That pretty much sums up how I feel about this game. In what is becoming a trend this season, the Lakers played a hard fought game and kept the contest close only to fall short at the end as the other team made the tough plays while they themselves fell short.
This game it was Zach Randolph who played hero for Memphis hitting tough shot after tough shot against Jordan Hill while the Lakers tried, unsuccessfully, to play their P&R game against a Grizzlies’ D that can still stiffen with a game on the line. Randolph scored 14 of his game high 28 points in the final period, working over Shawne Williams early and Hill late with a flurry of contested jumpers and unorthodox scoops and hooks around the basket.
If you are looking for positives on the Lakers’ side, they came from the guards as Jodie Meeks (25 points, 10-16 shooting), Nick Young (18 points on 7-14 shooting off the bench), and Steve Blake (9 points, 10 assists and only 1 turnover) all played aggressive, taking advantage of the opportunities presented to them. All deserve credit for playing to their strengths, but I especially like that Meeks was able to bounce back from a poor game in Denver and that Blake continued to play a very strong lead guard with Steve Nash out. Both guys are having pretty good years and even though there are some down moments, both play with a spirit and competitiveness that is contagious.
That’s about the most positive thing you can say about this team right now. They play hard most every night and that allows them to compete. If their execution could catch up to the effort they give they’d probably have a few more wins in the ledger. Instead, they fall to 4-7 on the season and show glimpses of being a good team but offer more moments when you wonder if they will really be able to do much more than stay close in games before Kobe comes back.
And make no mistake, this team misses Kobe. Not only did the head coach say so, but it’s clear that as the season progresses there’s a hole in leadership and production from a top tier player. Whether Kobe comes back to be that guy is an open question, but through the first part of year it’s clear that Gasol (who has played okay, but not up to a level the team needs from him) and Nash (who was playing poorly before his injury knocked him out of the lineup) are not those guys.
Instead this team relies on the composite effort from multiple role players, needing several of them to play to (or above) their ceilings each night to win. Against Memphis the team got that from Meeks, Young, and Blake, but did not get enough from any of the Farmar (zero points, 6 assists), Wes Johnson (zero points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists), and Xavier Henry (zero points, 1 rebound, 1 assist) trio. When that’s the case, this team will need bigger performances from Gasol and Hill, but tonight did not get them. The duo combined for a respectable 22 points and 18 rebounds, but with Randolph’s big night and Marc Gasol producing a line of 18, 8, and 8 it’s easy to see why this game was a loss.