Don't be angry Grizzly fans, the Lakers needed this one more than you did.
Some in Memphis called for the Grizz to "handle their business" at L.A. on Friday night. I think that attitude is reserved for either home games against worse teams or road games vs lottery teams. The Lakers are too talented and too desperate (especially at home) to apply here.
Sure, Memphis is trying to get homecourt advantage in the first round, something I still see them doing, but Los Angeles was truly desperate tonight to stay on pace with the Utah Jazz who won earlier.
The Laker defense was surprisingly good for most of the first half. They led by as many as 13 points. In the second quarter, the Grizzlies rode Marc Gasol in the post vs brother Pau, too much in my eyes. I felt the team lost its rhythm as much as they controlled the tempo. Marc's elbow that connected on Pau's face, and subsequent technical foul, junked up the game a bit. But it didn't really favor Memphis. It was still a seven-point Laker lead at halftime, 46-39.
Then, the second half started.
If you've been on the moon for the last few years, and don't know what Memphis Grizzlies basketball is, you just need watch the first half of that 3rd quarter. The team started it with a slow, grinding 10-0 run. The Lakers were in serious trouble. That is, until Kobe jump-started the offense, which helped to revive their defense. It was a nip n' tuck game from that point on.
With the Lakers up one under a minute to play, Bryant settled for a long jumpshot. The Grizzlies got what they wanted, a chance to win it on the road. Lionel Hollins gave the ball to Mike Conley, and he went at Steve Blake (Nash's understudy) mano a mano. Mike ended up shooting a step-back shot going to his left. It was a shot I hadn't seen him take in a while, let alone make. The length of the Laker frontline (Howard, Gasol, and Clark) definitely factored into him pulling up. Following the game, Kobe said "you want little guys to have to face a seven-footer."
After Dwight Howard made one of two free throws to put L.A. up two, Conley again had a chance to be the hero. This time, he was determined to go inside. Mike attempted a similar shot to one he took in the 1st half, in which he got an And One. One this try, though, it was a wild miss off the back of the rim. Final score: 86-84.
Did Howard foul Conley on the shot? Memphis says yes, Los Angeles says no. The refs sided with the 'Angelinos'.
The Lakers held Memphis scoreless for the final 2:32 of the game. It begs the question, wouldn't Rudy Gay have been nice to have on those last two plays in 'crunch time'?
Conley led the Grizz with 21 points, 8 assists, and 2 steals. Bryant had 24 pts, 9 assts, and 5 rebs.
Memphis was able to force L.A. into 18 turnovers. But the team is usually at its best when Z-Bo is leading the team, both physically and emotionally. He didn't seem to have that famous chippiness on Friday night.
However, not all is lost Griz Nation. At least the Nuggets got worse on Friday.