Lakers can't match Grizzlies down the stretch

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The team with the closer beat the team whose closer watched from the sidelines, and that makes Lakers fans sad.

You have to wonder what Kobe Bryant thought as he watched Zach Randolph deliver his team a victory from the sidelines. Actually, you don't have to wonder. You pretty much know. Kobe was almost certainly, beyond the shadow of a doubt, thinking "This wouldn't be happening if I were out there." With points in short supply for both teams, the Grizzlies end game plan was to simply dump the ball into Z-bo and let the big man work. It was extraordinarily reminiscent of the strategy the Lakers have been employing for a decade now, and just as it so often does for Kobe and the Lakers, it worked for Memphis last night. The Lakers did not have a player with which to respond in kind, and their team offense was bogged down as Memphis pulled away.

Beast

Jodie Meeks - Once again, Jodie was easily the Lakers best player on the court. He always had the capability to do damage from beyond the three point line and act as a spark plug off the bench, even last season as he struggled overall. But Meeks' transformation from abject disaster finishing at the basket to dominant inside force is almost mystical. Words cannot express how bad Meeks was at the rim last season: it hurt the eyes of anybody watching it, and such was the regularity of both his attempts and his failures, the whole situation spawned a meme. Now, Jodie is finishing well, passing well, cutting well ... it's like a completely different player has somehow inherited his body. Oh, and he's still pretty good from the outside, too.

Nick Young - For a while there, the Lakers looked like they might pull off a victory, which would have allowed me to break out this gem of a title:

That wasn't to be, but Nick Young joins Meeks as one of the highlights of the night. In a game in which the rest of the bench was non-existent, Swaggy scored 18 points on 14 shots outscoring all of Memphis' bench (and the rest of his own) combined.

Steve Blake - He gets the nod despite unfortunately missing a decent chance to tie the game with a few seconds left. Aside from that shot, Blake had another strong performance. Unlike previous offerings from Mr. Blake, he was not particularly excellent shooting the ball (4-9, 1-4 from three), but Blake was the engine of the offense, doling out 10 assists to just one turnover and running the offense as efficiently as the offense can be run.

Burden

Jordan Farmar - In what is becoming a regular occurrence, Farmar once again "graces" the burden category. There was a single sequence from last night's fourth quarter that encapsulates perfectly what is wrong with the Lakers guard. He turned the ball over, was slow getting back, but got lucky as Memphis turned the ball back over in transition. Since he had not gotten back on defense, he was in excellent position on offense, and the ball found him without a defender in his zip code. He took his time, launched a shot, left the follow through up as he watched it sail towards the basket ... and hit the rim. Clearly dejected, Farmar slumped his shoulders and started to trot back down court .... while his man sprinted by him. Memphis hit the open man for an easy dunk, Mike D'Antoni called timeout, and Farmar didn't play another minute. One wonders whether he would have even if this had been in the 2nd quarter and not the fourth.

The Young Prospects - If the playoffs and general success are not to be realistic goals for the Lakers, then the only thing this season will be good for is developing and observing the capabilities of some of the younger players on the roster. Those guys will, by nature, be up and down, and tonight was a real down contest. Wesley Johnson and Xavier Henry didn't just fail to make an impact on the game (0 points combined), they failed to really get the opportunity. Wes played just 15 minutes despite starting, and X managed just 7 minutes off the pine, and you can't really say they were short-changed either.

Free Throw Shooting - The Lakers lost last night's game by three points. They missed five of their 11 free throws. Memphis, meanwhile, took fourteen free throws ... and made fourteen free throws. In a game in which neither team topped 90 and points were at a premium, the Grizzlies won by making more of their opportunities at free points than LA did. These are the breaks of the game for which a team should be fully in control.

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