It wasn’t that long ago the Lakers started the year 8-0, and discussions began to creep up how this team might challenge the Bulls’ magical 72-10 record. Now just ten games later, the team is searching for answers, as they have dropped three straight following Tuesday’s 98-96 loss in Memphis against the Grizzlies.
In a recurring theme over the last week, the defense continues to struggle, allowing yet another sub-.500 team to shoot well, as Memphis hit 48.8% from the field, and 8-12 (66.7%) from the three-point line, and seemingly scored at will down the stretch of the game.
The struggles also continued on the offensive end, as the Lakers, once leading the league in scoring at over 112 points per game, now have scored less than 100 in their last four games, shooting another miserable 43.6% from the floor, and an even worse 7-22 (31.8%) from the three-point line.
Kobe Bryant led all scorers with 29 points, but again struggled with his shot, hitting just 9-25 from the field. He did also had seven rebounds and five assists. Pau Gasol continues to play too many minutes, as he logged just under 45 on Tuesday, scoring 15 points and grabbing 14 rebounds, despite shooting just 5-13 from the floor.
Despite all the issues, the Lakers trailed by only two at halftime 51-49, but fell down by as many as 13 in the fourth quarter, before a late rally got them back in the game. Ron Artest hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to 98-94 with just over a minute left.
After the Lakers scored to make it 98-96, they were able to force a Grizzly turnover with 14 seconds left in the game, and decided not to call timeout to set up a play. Bryant dribbled up court and drove to the middle of the lane, but lost the ball in mid-air and was forced to pass out to Ron Artest, who had his last ditch attempt blocked by Rudy Gay to seal the win for the Grizzlies. Artest finished with 12 points.
Mike Conley scored a season-high 28 points on 10-13 shooting, inciuding 4-5 beyond the arc. Rudy Gay only had 14 points, but had six big blocks, including the one on Artest as time ran out. The Grizzlies had six players score in double-figures, and turned the ball over only seven times.
The loss dropped the Lakers to 13-5, and they are now shockingly sitting in fourth place in the Western Conference, 2 1/2 games behind the San Antonio Spurs, who continue to play very well at 15-2.
The Lakers conclude their short two-game trip on Wednesday in Houston, in the second of a back-to-back set. The Rockets are without center Yao Ming, and most-likely without starting point guard Aaron Brooks, both out with injuries.