The Los Angeles Lakers went up against arguably the NBA’s best defense Friday night. An 86-84 win over the Memphis Grizzlies wasn’t easy, but it was good enough to put half a game between themselves and the Utah Jazz for eighth place out West.
Against the Grizzlies, you have to play an efficient brand of basketball. Passes must be crisp, ball movement must be swift and you must take advantage of easy looks both at the rim and on the perimeter.
The first half saw L.A. turn the ball over 10 times, but it was able to establish a double-digit lead by creating looks at the basket.
The Lakers were able to get inside, as 22 of their first 30 points came in the paint. Ten turnovers is a problem against this Memphis defense, but their ball movement wasn’t all bad, as they collected 10 assists on their first 16 field goals.
Defensively is where the Lakers allowed Memphis to hang around. They weren’t rotating or getting back in transition, and while the Grizzlies couldn’t score from deep range to save their lives, they were smart enough to get buckets in fast-break and backdoor situations.
Unfortunately for L.A., it opened the second half with a turnover on its first possession, and that would be a theme the rest of the period. Just four minutes into the third quarter, the Lakers gave the ball away four times and allowed the Grizzlies to establish a 10-0 run.
The home team didn’t score a second-half field goal until the six-minute mark of the quarter, and a one-time 13-point lead turned into a seven-point deficit.
Things appeared to be at an all-time low when Dwight Howard picked up his fourth foul, but as soon as the center left the game, the Lakers appeared to gain new life. The turnovers disappeared, the defense tightened up and they were able to take a six-point lead into the final 12 minutes.
The fourth quarter proved to be the most physical stretch of the contest. A back-and-forth game ended with Memphis missing the potential game-tying shot, and while it wasn't always pretty, Los Angeles escaped with an important win with the season winding down.