Los Angeles Lakers: Memphis Grizzlies

Lakers' last home game an unsatisfying ending

April, 13, 2014
Apr 13
10:35
PM PT
Shelburne By Ramona Shelburne
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- There aren’t many in the Los Angeles Lakers organization who have been through anything like this miserable season. The losing, the injuries, the utter lack of meaning in most of the games in the final few months of what will go down as the worst season in Lakers history.

[+] EnlargeMike D'Antoni
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillMike D'Antoni's future with the Lakers is just one of several unknowns facing the team next season.
So when the Lakers played their final game at Staples Center on Sunday night, it was hard to know how to act or what to do next.

Some fans lingered in the stands well after the final buzzer, when you’d expect them to have bolted early in the fourth quarter once the Grizzlies took a commanding lead. Were they still processing it all? Or just trying to get a little more bang for their buck?

Pau Gasol stayed on the court signing autographs for fans waiting for him in the tunnel. If this was his last appearance in Los Angeles as a member of the Lakers, he at least wanted to let the fans know he was grateful for everything.

As they met in the locker room for perhaps the last time, Jodie Meeks turned to reserve point guard Jordan Farmar and asked if the equipment staff would collect their personal belongings from their lockers before everyone headed home for the summer. He asked Farmar ostensibly because this is his second stint with the Lakers and maybe he knew from experience.

One problem: The last time Farmar ended a season with the Lakers, they were busy winning a championship.

“I said, ‘I don’t know. I’ve never been in this position before,’” Farmar said.

No one has. No one with the Lakers, that is. The last time the franchise missed the playoffs was in 2005, the first year after they traded Shaquille O’Neal to Miami. But as ugly as that season was, it was never as desperate or disheartening as this one.

Kobe Bryant was still a young man in 2005 and you had a sense that the Lakers would be able to find a co-star to play alongside him in short order. Plus, they had talented young players like Lamar Odom and Caron Butler to build around, too.

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Rapid Reaction: Grizzlies 102, Lakers 90

April, 13, 2014
Apr 13
8:54
PM PT
Shelburne By Ramona Shelburne
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- It only felt like the Los Angeles Lakers' season ended a long time ago. Sunday it finally did for the home crowd, anyway.

The team has two more meaningless games to play against Utah and San Antonio. But the curtain on the worst season since the Lakers moved to Los Angeles came down with a whimper Sunday night in a lethargic 102-90 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.

It was the Lakers' final home game of the season and about the only bright spots on the night were the rousing national anthem performed by die-hard Lakers fan and Red Hot Chili Peppers guitar player Flea, and the sight of future lottery pick Joel Embiid sitting courtside across from the Lakers' bench. Both stayed until the bitter end of the game along with many Lakers fans, perhaps not quite ready to let this awful season go.

Those who stayed until the end gave two-time champion Pau Gasol a nice ovation late in the fourth quarter of what could’ve been his last appearance as a Laker. Gasol, who will be a free agent this summer, has been ruled out for the rest of the season with vertigo.

How it happened: The Lakers kept things close in the first half but gave up 34 points in the third quarter to fall irrevocably behind. Memphis had to win Sunday to keep its pole position over the Phoenix Suns in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and it played like it.

What it means: The Grizzlies head to Phoenix on Monday with a chance to clinch a playoff berth. The Lakers head out on the road to Utah and San Antonio to play out the string. Only the race with Boston, Utah and Sacramento for the fourth-worst record still matters for LA.

Hits: Nick Young and Jodie Meeks have been the Lakers' steadiest performers this season, and they were again in the last look many fans will give to this team. Young finished with 14 points off the bench while Meeks had 20. Wes Johnson (15 points, 15 rebounds) and Jordan Hill (10 points, 10 rebounds) each had a double-double.

Misses: Gasol was in attendance Sunday and will travel with the team on its final two-game road trip, but he could have already played his final game for the Lakers if he leaves as a free agent.

Stat of the game: The Grizzlies outrebound most teams they play with burly Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph controlling the paint, but even so, you don’t often see margins like they put up Sunday. Memphis outrebounded the Lakers 52-32.

Up next: The Lakers close the season out on the road against Utah on Monday night and San Antonio on Wednesday. The Grizzlies head to Phoenix Monday and Dallas on Wednesday to settle the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Farmar going through Gasol, win or lose

February, 26, 2014
Feb 26
11:06
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Jordan Farmar scanned the visitor's locker room at FedEx Forum at halftime Wednesday.

His Los Angeles Lakers had already dug themselves a 19-point hole through the first two quarters to the Memphis Grizzlies -- a night after being outscored by 17 in the final two quarters at Indiana, meaning Farmar and the rest of the guys had been through a full game's worth of blowout city up to that point.

[+] EnlargeFarmar
Justin Ford/USA TODAY SportsJordan Farmar, right, made sure the Lakers would make the second half in Memphis respectable by flowing the offense through Pau Gasol.
The point guard wondered to himself who in the room could save them from having the final stretch of their season becoming a complete and utter exercise in futility.

This season is not what he signed up for when he left more than $3 million on the table in Turkey this past summer to return to his hometown team.

A rash of injuries, mounting losses and a roster made up primarily of players -- himself included -- on one-year deals, had created a caustic environment.

So when Farmar went searching for some kind of savior on a cold night in Memphis, his eyes settled on the guy he knew has what it takes to be a winner: Pau Gasol.

Like Farmar, Gasol had resisted simply accepting what has happened to the once-proud Lakers franchise this season. He spoke up about it Tuesday, calling out coach Mike D'Antoni for not creating accountability in the locker room through discipline and calling out his teammates for being selfish in the way they played the game.

So, Farmar had an idea: Forget small ball. Forget pick-and-rolls. Let's go through Gasol and let the chips fall where they may.

"I suggested it at halftime," Farmar said. "He's our best player by far. He's a many-time All-Star. He's one of the best players in the NBA. We have to use him to his strengths. We can't just expect him to just play through the motions and figure it out. So, playing through him, he's a willing passer and once he starts going to work, guys start doubling, guys get open shots, open driving angles and things like that. So, I suggested it, we did it and it worked out for us for a while."

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Lakers missing Kobe Bryant lately

November, 15, 2013
11/15/13
11:56
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- After Steve Blake hit that game-winning 3-pointer in Houston earlier this month, he said the feeling was extra special because, as a career role player, the last shot usually ends up in the hands of a star.

Little did the 11-year veteran know that only eight days later, he would get the chance to play hero again and take a potential tying shot with 12 seconds left against the Memphis Grizzlies from the near-identical spot on the court where he made it against the Rockets.

[+] EnlargeSteve Blake
AP Photo/Jae C. HongSteve Blake missed a potential tying shot late in Friday's game, but the fact he's taking those shots is a reminder that Kobe Bryant is not there to do it.
But this time it fell short and so did the Lakers, losing to Memphis 89-86, dropping their record to 4-7. Four of those losses were the result of coming apart in the fourth quarter.

Not that Blake's 50 percent mark in do-or-die 3s this season is the problem by any means. But seeing Blake out there again as the go-to guy in the clutch was a pretty stark reminder that the Lakers are still missing one of the best, if not the best, closers in the game in Kobe Bryant.

"It's just about playing," Jodie Meeks said of the Lakers' late-game execution. "Kobe is not out there to bail us out there with a fadeaway 30-footer or anything like that, but we have good players on this team and everybody is confident in one another. So, if somebody has got an open shot, we say, 'Shoot it.' "

Without Bryant taking the 20.4 attempts per game he did a season ago, there is a more egalitarian approach to the Lakers' offense. Through L.A.'s first 10 games, the Lakers had nine players averaging between 8.1-13.4 points per game. It has made the Lakers look greater than the sum of their parts a couple of times this season when the energy and hot shooting seemed to become contagious and filter through the entire roster.

But then there are the nights like Friday, when the Lakers found themselves in a dogfight late in the fourth quarter -- with their alpha dog in Bryant still sidelined -- and the lack of a pecking order showed.

"I guess we're going with the hot hand a little bit," Pau Gasol said. "Sometimes that would work, but it would be nice also to get some kind of one, two, three plays we know and we can go through them and then play from there so we can develop on that and build on it."

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Lakers at Grizzlies: What to watch

November, 23, 2012
11/23/12
11:24
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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The Lakers haven't played many high-end opponents this young season, much less many outside the cozy confines of Staples Center. Tonight, they'll get a serious taste of both. The Memphis Grizzlies are playing as well as any team in the NBA. At 8-2, they boast the Western Conference's best winning percentage, along with its top point differential (+7.6). On both sides of the ball, the Griz are putting in quality work. If the Lakers want to redeem themselves for Wednesday's "Muppet Time" fiasco in Sacramento and keep alive the chance of a winning three-game roadie, they'll need to sharpen their efforts.

For more perspective on the Grizzlies, I sent some questions to Chip Crain, among the hosts of the True Hoop Network's 3 Shades of Blue blog. Below are his responses.

Andy Kamenetzky: Memphis is off to a seriously hot start. They were obviously very good last season as well, but what accounts for the seemingly upgraded play this year?

Chip Crain: The Grizzlies have developed the team chemistry missing from last season. Rudy Gay is more focused. Zach Randolph is healthy. And the bench is stronger despite the loss of O.J. Mayo. Jerryd Bayless, Wayne Ellington, Quincy Pondexter and Marresse Speights all working together with a full training camp has allowed the team to build on the past two seasons. With Mike Conley and Marc Gasol both hitting their prime years, the team is suddenly deep and on the same page. The results speak for themselves.

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Podkast: The Lakers as the playoffs approach

April, 21, 2012
4/21/12
2:51
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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As the popular saying goes, timing is everything. When we recorded this podcast Friday afternoon ahead of the impending blowout loss to the Spurs, the Lakers looked, generally speaking, like a team trending in the right direction with the postseason on the horizon. Then came San Antonio's blistering 61 percent clip from the field, which actually/improbably built on Tuesday's 60 percent at Staples, and the Lakers suddenly look considerably more vulnerable. But either way, the questions we examined remain trenchant and relevant, if perhaps more urgent than just 24 hours ago.

Again, timing is everything.

The show can be heard by clicking the module, and a breakdown of talking points is below:



Play Download

- (3:03): With the playoffs approaching, we create a checklist of pressing needs as the Lakers attempt to make a deep run. They include sustained impact from Andrew Bynum and Metta World Peace, team defense, and Ramon Sessions' poise during his first foray into the playoffs.

- (13:00): We debate the importance of the bench's (and in particular, Steve Blake's) production, given the inevitability of increased minutes for the starters.

- (17:05): In both of our minds, no player will make or break the Lakers' playoff run more than Bynum. How confident are we about this reality?

- (18:20): If you believe the Lakers are on a better path than 1-2 months ago, how much credit does Mike Brown deserve?

- (25:40): I make a throwaway joke referencing a semi-obscure bubble gum pop from the 70's... which Brian misinterprets as a joke referencing this better known song by Barry Manilow Neil Diamond... which leads to us doing Neil Diamond impressions. That's just how the K Brothers roll.

Chat transcript

April, 18, 2012
4/18/12
9:50
AM PT
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Nothing like a lopsided loss to get the Laker Nation a-chatterin'. Plenty of questions tossed our way, including those about Kobe Bryant's time table for a return, how well the Lakers match up in a potential series against San Antonio and the odds of Ramon Sessions returning next season.

Here's a link to the transcript
.

Also, as a reminder, if you haven't had a chance to read Dave McMenamin's two part Q and A with Jim Buss, do so. (Part 1 here, Part 2 here.) It's well worth your time.

Three is (probably) a magic number

April, 5, 2012
4/05/12
7:56
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Go ahead and sing.

Wednesday's win over the Clippers was significant not simply for being a quality effort against a strong opponent, though it was, but for what it did to the standings. The Lakers now own the season series and accompanying tiebreaker over the Clippers, giving them what amounts to a three game lead in the Pacific Division with only 11 games remaining.

Meanwhile, one rung up on the playoff ladder, the Lakers are 4.5 games behind San Antonio for the Western Conference's second seed. Put it all together, and barring the unusual and unexpected, the Lakers likely enter the postseason exactly where they are now, as the third seed.


Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Tony Allen and the Memphis Grizzlies are a scary proposition in the playoffs.

The team should keep its collective eye on the games in front of them, since the schedule still contains three games against San Antonio, and dates with Denver, Dallas, and Oklahoma City. The goal is to enter the postseason playing at as high a level as possible, and in that regard the Lakers still have plenty of i's to dot and t's to cross. They need to go one day at a time. (Go ahead and sing.) The rest of us can look ahead at potential playoff opponents. The bottom half of the W.C. is tightly packed, meaning any of five teams have a reasonable shot of finishing sixth.

Who should the Lakers want? Is there a nightmare opponent out there? Here are the squads they're most likely to face, starting from the bottom, up... though the order is likely to change almost daily until the end of the regular season.

DENVER NUGGETS

Current Position: 29-25 (8th, 1.5 games behind sixth seed)

Matchup: The problem with Denver hasn't been talent, but health. Basically everyone on their roster has missed games, and in the case of key talent like Danilo Gallinari, a significant amount of them. But the tide might turn by playoff time. Wilson Chandler, who returned from China only to hurt his groin, will soon be back in the lineup. Gallinari (thumb) is practicing again, too. Rudy Fernandez, despite back surgery, could return for the playoffs. Keep in mind, the Nuggets started 14-5, including a win over L.A., and when whole are a dangerous bunch. They have good point guards in Ty Lawson and Andre Miller, a wing who can defend Kobe Bryant (Arron Afflalo), and a ton of depth. Most playoff rotations get shorter, but the Nuggets can still come in waves.

Fear Factor (scale of 1-10, keeping in mind the Lakers have shown an ability to lose to anyone, so all opponents deserve respect): 5 if injuries persist, 6.5 if healthy. Even if Denver gets their pieces back, how well will they fit with so little time together?

HOUSTON ROCKETS

Current Position: 29-25 (7th, 1.5 behind sixth seed)

Matchup: Kyle Lowry is back on the practice floor, and could return by the postseason. Obviously that changes the dynamic considerably for the Rockets, given how well Lowry has performed this season. Kevin Martin has also been banged up, but should be on the floor by the postseason. Houston beat the Lakers on March 20th without either one of those guys, so they'd have to be taken seriously. The Rockets don't excel in any one area, but are average to above average in a wide range of key statistical categories, and don't have a lot of clear soft points ripe for exploitation. Luis Scola is still a solid player, Chandler Parsons has earned his way into the starting lineup, and with Marcus Camby and Sam Dalembert, there's at least a little size.

Fear Factor: 5. Houston will force 48 minutes of solid play every game, but ultimately don't have enough top end players to beat the Lakers in a series.

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Lakers Late Night Replay vs. Memphis, plus postgame video

March, 25, 2012
3/25/12
11:22
PM PT
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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The Lakers, save a few minutes in the third quarter, gave a sluggish effort Sunday night, and paid for it. They lose their fourth home game of the season -- and second in a week (give or take) -- 102-96 to the Grizzlies.

Of course, the big story was Mike Brown's decision not to play Kobe Bryant for a key stretch in the fourth. Brown didn't provide much of an explanation to the media following the game, for the most part simply saying he felt like he wanted to make a substitution. Nor did Brown believe it was a decision he needed to justify to Kobe, personally. No surprise Bryant didn't enjoy being on the bench, but refused to question Brown's choice. As you'll see in the videos below, in terms of diffusing the issue, it's hard to picture Bryant coming up with a better response.

That fourth quarter sequence will be Monday's big storyline, but had little if anything to do with why they lost and was just one of the things we kicked around on tonight's edition of Lakers Late Night. Among the other big topics of conversation...
  • Another poor effort defensively, as Memphis shot 51.2 percent from the floor and still managed to get 14 offensive rebounds. That ain't good. Andrew Bynum said after he was a big part of the problem. No disagreement here -- he only had four rebounds and was awful on the pick and roll -- but he had company.
  • The bench, outscored 41-9 by their Memphis counterparts. To be sure, points aren't the best way to measure their performance, but unfortunately when judged by all the better ways, it still amounted to a very poor night. Steve Blake in particular had a very rough go.

In-show video from Brown, Bryant, and Pau Gasol. Click below for more from those three, plus Bynum and Ramon Sessions, who kicked in with a solid-but-quiet 18/5, dulled a little by three turnovers.

Watch live streaming video from espnlosangeles at livestream.com


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Rapid Reaction: Grizzlies 102, Lakers 96

March, 25, 2012
3/25/12
10:16
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Well, that wasn't fun on any level. Here are three takeaways from the loss.

1) From start to finish, the Lakers were off their collective game.

Typically, a Sunday evening game begins at 6:30 pm PT, but the ESPN broadcast moved the time an hour back to accommodate the preceding contest between the Heat and the Thunder. Athletes are often creatures of habit, which means his highly unusual start time requires an adjustment of sorts. The Lakers, to put it kindly, didn't adjust well.

From start to finish of this game, the Lakers alternated between looking out of sync and flat out disinterested. Offensively, everyone seemed completely disoriented, an odd sight so quickly on the heels of Friday's win over the Blazers, where ball movement flowed like cheap beer at a college kegger. Andrew Bynum enjoyed a dominant first half (18 points on six-of-eight shooting), but he also worked one-on-one, left to create successfully for himself. Clean looks created for a teammate were largely on short supply. (The prime exception being Pau Gasol, whose miserable night was often spent clanging often-exceptionally wide open shots, the type normally drains in his sleep.) This was also a night where we were reminded Kobe Bryant off ball with Ramon Sessions controlling the large chunks of the action will take some time before becoming a consistently smooth operation. Tonight, they didn't appear quite on the same page.

Of course, the Lakers are hardly strangers to slogging their way through ugly, offensively challenged contests. Before the Ramon Sessions era of wide-open scoring, this was basically the only way the purple and gold manufactured wins. Thus, they should in theory be well equipped to survive nights like this one. However, Players and Mike Brown alike have copped to a coinciding decline in lockdown as points have come more cheaply. Tonight was a prime example of the sloppy defense, but without the offense to bail them out. A lack of effort wasn't the entire culprit, a prime example being the night Rudy Gay's night against Metta World Peace. Memphis' small forward was run off screens much of the night, an approach that sometimes gives the bulky MWP trouble. Metta did his best, and worked hard, but was just ineffective.

But on countless possessions, the Lakers were just sluggish and/or lazy whether covering pick and roll, closing out, or especially getting back in transition. (Stop me if you've heard this before). I mean, Hamed Haddadi, he of the 2.1 ppg career average (which actually bests this season's 1.9) connected on five of his seven attempts. That lack of resistance Haddadi encountered from Bynum (among others) was emblematic of the ease with which far too many of Haddadi's teammates operated. Every Laker who stepped on the floor was guilty of miscues, carelessness or blatant apathy.

There were moments of hair-on-fire lockdown, especially during a 15-0 third quarter run. But by and large (Matt Barnes probably being the most deserving exception), the Lakers seemed determined to do as little on possible on D, and paid the price.

And finally, the Lakers just didn't play particularly smart, and that lack of intelligence was exemplified on a late-fourth quarter sequence involving Bynum. With a little over three minutes remaining, Mike Conley missed a nine-footer and the brick went straight to Drew, who to his credit skied for the ball. However, instead of doing the logical thing... like, you know, securing the rock... he emphatically tapped it out to an area of the perimeter where no Laker resided. The ball ended up in the Grizzlies' hands, and was converted into a layup by Zach Randolph.

All in all, it was a night the Lakers would just as soon flush down the toilet.

(Read full post)

Lakers vs. Memphis: What to watch

March, 25, 2012
3/25/12
8:47
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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L.A. is now in Day 11 of Ramonpalooza, the festival of appreciation aimed toward point guard Ramon Sessions following his acquisition from the Cavs on deadline day. (My Morning Jacket will be appearing shortly on the main stage.) It's easy to go overboard, but his presence really has represented a sea change for the Lakers.

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
The matchup between Pau Gasol and Zach Randolph will be key Sunday night.



Friday, we noted the ways in which Sessions has improved the team's offense, goosing efficiency with high-percentage shots either for himself or teammates, many coming in transition, plus an ability to get himself (and teammates) to the line. And this was before he made his debut as a starter, lighting up the Blazers for 20 points and 11 assists Friday night at Staples. The game was significant not only for his impressive numbers but how Sessions affected the action down the stretch. In a still competitive game, Sessions dominated the fourth quarter with eight points and six assists as the Lakers piled up 32 points, all while Kobe Bryant happily took only one shot in the final 12 minutes.

It's a brave new world, folks.

Sunday, the Lakers get another good test against the Memphis Grizzlies, the same team L.A. edged in double-OT not even two weeks ago at FedEx Forum. That night, the Lakers were carried by Andrew Bynum (37 points) and Bryant (34) but only had one other player in double figures (Pau Gasol, with 14). Meanwhile, the Grizzlies got a career night from Marreese Speights, one of six Grizzlies with 10 points or more. Normally, when teams meet twice in a small window, the first game can be instructive. Not here.

The Lakers played that night with Derek Fisher and without Sessions. Memphis was missing not only Zach Randolph, but also Rudy Gay. They've also added Gilbert Arenas as a free agent, giving him real minutes in his first two games. The cast on the floor Sunday will be very different on both sides.

With that in mind, here are three things to watch:

1. Z-Bo vs. Pau Gasol.

In five games since returning from a knee injury, Randolph has been solid: 15.4 points and 7.8 rebounds, while shooting nearly 47 percent in about 31 minutes a night. Pretty good, but not the walking double-double he was in a dominant 2010-11 season. At some point, Randolph will round into form. If it's Sunday, the Lakers (and specifically Pau Gasol) have one more tough cover. Friday against Portland, the Lakers, who rarely do this sort of thing, were forced to bring doubles against LaMarcus Aldridge in the first half before order was restored in the second. If the same thing happens Sunday, the Grizzlies -- not a good half-court team offensively -- might find some lanes opening up that would otherwise be closed. The more extra rotations the Lakers have to make, the more wing players such as Gay can attack or Marc Gasol, who needed 25 shots to get 20 points in Memphis, can get easy looks on putbacks and open feeds at the bucket.

2. Kobe Bryant vs. Tony Allen.

Allen is among the league's most active defenders, one of the few guys capable of making Kobe's life truly difficult. On the ball, he can be very hard to beat, but while the Lakers had periodic success with Bryant operating away from the ball at points this season, with Sessions on board they have the means to do it more effectively and more consistently. Closer to the rock, the potential for good 1/2 or 2/1 pick and rolls could give Allen and Mike Conley looks they haven't seen much against L.A. Bottom line, as Mike Brown and Bryant noted after Friday's win, with Sessions the Lakers have so many more ways to attack, making them much tougher to prepare for.

Still, despite some weakness (see below) the Grizzlies constitute a very solid test for the revamped offense. They'll be at full strength, making them the best defensive team the Lakers have seen since acquiring Sessions, more effective than a Dallas squad missing Shawn Marion. Moreover, no team in the NBA is better at forcing turnovers, and Synergy rates them as the league's second most productive team in transition, meaning mistakes on the offensive end won't go unpunished.

3. L.A. vs. expectations.

Memphis is a dangerous team, one nobody will want to see in the postseason -- unless perhaps the postseason started today. The Grizzlies have dropped five of six overall, including Saturday afternoon to a slumping Clippers squad, and four of five on the road, and are just 9-14 outside Memphis overall. Perhaps it's because they don't score much, averaging only 91.2 points on the road compared to 99.1 at home. Nor have they been very good against teams over .500, going just 10-17. All told, Memphis' talent says it's a game the Lakers could absolutely lose, while the numbers say they really should win.

Lakers Late Night Replay vs. Memphis

March, 13, 2012
3/13/12
8:46
PM PT
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Very big, very hard fought win for the Lakers tonight in Memphis. 116-111 in double OT.

On tonight's show, we review all the high points, including:
  • Massive games from Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum.
  • The importance of a big comeback on the road -- L.A. was down 17 in the third -- against a good team (even one missing two of its three best players in Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay).
  • The dynamic between Bynum and Pau Gasol. How much does the presence of one impact the other?
  • Dwight Howard's "roll the dice" comments tonight following Orlando's win over Miami. He now says he wants to stay in Orlando through the deadline. Does that impact L.A.'s plans heading into Thursday?
Watch live streaming video from espnlosangeles at livestream.com

Rapid Reaction: Lakers 116, Grizzlies 111 (2OT)

March, 13, 2012
3/13/12
8:36
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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No Zach Randolph and no Rudy Gay? Ultimately, it was a bit too much of a problem for the Grizzlies, who hung very tough without two of their three best players, even forcing 10 bonus minutes of basketball to decide the contest. Lesser names like Tony Allen, Marreese Speights and Quincy Pondexter were clearly up to the task of filling those gaps. Plus, a gritty showing from a squad that made the playoffs without Gay last season, and has thrived all season without Z-Bo or Darrell Arthur shouldn't be shocking. But ultimately, the absence of a true go-to option grew increasingly evident against a Lakers squad at full strength. Luck can only be pushed for so long. And in the meantime, the Lakers eventually capitalized on these fortunate circumstances.

Here are four takeaways from the win.

1) The Lakers barely survived Pau Gasol waiting a long time before showing up at all.
From start to finish, the presences of Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant were felt in BBQ Country. Bynum was about as dominant as can be humanly expected. Only three misses in 18 tries from the field, plus seven makes in eight visits to the charity stripe. Thirty-seven points in all, and in a variety of ways Memphis found impossible to stop. Lobs sequences. A sequence where the ball moved from Kobe at the high post to Pau at mid-post to Drew at the rim proved particularly hard to stop. Spins toward to the bucket after backing down his defender. Drives off a face up. He was as unstoppable as one can be, a nice extension of his go-ahead bucket in the final seconds against Boston. For his part, The Mamba poured in another 34 points, the gaudiest figure of a very well-rounded stat line. Overtime was reached after he drilled a 3-pointer to force a 95-95 tie, then he set up Gasol on a running dunk for another two points. Kudos would be in order for the nearly 52 minutes of run alone.

The two also joined forces on a great hustle play when Bryant sprinted to track down an ORB off a missed corner three, then fed Drew on a cut for running dunk.

Gasol, however, lagged mightily in a game where his talents were needed. After three quarters, he had just five points on 2-for-8 shooting, two rebounds, three assists, and a pair of turnovers to match two blocks. Defensively, he didn't appear particularly engaged, whether matched against his brother Marc or Speights. His overall energy was low, which was disappointing as the Lakers were trying to shake their road woes. Some slack was picked up as bonus basketball began, but it was nearly a matter of too little, too late.

Granted, Gasol wasn't the only starter who didn't take over in Memphis. After a quick start that allowed him to reach the 10,000-point mark for his career (congrats!), Derek Fisher did very little, then found himself benched down the stretch in favor of Steve Blake. Metta World Peace clanged treys as if he were getting paid by the miss (technically speaking, I guess he is) and beyond a few hustle plays, the small forward was pretty much a non-factor. More was needed of them as well.

However, Pau is a different caliber of player, which creates much higher expectations. He didn't meet that bar, which left far too much in the hands of his fellow "Big 3" members.

(Read full post)

What to watch: Lakers at Memphis

March, 13, 2012
3/13/12
7:40
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
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As John Hollinger noted Monday afternoon (Insider required), the Western Conference has gone a little squishy as teams for a variety of reasons have piled up losses. Denver, the Clippers, Dallas, Houston, Portland, and Utah have all suffered either significant bouts of mediocrity or full on slumps at points over the last few weeks, pulling the lower rungs of the playoff ladder a lot closer to .500 than typically seen in the W.C.

Even the Lakers, winners of seven in ten, lost to the Pistons and Wizards last week, and nearly dropped a game to a Kevin Love-less Timberwolves squad.

A quiet exception to this southward inertia has been the Memphis Grizzlies, who have gone 21-10 since a 3-6 start despite the fact star power forward Zach Randolph has played only four games thanks to a knee injury. (This after losing key frontcourt backup Darrell Arthur to an Achilles injury before the start of the season.) On any floor, tonight's matchup against Memphis would be a tough game for the Lakers. In what is sure to be a raucous FedEx Forum, where the Grizzlies are 15-5, it's an even bigger challenge, particularly given how the Lakers are so flippn' awful away from Staples.

To gain a little extra insight into Lionel Hollins' crew, we hit up Red Coleman of 3 Shades of Blue, a great resource for scratching your Grizzlies itch.

1. The Grizzlies aren't at all impressive offensively, but are very solid at the other end. What accounts for their success, and how do you think they'll approach the Lakers Tuesday?

Memphis has a commitment to playing defense that permeates everything they do. It's similar to the mindset that Tom Thibodeau has instilled in Chicago, really. Tony Allen is the spark plug for this, but everyone buys into it completely. That's why everyone is active and attentive on that end of the floor.

I think the Grizzlies will approach this game like they do any other -- stick your man, disrupt the passing lanes, and box out when the ball goes up. That's fundamental basketball, so there is no reason to expect them to change. They'll pay special attention to Kobe, of course, but it will still just be solid, team defense that is employed to try and hold him in check.

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Hold the Mayo? The Lakers' immediate options for help could remain limited

January, 23, 2012
1/23/12
1:19
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Brian and I have spent a lot of time recently debating the likelihood of Dwight Howard getting traded, whether to the Lakers or otherwise. I think he will be. Brian doesn't. However, we do agree if Howard relocates before the deadline, it'll come down to the wire, unless the Magic experiences a seemingly unlikely tailspin. Until that time arrives (or doesn't), the Lakers are a team in need of help, and the trade exception from the Lamar Odom deal provides the flexibility to obtain a player without sending one out in return.


Noah Graham/Getty Images
It would be nice to see Mayo score for the Lakers, rather than against them.


One such candidate I've recently pondered is Grizzlies reserve guard O.J. Mayo. From a skill set perspective, he addresses some glaring needs: Mayo is a wing capable of creating his own shot and connecting from outside, plus serving as a reasonably reliable play-maker. He's hardly a panacea, particularly on the defensive end, but at the same time, the Lakers have considerably more issues scoring than stopping, and beggars can't be choosers. Mayo could provide a real shot in the arm. He's been shopped by the Grizzlies before, and would actually be a Pacer right now were it not for last minute snags.

I've wondered over the last couple weeks if the Griz might be willing to pawn him off simply for the privilege of no longer paying his salary. From there, it's a matter of the Lakers picking up a $5.6 million tab, and unless the front office is already writing off this season, they'd have to consider it.

Now, though, it seems this scenario may not be likely. Via Ronald Tillery, Commercial Appeal:

Truth is, Griz management isn't seriously thinking of dealing Mayo nor is his possible, restricted free-agent status this summer a major concern. Mayo likely will remain with the Griz this season because of his productivity and the Grizzlies' ability to control his future with the right of first refusal on contract offers.

Although Mayo is eligible to negotiate a long-term contact extension with Memphis by Wednesday, the Griz aren't compelled to agree to a deal or trade him at the moment.

"It remains to be seen whether something happens or not," Griz general manager Chris Wallace said about a Mayo contract extension. "If it doesn't happen I wouldn't read much into it. We didn't extend Rudy and re-signed him. It's a floating situation. I wouldn't say (Mayo) is a lock to be with us after this year and I wouldn't say he isn't. There's so much ground to be covered between now and July."

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SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Kobe Bryant
PTS AST STL MIN
24.6 5.0 1.4 35.4
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 8.3
AssistsK. Bryant 5.0
StealsK. Bryant 1.4
BlocksE. Davis 1.2