In one of the more entertaining Lakers games of the season thus far, L.A. played the Zach Randolph-less Memphis Grizzlies close and almost stole the game at the end behind some strong bench play and arguably Jeremy Lin's best game in purple and gold.
Los Angeles got off to a hot start early, with most of the team playing some of its best and most cohesive ball of the year. Ed Davis blocked a few early shots, Kobe Bryant only had one shot in the first quarter as he looked for his teammates (5 assists in the first half, and it easily could have been more), and the Lakers held an early lead. Then Jeremy Lin entered the game, nearly blowing the roof off of Staples Center as he gave the arena Linsanity flashbacks with 13 points on 6-8 shooting in the microwave scorer role Byron Scott seemingly wants from him. When Tony Allen missed 4 consecutive layups on one transition possession for Memphis, it seemed like it was just the Lakers' night, which made it somewhat worrying that they only led 52-47 at the end of the half, with their trademark bad defense giving up most of what they gave on offense, in particular to Marc Gasol (12 points in the first half).
Lin and the Lakers continued their strong offensive play in the second half, but Mike Conley began to heat up from the field and Gasol continued to dominate the overmatched Lakers bigs as Carlos Boozer and Jordan Hill both fouled out in the fourth quarter. For all Lin did that was positive on the night, he had a brain fart at the worst time (Editors Note: During post game media availibility, Byron Scott stated that he told Lin not to foul, which, wow...), letting Conley run the clock late in the game when the Lakers needed to foul after a clutch three by Bryant. Conley missed his second free throw, giving the Lakers a chance to tie or take the lead, and a Bryant/Davis pick and roll produced two free throw attempts for Davis (Yes, Bryant passed to Davis in crunch time, for those that still think he never passes). In the case of another player who played incredibly well falling short at exactly the wrong moment, Davis missed his second free throw, giving Memphis two free throws on the other end, which they converted to take a three-point lead with 0.6 seconds left. Bryant's desperation three was on line and drew iron, but popped out and that would do it for the night.
Mamba had another good game in his newfound distributing mode, narrowly missing out on a second consecutive triple double with 15 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists. Lin finished one of his strongest outings since being acquired by LA, scoring 20 points to go with 5 assists. The Big Boss Ed Davis showed his former team what they were missing, scoring 20 points on 7-9 shooting to go with 8 rebounds. On the defensive end, the newly masked Davis (broken nose) played like a superhero, affecting countless shots and cleaning up a lot of attempted criminal activity in the paint. The team played about as well and as together as they have this year, but it was not enough to overcome Memphis' Big Two of Marc Gasol (18 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks) and Mike Conley (19 points, 9 assists, and 2 steals).
Despite the loss, this was an encouraging game for those fans still hoping for Lakers wins, and the team will look to bounce back against the Pacers on Sunday. See you there.