picking up charges, the assists – and his leadership is still something this team needs. However as the negatives continue to pile up, it’s getting harder for those good things to be noticed.
The Lakers had 27 turnovers tonight. Let that number sink in for a moment.
They came on all variety of mistakes too. They happened by getting stripped when driving to the basket. They happened on bad passes to the wing that got picked off. They happened on bad passes to the post where the passer didn’t wait for the post man to get a good seal before trying to enter the ball. They happened on post men bringing the ball low after making a catch or when getting stripped when they didn’t respond well to the double team. But mostly, they just kept happening. By the end of the game, when it was clear the Lakers were going to win, the Lakers still gave the ball away and it was kind of funny. Their last offensive possession (before the one that ran the clock out) they turned the ball over trying to pass the ball back out to the top after securing an offensive rebound.
Most teams can’t win with that number of miscues and if it weren’t for the edge on the boards and Kobe’s brilliant work, the Lakers would have been most teams. They must be better about taking care of the ball.
The Play of the Game:
Tonight, it was a tie for this honor. First was Kobe Bryant making a vintage move to the baseline around Rudy Gay and throwing down a two handed dunk after going under the rim to shield himself from the help defender. Kobe still maneuvers on the baseline like an artist and this move was a testament to that.
Second was Pau Gasol, king of the fast break. For the last few years, there’s probably not a player on the Lakers (besides Odom) that I’ve felt as comfortable leading a break as Gasol. Tonight, he again flashed the skills that’s inspired that confidence when he went behind the back to Bynum who finished with the lay-in plus the foul. Simply a great play.