Let’s skip the pleasantries, shoot out of the block and sprint right into the running diary.
Full disclosure: Mike Conley is on my fantasy NBA team.
John Ireland interviews Pau, who is wearing that delightful corduroy blazer. Pau says Kobe is a "very, very experienced player".
"Stu's Views" lists Stu's keys to the game, over a basic computer animation of a locker room. It's so basic, even the animated TV in the locker room has a VCR.
11:30 Marc Gasol has been rocking the Pau Gasol Haircut circa 2003.
11:15 Kobe and Fish engage in a game of hot potato, exchanging the ball four times in a row, with Kobe in the post and Fish on the perimeter, ending in a Fish brick from straight away three-point range.
8:44 Kobe puts Mayo in the Popcorn Machine with a pump fake for three. He then jumps into O.J., who went airborne to block the shot, and swishes the three with the foul, making it a potential four point opportunity. It's a little fuzzy to me why these shots are fouls, as Kobe is creating the contact, but for sheer difficulty, you can't beat it. OJ, Popcorn, and Mayo - delicious.
6:54 Now you won't believe this, but read carefully: It may look like Kobe was passing the ball and Z-Bo inadvertently deflected into his own basket, but what actually happened was that Kobe threw the ball off of Zach Randolph's left hand, calculating the exact angle and speed needed so that the ball would ricochet up and into the basket. Screw Occam's Razor.
4:58 Bynum travels a lot. They don't call it this time, and he makes the basket, Lakers 16, Grizzlies 12
3:07 Er, I think Kobe's okay. He takes off and does a dunk he usually doesn't bring out in the regular season, taking off of two feet and tomahawk-ing it. The Memphis crowd seems to love to watch him play, and he's an obliging showman.
2:07 Do me a favor, and focus only on Lamar Odom for a few defensive possessions. He is one of the best help defenders in the league. Yeah, I said it.
0:27 This sentence should never be read context-free: Kobe strips Gay. The Lakers score on the other end, and they continue their stellar defense from the past five games. So they can play good defense with Kobe on the court! Who knew? Lakers 27, Grizzlies 16.
I have to mention I am watching this on DVR. I have no knowledge of the final score, but two people have left me messages - a voice mail, and a text (which I have neither listened to nor looked at) which fills me with dread, because they only do that if something interesting happens. I am worried, considering this currently looks like a blowout.
10:15 Haddadi drops a dime to Darrell Arthur. Now I get to see if this guy can play defense or rebound. As I write that, he gets an offensive rebound and puts it back for two. Lakers 32, Grizzlies 20.
8:13 Haddadi blocks Shannon Brown on a dunk attempt, runs the court and gets a bucket with the foul. He even makes the free throw. The Pride of Iran! Lakers 34, Grizzlies 25.
7:35 Shouldn't they have a separate, dedicated official just to watch 3-second violations, both offensive and defensive? Maybe the NBA can't afford it.
7:12 The Lakers audition for the Harlem Globetrotters as Shannon throws a backwards over-the-head outlet pass to Lamar, who jumps it to Farmar, who takes two steps and throw it ups to Bynum coming straight down the floor for the alley-oop. Just watch the highlight.
6:02 Sam Young looks old, but plays young. He hits a three to make it Lakers 39, Grizzlies 32. Not good. The Lakers seem to be in control, but they're only up seven.
2:45 Bynum is called for the travel, and the Grizz have hung tough with nice buckets by Mayo and Gay. After the timeout, as Mayo takes a three, you hear Kobe yell "Shit!". The audio guy presses mute too late, so you hear a drop in the sound for two seconds after that. I used to think that was my TV dropping the sound. Mayo drains the three, Lakers 45, Grizzlies 42.
1:25 Derek makes it to 9,000 points. 4,012 of those have come on PUJITs.
0:05 Conley takes the foul on Fish that Ray Allen was supposed to give last game, and Artest finds Shannon cutting for a lay-up off of the inbounds play. Coaches love when their defense gives up baskets like that.
Halftime Lakers 53, Grizzlies 48
So this is what a mostly healthy Kobe looks like, it's been so long I had forgotten. He's only missed two shots on 9 attempts. Still, I'm worried because it seems like the Lakers should be blowing out the Grizzlies. They also gave up 32 points in the second quarter, so that does not bode well. As usual, Lamar is not as assertive on offense with Kobe in the lineup, Phil should force him to handle the ball for a few possessions.
9:44 Z-Bo is killing Pau, as he drives by him for two, tying the game, 56-56. You can now hear the disgust in Joel Myers' voice as he calls the game.
8:36 -6:49 Pau is having a rough time, he loses the ball on the entry pass, and Mayo hits the three. Then Pau steals the ball and throws it right to Z-Bo. Everything is unraveling as Memphis takes a seven point lead. Phil sits and waits while Stu pleads for a timeout. Lakers 56, Grizzlies 63.
5:59 Bynum gives Gay a hard foul, and I think that's a good sign, in addition to the fact that I peeped Gasol giving Z-Bo a shove under the boards a few plays before. Either the Lakers are frustrated, or they're ready to play, or both.
4:36 Fish with back-to-back threes, and the energy level has definitely increased in this game. Lakers 66, Grizzlies 70.
3:35 Did I say that Lamar should bring the ball up a few times? I meant only if he doesn't charge into the defensive player.
2:06 Kobe throws away a dunk, electing instead to try a behind the back pass that is deflected. This is getting ugly. Lakers 68, Grizzlies 77.
1:31 Lakers are all out of sorts. Shannon jumps and passes it straight out of bounds, and it looks as if the Lakers are pressing (mentally, not the defensive strategy).
The Lakers end the quarter down five points, 76 to the Grizzlies 81, and I'm not enjoying the thought of casual fans correlating the Lakers losing with Kobe Bryant. The fast breaks look sloppy, and the defense is playing as if there's only 5 minutes left to play and they're down 10. The Lakers have a thousand turnovers, and have given up 30+ points the last two quarters. If the Lakers are going to win, something's gotta give.
10:48 Zach Randolph is hitting some heart-breakers, this time a 17 footer at the end of the shot clock over Lamar's outstretched hands.
8:24 Artest works hard under the offensive boards, but to no avail. Sam Young makes a layup to push the Grizzlie's lead to seven. Still no Kobe this quarter. Lakers 80, Grizzlies 87.
7:57 Kobe finally enters the quarter. The Grizz score four more points. Lakers 82, Grizzlies 91.
7:12 Lamar hits his second big three in two games.
6:18 Lakers play some good defense, forcing a shot clock violation on a Marcus Williams floater that airballs. Pau scores on his brother with some nifty footwork.
5:38 Three blind mice ask each other who the ball went out of bounds off of. They throw their hands up and call a jump ball on a play that looked like Pau Gasol tipped the ball out of bounds. It's because the Lakers are a big market team, right? Lakers 87, Memphis 91.
5:19 Kobe sticks a fadeaway over O.J. Mayo to cut the lead to 2. He's so rusty, he's missed 4 shots out of 14 tonight.
4:49 Zach Randolph is putting in man-work under the boards tonight. His 11th rebound is a tip-in that makes it Lakers 89, Memphis 93.
4:35 John Ireland clarifies that referees can only review out-of bounds plays in the last two minutes of a game. Thank you, John.
3:33 Ron Artest vs Marc Gasol, who ya got? Ron uses his muscle to rip the ball away as the Grizzly Bear tries to hold on long enough to get a jump ball call. Ron Artest is strong.
2:59 Pau misses two free throws that could have cut the deficit to three. Hmph.
2:15 Kobe shoots a three. Look at the three point line. Now look at me. Now look back at the three point line. Now back to me. Kobe stepped on the line. It only counts for two points. Lakers 92, Grizzlies 95. I'm on a horse.
1:40 Oooooh. Tough call against Memphis. The zebras call Marc Gasol for a moving pick. He leaned into Kobe very slightly, but Stu says the fact that he turns during the pick is what makes it a foul. Then Hollins, the Memphis coach, gets called for a tech. This could be a huge swing as Kobe's free throw makes it Lakers 93, Grizzlies 96. Might it be Kobe Time? Might it be? My heart rate has accelerated.
0:54 Kobe plays tight defense on Mike Conley, Conley misses a fadeaway, and Pau grabs a key rebound. Then Pau sets the pick for Kobe at the top of the key ... and Kobe drains the three (with 17 seconds still left on the shot clock) to tie the game! Kobe Time!! The Black Mamba strikes fast, and he strikes quickly. 96-96. It's a one minute game now.
0:18 Mayo misses both free throws with the Grizzlies up 98-96. Um, who might the ball be going to?
0:08 Kobe barely gets it to the rim on the drive with Marc Gasol defending, and Rudy spikes it out of bounds. Whew. They should use Kobe as a decoy. Just kidding.
0:04 You know what happened. I have to rewind, though to see how the hell Kobe got open. Rudy Gay goes under the screen. Pau set a nice screen, yeah, but Gay goes under the screen. Three-baller by the Kobster. Lakers 99, Grizzlies 98.
O.J. Mayo misses a 17 footer at the buzzer with Pau Gasol contesting the shot and ...
End of Game: Lakers 99, Grizzlies 98
Post-game John Ireland gushes and asks "How do you have this ability to hit those shots?" and Kobe says, "It's thaumaturgy". Actually, he gives a standard answer, but how is he supposed to answer that? He practices and isn't afraid to fail, because he has prepared.
The late offensive foul on Marc Gasol and the ensuing technical foul were mortal wounds for Memphis, as were Mayo's two missed free throws. In losing, all mistakes are magnified. But for the winners, don't forget that Pau Gasol missed two free throws as well, and the Lakers were all-around sloppy in the third quarter.
Memphis has a small, legitimate gripe about officiating as it does appear that the balance of questionable calls skewed toward our Big Market Meanies, but they had plenty of chances to close out the game, and every team has to play through those kinds of calls at some time in the season, including the Lakers.
Quick non-Kobe summary: The Lakers played good defense for the first quarter, and the last two minutes of the game, and that's about it. Z-Bo out-worked the Lakers with 14 rebounds. Pau is not himself when he plays Memphis. Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor. Even so, he did some nice side-kicky things in crunch-time by grabbing huge rebounds, setting solid picks, and defending the last shot that Mayo took after switching with Kobe. Finally, Phil Jackson doesn't need to call timeouts when ordinary coaches would.
As for those messages from my friends? One voice mail had nothing to do with the game. The other was a text message from my brother re-tweeting this : "@jr__swish (jr smith) don't get me wrong kobe is great but not when he play me. " Maybe he meant, "not including the playoffs last year".
In the end, it's just another chapter to add to the legend of Kobe Bryant.