- Dave McMenamin, ESPN Staff Writer
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Here are your 10 additional things to take away from the Lakers 98-96 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday ...
With 70 points in his last two games, Kobe Bryant boosted his scoring average to 26.66 points per game, edging past Chicago Bulls third-year guard Derrick Rose (26.57) for second-place in the league, trailing only OKC's fourth-year forward Kevin Durant (27.3).
If Bryant can pass Durant and hold on for the third scoring title of his career in this, his 15th season, he would become the longest tenured NBA veteran ever to win it.
Only two players have even done it after playing double-digit seasons and they both happen to be idols of Bryant's. Michael Jordan was the league's leading scorer averaging 28.7 points per game in 1997-98, his 13th season and Jerry West won it by putting up 31.2 points per game in 1969-70, his 10th season.
It would be a distinguished accomplishment and place him in even more rarefied air than his living legacy already breathes, to be sure, but it wouldn't necessarily help the Lakers win necessarily.
In fact, it might just hurt them. The Lakers are now in the midst of a three-game losing streak during which time Bryant has averaged 26.3 shots per game.
Bryant shot just 9-for-25 Tuesday, a game after shooting 14-for-33 in a loss to the Indiana Pacers.
Consider these statistical strikes against his shot total ticking past the 20 mark (thanks to Micah J. Adams and ESPN Stats & Info):
- This season Lakers are 2-3 when Bryant attempts at least 25 shots in a game, compared to 11-2 when he attempts fewer than 25 shots.
- All five of the Lakers losses have come when Bryant has at least 20 shots. When Bryant attempts fewer than 20 shots, the Lakers are 7-0.
- The Lakers are 7-15 since acquiring Pau Gasol in Feb. 2008 when Bryant has 30-or-more field goal attempts in a game.
Lakers head coach Phil Jackson was explicit in not blaming Bryant, but also outlined that one-on-one offense was hurting the team.
"We’re talking about playing in our system a little bit more," Jackson said before the game. "We played a lot of individual basketball … That’s OK when Kobe’s going great or Pau’s going good or things are happening well for us in the open floor and we’re running well but our transition balance isn’t there. Offensive rebounding isn’t there. Those things that are created by playing basketball in a system in which we practice and teach are missing and so when nights are tough and the ball doesn’t go in and we’re not getting back on defense well enough, if you don’t play in the system it creates an even bigger problem and then you’re susceptible."
After another loss it was same song, different verse from Jackson.
"I think [Bryant] felt like he had to carry a little bit of the load," he said. "Kobe's going to come out there and attack if no one else is aggressive enough. He's going to test the defense and the other guys are going to have to step in. I always say if you feed him the ball you're responsible for a lot of what's going on. You have to go away from him early and then come back to him late a lot of times, instead of going to him early and expecting it to come out before he's going to attack out there. That's part of our plan and he's going to take advantage of that if his teammates give him the ball."
Bryant refuted the idea that he was merely sucking up more of the scoring with Gasol being a little worn down from playing so many minutes.
"I play the same way all the time," Bryant said. "It doesn’t matter."
Asked if he had to manage his approach when he checks into the fourth quarter and the group on the court has some momentum on its own, Bryant echoed his previous answer.
"I do what I do," Bryant said. "I don’t have to change anything. I do what I do. I go out there and play. Draw double teams, kick it out. I don’t really have to worry about much."
But there might be something to worry about if Bryant keeps shooting and the Lakers keep losing.
Bryant has certainly been gunning during the three-game slide, but he's left the biggest shot of the game up to Ron Artest in two of the three games.
Artest missed a go-ahead three from the left corner off a Bryant feed with 14.9 seconds left in Utah and missed the potential game-winner Tuesday after Bryant found him on the left wing and Artest's 3 was blocked with 0.4 seconds left by Rudy Gay.
"I don’t want to make an excuse for what happened," Artest said. "Damn jumping bean … that shot was going down."
After Gasol stole the ball from Mike Conley with 9.9 seconds left in the fourth and the Lakers down by two, Bryant led the break and intended to go up for the game-tying jumper in transition but was met at the foul line by Zach Randolph.
The ball was kicked out to Artest who took one dribble and let it fly with confidence (he already had two 3-pointers on the day), but Gay came in to save the day with his sixth block of the game, a career high.
That jumping bean, a guy by the name of Rudy Gay, comes and blocks the shot," Artest said. "A great effort on his part ... I thought it was going in. I’m like, ‘Why is the ball going short? Why is the ball going short?’ He had the block. I know the wind wasn’t blowing."
It hasn't just been Bryant who's been struggling on offense for the Lakers. They are averaging just 95.5 points over their last four games after putting up 112.5 points per game through their first 14.
Still, the team insists that its poor defense that's leading to shoddy offense, not the other way around.
"Offensively, sometimes you’re going to have 2-for-20 nights or whatever, 2-for-10 nights," Lamar Odom said. "Sometimes you’re going to shoot the ball bad. Sometimes you’re going to shoot it good and it will just bounce out. But when you get stops on D, you get in transition, you get fastbreak points. You get easy buckets. The ball moves, pops. You get easy looks."
Last season the after the Lakers had an air-it-out meeting in the midst of the first three-game losing streak of the Gasol Era to pick apart their pick-and-roll defense. Bryant said a closed-door session after this current three-game skid won't be necessary. Read about what others are saying about the losses in what I wrote for the Daily Dime (item No. 2).
Against Indiana, the Lakers trailed by six at halftime and let the lead balloon to 15 in the third quarter before mounting a comeback. Against Memphis, the Lakers trailed by two at halftime and led the lead balloon to 11 in the third before getting back into it. It's a problem.
"I just think we're getting off to late starts in the third quarters," Jackson said. "You're not ready to play and, with teams getting a double-digit lead, you have to fight it back. We have to come out with a little more energy."
In both instances the Lakers were able to close the gap by the end of the third, losing the third 26-24 to Indy and 19-16 to Memphis, but in games that they lost in the end by three points and two points, respectively, that third-quarter outcome made all the difference.
Jackson tried to get Derrick Caracter some early playing time Tuesday, subbing him in for Gasol with 3:51 remaining in the first quarter, but subbed him back out just 77 seconds of playing time later after he flubbed an assignment. Caracter ended up playing just three minutes and 19 seconds for the game.
"He’s been practicing hard and doing a good job of practice, but obviously it comes down to Phil, how much he wants to play him or not," Gasol said. "Obviously he’s still trying to learn our offense better and that takes a little bit of time. But I think he’s getting there. It’s just a matter of our coach relying on him a little bit more."
Marc Gasol had 10 points, nine rebounds, one assist, three blocks and shot 4-of-8 from the floor while his older brother had 15, 14, four and four but the Grizzlies got the win. Pau is now 6-3 all-time against his brother.
"They have their dance," Jackson said after the morning's shootaround. "They’ll go through their dance."
He went on to needle Pau about the matchup which he does so often it's as sure a thing as Apple stock these days.
"He has hysterically not played very well against his brother … historically," Jackson said. "It’s been funny because usually the big brother has dominance over the younger brother, but this is not the case."
It was announced Tuesday that former Lakers assistant coach Tex Winter, the architect of the triple-post or "triangle" offense, is a candidate for induction to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame yet again.
In June during the Finals, Winter was honored with a coaching award prior to Game 2 in Los Angeles and Winter's son called the HOF process "embarrassing."
Jackson reported before the game he ran into Grizzlies president Gene Bartow who used to coach against Winter in the college ranks throughout the years and Bartow told him Winter "seems to be doing pretty well" after suffering a stroke a little more than 18 months ago.
Quotes of the night: "I just wanted to make it tough on him and that's what I did. He had to take a lot of shots. It is fun going against the best in the world when you are 19. I couldn't have had more fun." -- Grizzlies rookie guard Xavier Henry after helping to hold Kobe Bryant to 9-of-25 shooting while scoring a season-high 12 points of his own on the other end.
"Get Back on Track Tonight." -- One of the notes Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw wrote on the white board in the locker room before the game. It didn't happen.
"I can't blame it on fatigue, I gave him 10 seconds more rest than I did the last game!" -- Phil Jackson sarcastically explaining the reason for Pau Gasol's 5-of-13 shooting night. Gasol played 44:41 Tuesday and 45:30 against the Pacers.
Stats of the night: The Lakers had more than double the turnovers (15) that the Grizzlies did (seven) ... A commonality between the Lakers first two losses of their three-game slide was being outrebounded in Utah (by four) and against Indiana (by three). That was not the case vs. Memphis as L.A. controlled the glass by a +13 margin and held the Grizz to a season-low 29 boards ... The Grizzlies are 4-1 since moving O.J. Mayo from the starting lineup to the bench and using him as a sixth-man scorer leading the second unit ... Memphis took 10 less 3-pointers than Los Angeles yet made one more (8-of-12 vs. 7-of-22); Conley took 12 shots less than Bryant, yet made more more (10-of-13 vs. 9-of-25) ... Shannon Brown, who is shooting 46.2 percent from downtown on the year, missed eight straight 3-pointers dating back to the end of the Chicago game, before connecting on a long 26-foot 3 at the end of the shot clock with 4:03 remaining in the fourth quarter to cut Memphis' lead to six.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter. Micah J. Adams of ESPN Stats & Info contributed to this report.