The World Champion Los Angeles Lakers showed dogged determination at Staples Center Friday night, using a 38-point 3rd quarter to knock out an offensively talented, but defensively challenged Memphis Grizzlies team 114-98.
With just 1 win on their resume this season, Memphis showed up in LA with a decided frontcourt advantage. After all, the Lakers were playing without Pau Gasol, whose hamstring continues to mend (he could return Sunday against New Orleans), and Andrew Bynum, who strained his elbow in Houston Wednesday. And, the Grizzlies are big down low with both Marc Gasol and Zack Randolph, who had been combining to average 38 points and 22 boards.
And for 24 minutes, it looked as though the Grizzlies would make a game of it. Memphis went to the half with a 51-49 lead, and before the break, the game drifted away from the Lakers. Kobe committed a shooting foul on Rudy Gay, where he converted on 2 free throws. Then, after a perfectly executed backdoor alley-oop from Derek Fisher to Kobe, USC’s own OJ Mayo answered back for the Grizzlies with an impossible double-clutch, off-handed layup (probably the most impressive single play of the half). Memphis closed out the scoring with a 27-foot dagger from Gay.
But after Kobe became the youngest player ever to reach the 24,000 point plateau in the first half, he absolutely went off in the final 24, finishing with 41 points on 19-30 (63%). It was the 99th 40-point game of Kobe's career, and there is no selfishness here. This is the only way that the Lakers can win right now without their next-best scorers Gasol and Bynum.
DJ Mbenga got the start at center on Phil Jackson’s lineup card, and the move paid off in a big way as the pride of the Congo registered 9 1st quarter rebounds, just 3 shy of the Memphis team total for the first 12 minutes. DJ finished with 13 boards as the Lakers crushed Memphis on the boards 49-37. Mbenga added 5 points, 2 assists and 4 blocks.
Another game in the books and Ron Artest got even more comfortable in purple and gold. Ron-Ron scored 19 points on 7-14, including 3 treys. He also managed 6 rebounds, 7 helpers, a steal and a block (this guy really fills up a box score).
The Lakers bench was outstanding with 35 points and only 3 turnovers. Josh Powell was 6-11 from the field for 13 points, and Luke Walton had his best game of the season with 7 boards and 7 assists. Walton had hustle plays at both ends of the floor, and he kept a number of offensive possessions alive using sheer will.
Memphis is an interesting team (not good), but their defense has more holes than swiss cheese. Nobody could even remotely control Kobe, and Zack Randolph, OJ Mayo and Allen Iverson combined to play absolutely zero defense. Rudy Gay led all Grizzly scorers with 22 points, but Memphis is filled with guys who care only about getting their shots (which is why they only had 13 assists as a team).