The Los Angeles Lakers (19-39) are a pitiful team. Wednesday evening’s Lakers starting 5 consisted of Kendall Marshall, Wesley Johnson, Jodie Meeks, Pau Gasol, and Kent Bazemore.
No Kobe. No Swaggy P. No Steve Nash.
The Memphis Grizzlies (32-24) took advantage of that in the (boring) first half. They set a season high for most points (65), FG made (28) and assists (19) in a half and were poised for a 30+ point blowout with a 65-46 lead.
The first half was so uneventful that it wasn’t even worth taking notes. The Lakers had no interest in playing defense, and the Grizzlies wouldn’t allow them clean looks at the basket.
But then, the third quarter happened. It seems to be a recurring theme for the Grizzlies. After a Z-BO jumper put the Grizzlies ahead by 22, 76-54, with 6:02 to go in the 3rd, I tweeted this:
Sorry for not tweeting as much tonight. There's really nothing to talk about. The Lakers are awful. MEM is doing what it should
— Zach Thomas (@zacharytthomas) February 27, 2014
Of course, at that moment, the Lakers went on a 17-2 run to pull within 7, 78-71, with 1:23 to go in the quarter. During that 4:39 stretch the Grizzlies got off 5 shots (1-5, 2 turnovers) to the Lakers 9 shots (6-9, 3-4 from 3). Though it never felt as if the Lakers would win the game, they didn’t go away, pulling to within 3, 106-103, with 14 seconds left in the 4th quarter.
Marc Gasol played well, being the only Grizzlies player with a double double. That’s good to see, because Marc grabbing rebounds is a good sign. Coach Joerger mentioned after the game he thought it may be because Marc is finally getting used to playing with the brace on his knee. Then again, it could just be that he was playing against his brother, Pau, who coincidentally had the Lakers only double double.
Courtney Lee, James Johnson and Tony Allen added tremendous defensive energy and scoring when the Grizzlies needed it in the 4th quarter. With Johnson playing the PF spot against Wesley Johnson and Ryan Kelly, it created just enough difference on the defensive end to open things up for the offense.
As you can see from the above box score, 10 players played and each got significant minutes. I asked Coach Joerger after the game about his recent comment on shortening the rotation after the Clippers win. He said “I know who I’m going to play. I just don’t know who I’m going to play with who yet.” GREAAAAAT! More weird rotations down the stretch. I’m kidding, I’m kidding. I know he’ll figure it out soon. (Right?)
The Grizzlies had 28 assists, but at times it seemed like they were overpassing and being too unselfish. That led eventually to exchanging good shots for turnovers and bad shots. Nick Calathes turned in a solid game with 5 assists and 1 turnover. Mike Conley had a poor night shooting (3-11) and distributing (3 assists, 3 turnovers).
The difference tonight, however, was points in the paint. The Grizzlies took advantage of the lack of (interior) defense from the Lakers and scored 56 points in the paint to the Lakers 34. Memphis also converted extra rebounds into points, scoring 22 second chance points to the Lakers 7.
The main point about tonight’s ugly game of basketball was that the Grizzlies won. Since Phoenix and Golden State also lost, the Grizzlies now sit .5 game back of Phoenix for the 8th spot, 2 games back of Golden State for the 7th spot and 2.5 games back of Dallas for the 6th spot. Memphis is only 1 game back of Golden State and Dallas in the loss column, and tied with Phoenix in the loss column. The Grizzlies need to keep winning.
With OKC losing their third straight on their home court and wavering with Westbrook back in the lineup and Kendrick Perkins out of it (??), Friday night’s game will be even bigger now for the Grizzlies. A win would almost certainly make up for the loss to Charlotte over the weekend and put pressure on the teams ahead of them in the standings.