The Los Angeles Lakers didn’t play all that bad against the Best-in-the-West Memphis Grizzlies, but both Jeremy Lin and especially Kobe Bryant where off their game in the fourth quarter. Without these two playing even close to what the team needs them to, they simply couldn’t get back in a game they had going for them quite nicely early on.
Kobe Bryant didn’t take a single shot in the first quarter. The thing about Bryant is that we know it’s not some elaborate plan from Byron Scott to somehow change things up. It’s simply a decision by Bryant to maybe show people the Lakers can’t do without him taking so many shots. The truth? The Lakers are at their best when Bryant doesn’t take too many looks at the basket. He’s such a threat by simply being on the floor (probably bigger than when he’s actually shooting the ball), it makes his passing that much more efficient. Problem is he doesn’t like to pass.
So in order to make up for not shooting in the first quarter, Bryant went 5-of-15 from the field the rest of the game, going completely cold in the fourth quarter. Jeremy Lin did well early on, finishing with 14 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists and having a nice day with his outside shooting. However, Lin needs to take more than nine shots per game, and looked off his game, taking some bad ones in the fourth quarter as both teams were limited to just 19 points.
The Grizzlies had one big run in the third quarter taking care of the game for them, eventually winning 99-93. Unlike the Lakers, they moved the ball quite a lot, finishing with nine more assists, getting 7 from Mike Conley (co-leading the team with 19 points) and five more came from Beno Udrih. Marc Gasol had himself a double double, scoring 19 points and grabbing 11 rebounds, followed by Zach Randolph with 16 and 9.
Trying to find a weak link in the Lakers isn’t too hard. However, when trying to find someone who makes a difference between winning and losing, more often than not it’s Carlos Boozer, one of the more inconsistent players in the league. He finished with just 2-of-6 from the field, scoring 4 points. Being unable to get him going early and later on as well, which means someone didn’t move the ball in the right direction, might be even more costly than Bryant’s misses.
Bryant keeps doing his thing, scoring 22 points. He looks sad or bothered by something at the end of games, but it’s hard to actually figure out if it’s all for show or not. He’s doing whatever he wants on the floor with no owner, general manager or head coach telling him what to do. He’s helping in making the Lakers look like one of the biggest jokes in the NBA. He also has an imitator coming off the bench, as Nick Young went 4-of-14, shooting at will without a hint of remorse.
It wasn’t all bad for the Lakers, who simply have to re-adjust their expectations and aspirations each season. Playing against the Memphis Grizzlies, maybe the best team in the NBA since this season began, a moral victory in which they actually played some good defense from time to time isn’t such a disaster. Sure, having such a struggle in the fourth offensively in which both Jeremy Lin and Kobe Bryant got pretty much shut down by the best defensive team in the league hurts, but that’s not surprising when the Lakers continue to look like one of the worst-coached teams in the league.