Los Angeles Lakers vs. Memphis Grizzlies: Postgame Grades and Analysis for L.A.
The Los Angeles Lakers entered their contest with the Memphis Grizzlies having won five of their last seven games, but it's clear at this point that they aren't over the hump just yet. The Grizzlies are arguably the hottest team in the NBA to start the 2012-13 season, but the Lakers' 106-98 loss emphasizes the struggles that the team from L.A. has had thus far.
From the onset of the game, the Grizzlies were the more poised team. They came out with more energy and more efficiency, and as a result, they were able to take advantage in transition. The Lakers were simply outplayed early, and they trailed Memphis 18-34 by the end of the first quarter.
L.A. gave up way too many open shots in the first period, but it was able to storm back early in the second. Its defense ramped up, the rebounding improved and the offense began playing at a pace that allowed the team to create easy scoring opportunities. The Lakers cut the lead to three at one point, but they would allow a Memphis run, and they trailed by seven points heading into the third.
The third quarter was relatively back and forth, as the two teams each had mini runs at some point. But in what had become familiar fashion, Memphis once again established momentum and began to take over. The Lakers allowed too many easy shots, and they committed too many pointless fouls.
L.A. came out late and made four three-pointers in the first three minutes of the final period. The Lakers' bench is what got them back into this game, and a lineup of Dwight Howard and four reserves showed the most defensive effort we'd seen all game.
This contest came down to whether or not Los Angeles could make up for its inconsistencies late, but not even a strong run by Kobe Bryant could turn the game in L.A.'s favor.
The Lakers have yet to win a road game this year, and they've now fallen to 6-7 on the young season.
Point Guard: Darius Morris
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Coming off a good performance against the Sacramento Kings, Darius Morris was a solid contributor for the second game in a row against the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Lakers' temporary starting point guard came out in this one willing to push the tempo, and his strong play resulted in him scoring six of the Los Angeles Lakers’ first 10 points. The 21-year-old was aggressive on both ends of the floor early in the game, which helped create easy scoring opportunities for the entire starting unit.
Morris has been a more-than-reliable shooter on the year, and that was on full display throughout this contest. He finished the game with nine points on 4-of-6 shooting, and while he disappeared late, he was important early.
With so many stars on the Lakers' roster, the team needs players at the point guard position who can play smart, efficient basketball. Morris' ceiling in the NBA is still questionable, but he appears to be filling his role nicely on a Los Angeles team that needs reliable role players.
Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant
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Kobe Bryant finished this game as the high scorer for both teams, but his production was only felt in spurts, as he caught and lost fire throughout the entire contest.
The 34-year-old started this game as a virtual nonfactor, as he scored just two points in what was an ugly first quarter for the entire Lakers roster. He wasn't scoring, he wasn't distributing and he had trouble making his mark in any particular area of the stat sheet.
There was a point, however, in the second quarter where Bryant began to take over. His aggressiveness landed him trips to the free-throw line he hadn't earned earlier in the game, and he finished the first half with 12 of his 14 points coming in the second quarter.
The second half once again saw momentum shifts for the star 2-guard, and while there was a stretch of time where he tried to win this one on his own, it was a futile effort with his inefficient shooting plaguing him along the way—he was 13-of-14 from the foul line, but just 7-of-23 from the field.
The on-again, off-again shooting is what keeps Bryant's performance from being declared dominant, but his 30 points are more than noteworthy when neither Pau Gasol nor Dwight Howard were able to make an impact.
The Lakers are now 0-6 when Bryant records fewer than five assists.
Small Forwards: Metta World Peace
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Metta World Peace may be known as a defensive specialist, but it was his offense that earns him recognition against the Memphis Grizzlies.
The small forward began the contest in quiet fashion, as he struggled to get involved offensively. However, the third quarter saw World Peace find his shooting touch, as he began scoring both inside and outside for the first time in the contest.
Defensively, World Peace struggled to contain Rudy Gay. The Grizzlies' top scorer was at it again, and he rarely seemed affected by the presence of the Lakers' perimeter defender.
World Peace may be the kind of player who shows energy all game long, but the same can't be said about his production. A hot third quarter was crucial for this team staying close, but where was that kind of play the rest of the game?
It's unfair to ask World Peace to be a consistent scorer on this kind of roster, but you'd like to see his energy translate to production more than just 25 percent of the time.
Power Forward: Pau Gasol
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The Los Angeles Lakers entered this game 0-4 on the season when Pau Gasol scores less than 10 points, and that trend continued in this one, as the seven-footer recorded just six points on 3-of-8 shooting.
Gasol’s first half was one he’d like to forget, as he simply couldn’t make plays. He began the game just 1-of-6 from the field, and he was missing the same open jump shots he’s become known for throughout the years. Defensively, the big man also struggled, as he was never able to contain Zach Randolph in the points or rebounding column.
The word "quiet" would normally describe a performance like this for most stars in the NBA, but for a player who appears to be trending the wrong direction, the word "troubling" may be more accurate.
His shot hasn't been falling, his points are down and both of those concerns were present to anybody watching the Lakers' matchup with Memphis.
When Jamison fouled out late in the game, the Lakers were down seven points and they opted to bring in Darius Morris instead of Gasol. The Lakers' big man wasn't just quiet; he was a detriment to the team's' success in this one, and he played the fewest minutes of any starter as a result.
Center: Dwight Howard
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Coming off a game where Dwight Howard was virtually invisible on the offensive side of the floor, the Los Angeles Lakers needed a big performance from their big man to challenge the frontcourt of the Memphis Grizzlies.
It's safe to say that they didn't get it Friday night, as Howard went just 2-of-7 from the floor and finished with his second straight seven-point performance.
Part of the problem is that the Lakers aren't always looking his way. They have the best center in the game down low, and there's no offensive set in the world that should limit him to just seven shots in a basketball game.
That being said, Howard needs to stay aggressive when he does get his chances. Seven points and four rebounds aren't going to get it done for these Lakers, and there has to be a mutual understanding moving forward that he needs the ball, and he needs to be aggressive when he gets it.
Defensively, Howard had a good game, but the numbers are a bit misleading. He recorded four blocks, but having gotten those in help situations, his one-on-one defense proved to be less impressive. You don't want to take anything away from a four-block performance, but allowing less open looks and boxing out more consistently would have helped negate his poor offensive performance on a much greater level.
Sixth Man: Antawn Jamison
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Antawn Jamison has been a disappointment throughout the 2012-13 season, but he came into the game against the Memphis Grizzlies and helped shave down the early deficit with nine points on 4-of-5 shooting in just his first six minutes of play.
Jamison hadn’t played any second-half minutes in the team’s previous two games, but he earned his time in this one with solid play in the first two quarters.
Playing Jamison at power forward alongside Dwight Howard helped the reserve’s production. Howard’s play wasn’t spectacular while they were on the floor together, but he is always going to draw attention from defenses, and Jamison took advantage.
The big man fouled out in this game, but not before recording 16 points and seven rebounds on 7-of-11 shooting.
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The Los Angeles Lakers' bench has been one of the worst in the NBA all season, but their energy and efficiency is what helped the team get back in this one as the fourth quarter began.
Almost every time the Lakers lost momentum, it appeared to be the bench that came in and regained control of both the offense and the defense. With four of the Lakers' five starters on the bench late in the game, the team's reserves began the final period with excellent three-point shooting and a fantastic defensive effort.
The second unit finished the game with 12 rebounds and 30 points on 12-of-21 shooting, and each player who earned significant time made every minute count.
If the Lakers bench can start playing like this moving forward, they'll be in good position when everybody is healthy. Steve Nash will eventually return to the starting lineup, and when he does, Darius Morris will have a chance to add to the production.