Lakers Beat the Grizzlies at Their Own Game

Darius Soriano —  April 5, 2013

Full disclosure: this game was happening at the same time that my father in-law was celebrating a pretty big birthday. I don’t know if it makes me a bad son-in-law that I was carrying around my phone while the action played on my game-time app or not, but I’m pretty sure it confirms the fact that I’m an okay Lakers’ fan. What can I say, the push for the playoffs make it so it’s hard to turn away even when I surely should have been more engaged in the festivities around me.

Anyways, let’s just say I’m pretty glad I had the game on because this one was fun.

The Lakers took down the Grizzlies 86-84, out gritting and out grinding the team who adopted that style as their motto. This game only had 91 possessions — several fewer than the Lakers normally play at. It was played in a style that best fits the Grizzlies, but the Lakers adapted quite well to their surroundings by playing tough, physical game and matching their opponent blow for blow.

The heroes of this game were easily the Lakers’ old guard, Kobe Byrant and Pau Gasol. Both are familiar with this type of contest and took it upon themselves to lead the Lakers through the entire game.

As he’s done lately, Kobe was simply brilliant in logging a very hard 42 minutes. Facing off against no less than 4 different defenders throughout the night, Kobe had to work hard on every single possession, whether in isolation, in the P&R, or working off the ball. The Grizzlies crowded him at every opportunity, but Kobe simply continued to fight through the defense and work for makable shots. And thought he only shot 10-23 to get his 24 points, it was his drive to fight through fatigue that was just as big as every single one of those points. The Lakers needed him to do it all on offense tonight (especially with Steve Blake struggling to run the offense while Mike Conley hounded him) and Kobe provided delivered. It wasn’t the perfect night and he was forced into too many end of the clock shots to try and salvage possessions, but without his effort throughout the game, there’s no way the Lakers win this game.

As for the Spaniard, he too was great when he was needed most. With Dwight Howard struggling with fouls and having to deal with Marc Gasol’s big body, Pau played a fantastic all court game to help relieve Kobe of some of the offensive burden. The elder Gasol scored 19 points on 8-14 shooting and got his in a variety of ways. He hit spot up jumpers as the defense sagged. He hit in between floaters when he received passes out of the P&R only to see the defense step up. He was also able to get shots right at the rim out of his post up game and via hard cuts to the rim. When you add in his 9 rebounds and solid defense, Pau was a real difference maker in this game and deserves immense praise. Just as the Lakers need him most, he’s starting to find his stride.

The rest of the Lakers were a mixed bag but most contributed solidly. Jamison and Clark were both big with mirrored stat-lines of 13 points and 5 rebounds. Jamison was his usual self, mixing long jumpers with smart cuts to the rim where he could finish inside when the defense got caught looking at Kobe, Pau, or Dwight. Clark, for the 2nd straight game, showed great activity all over the floor on both sides of the ball, getting his hands on rebounds and playing a controlled offensive game. I especially liked Clark’s demeanor while on the floor, showing an attitude that reflected how tuned in he was to the action.

As mentioned earlier Dwight didn’t have his best game, getting into foul trouble in the 2nd half and never really finding an offensive rhythm against the Grizzlies’ bruising front line. But he did grab 10 rebounds and did a solid job on Zach Randolph when they were matched up in the 1st half. Steve Blake struggled with Conley’s ball pressure and made some lazy passes that really cost the Lakers in the turnover department (he had a team high 5 of the Lakers’ 18 on the night), but he also hit a pretty big three pointer in the 3rd quarter that capped off a run that brought the Lakers back into the lead after Memphis wrestled control of the game to start the 2nd half. Meeks had a really rough shooting night overall (1-5, 2 points), but hustled all over the floor on both sides of the ball and chipped in on the glass with 5 defensive rebounds.

Give loads of credit to the Grizzlies in this game as well. Several times in this game it looked like the Lakers had seized control, only Memphis to battle back and keep the game close. They were aggressive all over the floor and never looked out of sorts even when the Lakers went on a run. Mike Conley showed good poise all night and really controlled the tempo of the game on both ends, attacking with hesitation dribbles on one end and then disrupting the Lakers’ offense on the other. The big man duo of Randolph and (Marc) Gasol also played well, though Zach didn’t shoot that well in mostly settling for his mid-range jumper.

Overall, though, this game was more about the fact that the Lakers could play the Grizzlies style and still come out on top. Earlier this season there’s no way the Lakers win this game, but tonight they found a way. They clamped down on defense, contested shots, and then hit the glass hard out-rebounding the Grizzlies by 7 and only allowing 8 offensive rebounds on 48 missed field goals. Down the stretch they made enough plays to win, including a key Dwight FT to push the lead to two sandwiched between two defensive stops (including the one that sealed the game).

Considering the Lakers needed this win to stay a half game up on the Jazz, this may be their most important win of the season. They battled their hearts out and pulled it out at the end. I don’t know what this says about their playoff chances, but it definitely shows they’re going to give all they have to get there.

Darius Soriano

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19 responses to Lakers Beat the Grizzlies at Their Own Game

  1. Great game, great recap.
    On to the Clippers. It will be tough for Lakers to play only 7 guys again tho. even if Nash is available, i wouldn’t expect him at 100%. Lets go Lakers.

  2. hows delonte doing in the dleague? anybody following him?

  3. Very happy for the Lakers a good win against a very tough team, one of the toughest remaining matches they had on their schedule. Hope is very much alive…

  4. Hollnger’s system had the lakers as a 66% cf making the playoffs, with Utah at 32%. I don’t want to jinx this, but I do feel that Utah could lose a pretty decent % of their remaining games, as in addition to the other tough games on their schedule (@ GSW, Memph and at home to OKC), @ minny is no gimme, with Minny playing better of late.

  5. Darius,
    I realize you watched the game in spurts, so I will give you a pass about Clark. He was a real key. When he was in the game the Lakers seemed to have more spark and the Griz didn’t seem to know where he was – of course, he was the Laker least watched by the Griz. Hounding Blake to turn him over, making sure to be in a position to double Kobe, trying to push Pao around, an making sure not to lose sight of Dwight will do that to you.

    Even given that, Clark clearly was the X factor last night. I am not saying Kobe and Pau don’t deserve all the accolades you give them, just that Clark deserves more than just a mention.

  6. Don’t think anyone can be anything but pleasantly surprised by the results Dantoni has gotten out of Metta, Jamison, Clark, Blake and Meeks, the part of the roster that is clearly a bit more “coachable”, Metta aside.

    There is some truth in this, but it is also a bit of a reach. Meeks and Metta have not really been any more productive than they had been elsewhere. Jamison has been more efficient offensively, but a lot of that is changing his role and dramatically lowering his USG, which has gone from 26 to 18, since he went from playing on a deep lottery team to playing on a team with some major threats. It may also be partly due to Nash–a lot of these guys have better shooting numbers, and Nash has a long history of having that effect on second-line players.

    OTOH, Blake has done better under MDA than he did under either Brown or Phil, and that is exactly the kind of specific thing that Ken, Robert et al should be aware of and acknowledge. It may not really be MDA’s doing, but if he is going to get blamed for everything, then he should get credit for stuff like that.

    Clark, of course, had never done much of anything anywhere in the NBA until now, so MDA should clearly get some credit for that. OTOH, he only put Clark out there because of injuries.

    Not to pick on Robert, but one of his “gotcha” MDA questions has been “Which players is he helping?” The easy answer to that is “Blake and Clark”, if you go simply on results, as Robert has said we should do.

    But, with MDA, and almost all coaches, it is a mixed bag.

  7. True indeed Craig W. E-Clark looks to have caught his 2nd wind (so to speak) after obviously hitting the wall @ the midway-point of the season. Also, isn’t it ironic that, due to another injury (Ron-Ron this time; Pau & J. Hill previously), E-Clark is getting another opportunity to prove his worth (Literally. It’s a contract year). As I honestly feel that D’Antoni would have basically relegated E-Clark back to bench warmer status (DNPCD) by shortening the rotation to 8 players upon Pau’s return from his foot injury (as Darius speculated @ the time and I was vehemently against). Hope that he can keep it up because we’ll definitely need his athleticism and versatility against the more athletic teams (starting tomorrow afternoon against our Co-Tenants).

  8. Clark is a positive difference maker. Meeks a negative. No reason Clark can’t start at SF and Meeks go back to 8 minutes guy, The guy can’t shoot, under 40% from field and consistently gets lost on defense. There is a reason Philly didn’t resign the guy,

    Tough to keep winning with only 7 real players and would be epic if Kobe pulled this one off.

  9. Re: Meeks v. Clark, I agree it seems strange that Clark doesn’t start with Meeks coming off the bench. Hopefully MDA will make the change for the next game. I get that he wants KB24 at the 3 instead of the 2, but Clark can guard opposing 2s as he showed last night guarding Bayless (he didn’t do a great job, but just as good if not better than Meeks), and KB24 is really running point on O with Nash out. Alternatively, if Meeks misses his first two shots get him out ASAP for Clark as he is so streaky (bad and good).

  10. Man this was an awful outing by Meeks and Blake. Blake came through in the clutch, but hes was just confused most of the game with unforced turnovers and Defensive lapses. But Meeks only made one shot, and continuously got lost on defense it was sad to watch. He needs to redeem himself.

    I think Dwight lost focus for a little while in the middle of the game but overall he played some solid defense and had a few hug effort plays. Clark and Jamison really came through.

    I was a but disappointed by late in the forth though. Kobe always struggles against tony Allen and the grizzlies because he normally forces the issue. But through 3 k thought Kobe played one of his best games. He was a scorer and distributor taking what the defense game him making the best play. But in the clutch he was only looking to score which led to missed jumpers. I would’ve liked for him to take his time and look for the right play in a few of those situations. But overall he was pretty damn good.

  11. I realize MDA prefers a shorter bench – and that our bench quality is certainly not deep – but I do wish we could have 9 players in our rotation and that MDA would play them. I still don’t know if this is our quality, or if it is MDA’s preference for coaching. What I do know is that we are an older team – and increased minutes will more easily result in tired legs and injuries.

    I, however, am not sure I want Clark starting. With him coming off the bench, we get an energy player – something every bench sorely needs – and we are able to fit him in where needed. If he started he would be a three and we would lose more of his ability to cut to the basket, rebound, and body up bigger players (I know he doesn’t have a lot in his ‘back pocket’ but he does well for what we have). This way he can rotate through any of the front court positions and his approach to the game will probably remain more flexible.

    Who starts isn’t really about statistics and who can score more – balance, chemistry, and developing a role play a very large part. I think Meeks is more one-dimensional and Clark more flexible. We need the flexibility when one of our big guns (Kobe, Pau, Dwight) goes out.

  12. Lakers last 3 quality wins versus playoff teams are Memphis, Indiana and Chicago. Last 3 losses are versus Okc, Denver, Clippers and Miami. When Lakers play a team who isn’t trying to score 30 fast break points and play half court they have success.

    Mike D’Anotni is playing a dangerous game playing Kobe 40 minutes a night. Lakers were in control of the game up double digits in the 1st half and Kobe still played 42 minutes. It would seem the plan in the playoffs would be for Kobe to be the primary ball handler and Nash spot up, since he has hip and hamstring issues. But if Kobe has no legs then a matchup Lakers 9 times out of 10 would win would be gone because of a coach’s decision to play 7 guys when 13 are healthy. Lakers stand no chance of winning 16 games let alone 4 if Kobe is gassed. Luckily, the first round matchups don’t have elite sg guards.

    The team has been on a string the last 3 games defensively. Everyone is helping the helper and making it hard for teams to score. It’s also great Kobe and Pau have gone back to their two man game. That could cause problems for teams. Rotation players are healthy for the most part aside from Nash and Pau is playing more decisive. The main concern is Kobe’s minutes there’s no real break in the schedule. If Lakers jump out on Hornets early he could get some rest but given D’Antoni’s short history here he’ll play the full game no matter the score.

  13. In the 2 games in the entire year where 9 guys that Dantoni actually liked playing were available he played all 9. Those incidentally were 2 crucial losses to Washington and GSW. Otherwise injuries has limited his ability to use 9, even if he wanted to.

    So then in order to have 9 available at all times given the torrent of injuries, dantoni has to be playing guys that almost everybody feels are D leaguers with the possible exception of Ebanks, (though there is obviously some issue with that guy), to develop them so that they are available and useful for other games when the torrent of injuries shorten the available options. Of course, those minutes would have to have been in multiple games where the team is short handed and the impatient fan base is crying for W”s to overcome earlier season losses. So not really thinking there were that many real easy options out there, short of the FO stepping up and buying additional players within the constrained cap space.

  14. RR,

    My point is more of a global one. The bottom of the roster on the whole has been more reliable and more productive, overall, than most would have expected. Yes Jamison’s numbers are similar, to past numbers, but he has been reliable as a good bench alternative for some time now and is doing more intangible things in terms of energy and just stabilizing the rotation and spacing the floor than most would have expected. So I think you can add him to the list of Blake and Clark, with the key point being how he is being used.

    And even with Meeks who has not been shooting the ball great and has had some challenging moments, I don’t really really get the feeling of a guy who is on the floor where something really bad will result. For Metta, yes the numbers are similar, but he is having a pretty great year, in terms of being on the floor with defensively efficient groups.

    As for Dantoni, I would actually agree that its a bit of a mixed bag, but he clearly gets almost no credit for what has gone right and gets little recognition for how tough of an assignment he has faced, given all of the circumstances, and how there is a big flip side for most of the negatives fan cite.

  15. Harvey,

    Statheads, notably Hollinger, were very down on the Lakers’ bench, but in the preseason, most fans and MSM types thought that by adding Jamison and Meeks, retaining Hill, and being able to move Blake to a role more suitable to his ability, the Lakers’ bench would be decent, so I don’t think it has really exceeded most expectations. Ebanks’ total disappearance has been an issue.

    Jamison is being used differently, as noted, because he is on very different kind of team, and because the injuries have landed him big minutes, so I don’t really see that as an MDA thing per se,

    That said, your “yin and yang” point from yesterday is valid. Phil’s rotations were set in stone, an approach which had both plusses and minuses, The same is true of MDA’s short rotations, as we have seen. If Kobe breaks down or has a couple of 5-for-23 type nights over the last six games, that will be partly on MDA. At the same time, MDA should get some credit for performances like Clark’s last night.

    Speaking of Hollinger, he is now, and has been for months, VP of Basketball Operations for the team the Lakers beat last night.

  16. rr,

    Yes I was relying on Hollinger’s pre-season pronouncements, but just the eyeball test over the first 20 or so games seemed to confirm his point of view. So we can leave it at that.

    And ya, Hollinger is in Memphis. I wonder whether he was behind the Rudy Gay trade to Toronto as that seemed to me to be a very Hollinger type move. If you are going to dump salary, you may as well ship off a high priced contract of a guy with a pretty mediocre PER for 2 guys who are cheaper, pretty efficient overall (Ed Davis’s PER is well ahead of Gay’s) and have some upside (at least in Ed Davis).

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