The Los Angeles Lakers came to town last night looking for their first road win of the season, but all five Grizzlies starters finished in double figures and the Grizzlies withstood several furious Laker comeback attempts to walk out with the win. New minority owner Justin Timberlake was in the house with Jessica Biel, and no doubt Kobe Bryant cried him a river after the game.
There were only two lead changes, and the Lakers only led for 1:47 as the Grizzlies continue to build their resumé as one of the Western Conference’s best teams. Here are some things to take away from last night’s game:
Assists: Rudy Gay had 5, Marc Gasol had 8, Mike Conley had 6, Zach Randolph had 2. When the Grizzlies were able to keep the ball moving last night, they were able to score at will on the Lakers. When the Lakers were going on runs — especially in the second quarter, when the Grizzlies let a 34–18 advantage shrink to 36–33 — it was because the Grizzlies’ bench players were in and they weren’t able to swing the ball around effectively. When the starters came back in, and started passing to each other, the Grizzlies’ lead always opened back up.
Where is Marreese Speights? So far this season, Speights still hasn’t found his happy place on the court. As a starter last year he excelled, but ever since he went back to the bench — since Z-Bo returned from his knee injury — Speights has looked a little lost on both ends of the floor, missing shots and just generally looking out of sorts. Last night he had 4 points on 4 shots, and 4 rebounds in 15 minutes. With the return of Darrell Arthur to the lineup, the pressure is on Speights to pull himself together, because once Arthur is back to 100%, he’s probably going to return to the spot he earned in 2011 as the Grizzlies’ #1 bench big man.
Happy Gasol, Sad Gasol: Last night Marc Gasol had an excellent game against Dwight Howard in a matchup of the league’s best center vs. the league’s best manipulative diva-slash-Giant Size eight-year-old. Gasol even got called for a foul at one point for taking a Howard elbow to the chin, but overall he was able to keep Howard from disrupting the Grizzlies’ inside game.
On the other end of the “oversized Spaniard” spectrum, though, Marc’s brother Pau Gasol didn’t have such a great time last night, scoring 6 points on 8 shots, and only grabbing 4 rebounds. It looks like moving Pau out of the low post, where he’s still a world-class scoring big, and putting him up at the elbow to make room for Dwight Howard’s oversized arms (and ego) have had a dramatically negative effect on the elder Gasol’s game. He looks out of sorts, unable to get under the basket the way he wants to. Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni didn’t even play Gasol in the fourth quarter, although surely Kobe Bryant took the opportunity to try and throw Pau under the team bus as it left the Forum last night.
- Poor Ol’ Kobe: Kobe Bryant scored 30 points last night, but Tony Allen and Quincy Pondexter sure didn’t make it easy on him. Almost everything he got was a contested isolation jumper, and down the stretch, Tony Allen was able to shut him down when it mattered, keeping the Lakers from being able to tie the game in the last couple of minutes. The Lakers were never able to get closer than a six point deficit. Kudos to TA and QPon for making the old man work for it. I was watching the Lakers’ broadcast feed, and their announcers said that Kobe headed to the locker room before the final buzzer even sounded, probably sticking out his jaw and cursing Pau Gasol in Italian under his breath. Any time Kobe Bryant is made miserable by the Grizzlies, I am content.
Overall, last night was a reminder of how good this Grizzlies team is when they play together — even if it wasn’t perfect. The starters all played magnificently — Randolph has now had eleven straight double-doubles — and even though the bench struggled the first time they were in, eventually they got it together and kept the Lakers from ever gaining the lead.
The Grizzlies still have the best record in the Western Conference and in the league, and they’re tied for first place in the Southwest division with the San Antonio Spurs, who they still haven’t played yet. And, of course, we beat the Lakers. Who doesn’t love beating the Lakers?
Side note, though: if Howard ever figures out that he can help his team more by catching the shots he blocks instead of swatting them into the stands, the league is in trouble. He looks like he’s playing volleyball out there, and if he would just catch the ball he’d be generating new possessions for his team instead of knocking the ball out of bounds and giving his opponent more time. Why he hasn’t understood this yet is beyond me. ↩