The Lakers had one last chance to either tie the game or win with a three last night in Memphis, but Kobe was denied driving to the basket, and he dished it to a hesitant Ron Artest who ended up air balling a blocked, last second three.
The Lakers once again struggled to score, and they only seemed to wake up in the fourth quarter, almost identical to how they performed in their Sunday night loss to the Pacers. Yet again, it was too little too late for the Lakers.
Kobe only shot 36 percent from the floor, taking 25 shots and only converting on nine of them. He did very well in the first half, but lost a lot of that rhythm in the second. Although his shooting percentage was down, he opened the door for Pau Gasol and Shannon Brown in the fourth quarter rather than trying to do it all on his own.
The bench was much improved after a disappointing performances against the Pacers and Jazz. They scored a total of 24 points, which still isn't their average, but it was three more than the Grizzlies 21 bench points. Shannon Brown hit a ridiculously long three and added six more points for a total of nine, along with Steve Blake who had nine, and Matt Barnes who had six.
Final Score: Lakers 96, Grizzlies 98
Lakers Player of the Game: Pau Gasol - 15 points, 14 rebounds, four assists
Let's take a look at the positives and negatives for the game in my Daily Five:
1. Rebounding and physicality down low
Well, what wasn't present against the Pacers Sunday night was definitely there last night, as the Lakers out rebounded the Grizzlies 42-29. They seemed a lot hungrier for the ball compared to Sunday night, and they also held Marc Gasol to a surprising nine rebounds. The Lakers also got a lot of second chances, doubling the Grizzlies on offensive rebounds, 13-5.
The rebounding had seemed to lessen in the past few games, but last night was a bright spot in this three-game losing streak, as they showed they can still be very physical down low even without Andrew Bynum. I expect this rebounding to continue, as it should considering they are the third best rebounding team in the league.
2. This loss is motivation for the future
Yes, that's right, I'm using this three-game losing streak as a positive. After the loss last night in which Xavier Henry shut Kobe down for a lot of the game, the Lakers are going to really wake up and give them something to play for in December. Games like last night against a mediocre Grizzlies team in the beginning of December can cause sleep walking, but this game will finally get them motivated.
It gives them a chance to look themselves in the mirror and ask "What do we need to do in order to fix things?" This is a time for discovery for the Lakers, and this will be valuable come playoff time in April. Fix the little kinks now, and get them out of the way. I can almost bet anything the Lakers will come away with a win in Houston—there's no way will they allow a four game losing streak to happen.
3. Kobe doing too much
Once again, Kobe has tried to take over the game, but really struggled in the second half. The first quarter was a great for him, but he went dead cold in the second quarter which carried over into the second half. He took 33 shots in that loss to the Pacers Sunday night and 25 shots last night. Here's an interesting stat: The Lakers are 2-3 when Kobe takes 25 or more shots, and they are 11-2 when he takes less than 25 shots.
That stat says a lot, and I think really has to do with Kobe getting guys like Lamar Odom involved in the offense. With the Killer B's (Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, and Shannon Brown), plus Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom showing a lot of consistency, Kobe doesn't necessarily have to be taking 20 shots a game.
We have seen him increase the assists and decrease the shots taken per game this year. It seems as though in the last couple games, Kobe has tried to do too much. Look for him to getting back to being less aggressive, and only taking over when he needs to.
4. Defending the pick-and-roll
The Grizzlies absolutely killed the Lakers last night with the pick-and-roll. Way too many times, guards were driving down the lane with the pick-and-roll causing uncontested layups and easy shots. Not having Bynum isn't an excuse when you have seven foot Pau Gasol down low, although I do think that things will really improve when Bynum returns.
The Lakers know they must do a better job forcing bad shots and corralling them down low. Will we see an improvement against Houston tonight? I really hope so, or we could see more of the same.
5. Scoring/shooting percentage
The Lakers once again failed to reach the 100 point mark for the third time in four games. They are only averaging 41.3 percent from the floor during the three-game losing streak. I think a lot of the reason the scoring is down so much is that a lot of pressure is being put on the shooters because of poor defense and hustle. That pressure translates into second-guessing shots and not getting good looks.
The Lakers dropped from averaging 112 points per game to 108 points per game, and dropped from first to second in the league in points per game. I don't think that it's a huge deal. The fact that the scoring was so impressive before this skid indicates that they will easily rebound.
Next Game: Wednesday, December 1 at Houston Rockets 8:30pm est.
Lakers Keys to the Game
- Contain the low post against Scola
- Come out with more enthusiasm
- Kobe can't come out too aggressive right away
- Will the Lakers be able to defend the pick-and-roll?
- How will the Lakers respond to this three-game skid?
- How will the Lakers perform in the low post against Scola and Miller?
My Prediction: Lakers 105, Rockets 99