The Memphis Grizzlies are a very good team. The Los Angeles Lakers are a team still knee deep in the process of playing together. These two simple facts showed in almost every facet of this game as it played out. It's an absolute miracle that this wound up only as an eight point loss looking over the stats that came out of the other end, but a few of the Lakers fought. A few of the Lakers did all they could to keep this game close enough to dangle that four letter word, hope, in front of everybody. But, alas, it was only a few of the Lakers. The mud is thick for the purple and gold and even after putting together a string of wins, and hiring Mike D'Antoni who is still implementing his offense with the team's third and fourth string point guards, patience is wearing thin once again.
While the +/- stat is only a small window into the story of the game, with applied context, it is still a valuable tool. The +/- for this game definitely helps tell the story for the Lakers. Four of the five starters landed on the - side (Kobe Bryant -22, Darius Morris -10, Metta World Peace -6, Pau Gasol -23), while Dwight Howard barely landed in the + with a +1 on the night. And, from this view point, he deserved to be in the - with the rest of his starting crew. The starters looked terrible against the Grizzlies. Pau Gasol must have forgotten to say thank you to his mid-range game for Thanksgiving, because it was non-existent last night, starting the night 1-6 from a missed bunch of 16-20 footers that absolutely need to go down for this to work for both Pau and the Lakers. The first quarter of the game set the tone, with the Grizzlies dropping 34 points and the Lakers barely able to scrape together 18 of their own.
The funny thing? Despite an overall poor effort from the Lakers starting unit, from the 2nd quarter onwards they outscored the Grizzlies 80-72. The first quarter set the table for the remainder of the game with the Lakers trying to claw back into the game from then on. In the second quarter, a unit consisting of Jodie Meeks, Chris Duhon, Metta World Peace, Antawn Jamison, and Dwight Howard showed the kind of energy necessary to dig out tough wins, like this game out in Memphis, but was never enough to overtake the rolling Grizzlies. Once the Grizzlies brought their starters back in off the bench the lead grew once again. Just when the Lakers seemed to have built momentum, finally getting out of the mud, the Grizzlies were there waiting to kick them back down into the muck.
Pau Gasol. Dwight Howard. For the second straight game the All-Star front court of the Lakers has looked pedestrian. Yeah, there were stretches where Howard was engaged and blocking shots into the second row (which drives anyone with fundamental sense crazy), but overall he once again was non-factor in a game where he needed to establish his presence. And Pau? Oh, Pau. When Antawn Jamison is outplaying you, and sends you to the bench for the fourth quarter, that's bad. Even worse? When Jamison fouls out and D'Antoni trots Darius Morris out instead of you? You got some 'splainin to do. Both bigs failed to deliver, and there's no better way to put this than what Dexter said once the game concluded
Dwight and Pau this evening scored 13 points (on 5-for-15 shooting) and pulled in 8 rebounds. That's what they did combined. Those are the numbers you arrive at when you add each player's individual numbers together. 13 and 8 should be a sub-par night for either of them individually. And in this case, the stats very much do not lie. Neither player was effective for more than a few minutes at a time. Pau is shooting the ball poorly and getting housed on defense. Dwight looks lazy and passive in every phase of the game. I'm not sure exactly what's going on with these two guys but it's killing the Lakers. Pau didn't play at all in the fourth quarter.
All the way up till the end of the game the Lakers remained in striking distance. Mainly, led by a barrage of threes from their bench, something that is going to be key for this team's success. All of the "three point shooters" on the team did their part, and the Lakers ended the night 12-27 from deep (44%). The majority of these shots stemmed from when Howard and MWP were the only two starters tagged with the aforementioned bench unit. The ball would go in to Howard, the Grizzlies would double, and he'd kick it out to the open man. Something he's oh-so familiar with, having ran that four out one in while with the Orlando Magic. On a night when the offense had nothing else fluid going for it it worked like a charm. Sometimes, it's the simple things: the fundamentals of basketball. Get doubled, pass out. Someone has to be open.
Antawn Jamison having a breakout game certainly didn't hurt, either. Jamison added 16 points and 7 rebounds for the Lakers and looked like the adept scorer that he was billed as when he came into the fold for the minimum. He was playing so well, in fact, that Mike D'Antoni decided to ride his hot hand till he fouled out. It wasn't just the stats though, with Jamison, he was playing with effort. While his defense is certainly questionable, paired up with Zach Randolph, he actually did a good job holding his ground. Sure, he fouled out in the end, but he didn't give an inch in the post. Any sign of life from this bench unit is a good sign, and after Jodie Meeks dropped 15 points on the Sacramento Kings, the two simply need to talk it out. Pick a day (preferably all of them) to put their efforts together, and the Lakers bench may actually be serviceable someday.
Even with the Lakers nipping at their heels with Jamison filling in for the dog-housed Pau Gasol, the Grizzlies stayed poised and sealed the deal. Mike Conley had all the answers, hitting daggers in the fourth quarter that felt like punches to the gut as they sailed through the net. Granted, with the quality of play from the Lakers, they had no business being in the game to begin with. In the game preview I had this to say in regards to Conley
Mike Conley has quietly become a legitimate threat at the point guard position, able to score from anywhere on the floor. His 39.5% from deep will keep Darius Morris honest, but it's not just the three ball from Conley. His mid-range game is strong, and the majority of his scoring is coming at the rim.
And, there he was. Cutting to the basket, driving to the rim, nailing mid-range daggers, and being the glue that seemed to hold the Grizzlies together. It was an impressive night from an oft overlooked point guard. With such a saturated field of point guard's in the league it's easy to pass over Conley, but he's got chops. He ended the night with 19 points and 6 assists, but his big buckets down the line to tuck the Lakers in for bed in a tightly contested game mattered more than any of that. The Grizzlies have always relied heavily on Rudy Gay and their front court, but with the emergence of Mike Conley, they look deadlier than ever.
Aside from Conley, Marc Gasol was showing his older brother a thing or two about passing the ball. Marc ended the night with 8 assists, 14 points, 8 rebounds, and the ever important win over his sibling. Rudy Gay had a team high 21 points and helped blow the game open in the first quarter from deep. Zach Randolph kept his YMCA abusive game going, netting 17 points and working to 12 rebounds. All of this, partnered with the Grizzlies bench contributing just enough, and Tony Allen and the Grizzlies' defense holding Kobe Bryant to 30% shooting (though he still scored 30 points), and this was a hard earned win for the Grizzlies. Final tally, 106-98, Grizz. Time to look forward though, with a game against the Mavericks in Dallas to conclude this four games in five nights madness for a flailing Lakers squad.
Please, no more blood.
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|Final - 11.23.2012||1||2||3||4||Total|
|Los Angeles Lakers||18||31||21||28||98|
The Grizzlies are off to their best start in franchise history. Check Straight Outta Vancouver to see how they're celebrating it, surely there's punch and pie.