The Lakers played well tonight, but they were beaten by a very hot – and very lucky – Zach Randolph.
During the first quarter, Randolph scored what must have been one of the luckier baskets in NBA history. He had an offensive rebound fall into his hands, but ended up juggling it like a hot potato. As he tried to regain control, he hit the ball with his left hand – chest high, with his back to the basket, and in the midst of a 360-degree spin – and it flew up, over his shoulder, and into the hoop.
And those two points ended up providing a crucial cushion for the Grizzlies in crunch time.
Although he was incredibly lucky on that play, Randolph was incredibly good (and maybe a bit lucky) in the fourth quarter, when he scored 14 points of his season-high 28 points. To my eye, the Lakers defended him very well – he just got very hot.
Coach Mike D’Antoni went with the same starting line-up for the third game in a row, and Pau Gasol, Jordan Hill, Wesley Johnson, Jodie Meeks and Steve Blake combined to score 56 points on 50% shooting.
Their leader tonight was Meeks, which was great to see after his game in Denver, when he recorded just three points with no rebounds, assists, steals, or blocks in 27 minutes. Tonight, he surpassed his Denver total in just 75 seconds, and went on to set his season high with 25 points on 63% shooting, including 56% from downtown.
Blake also had a nice game, with 10 assists, nine points, seven rebounds, and two steals against just one turnover. In fact, it was the third consecutive game in which Blake recorded at least ten assists. Unfortunately, he missed an open three in the final seconds that – had he made it – would have given the Lakers a real chance to win the game.
Nick Young had another great game from the bench, scoring 18 points on 50% shooting, and had a memorable stretch to close the first half when he outscored the Grizzlies 6-0 to tie the game at 40-40 going into the break.
Unfortunately, the rest of the bench – Jordan Farmar, Shawne Williams, Chris Kaman and Xavier Henry – struggled mightily, scoring just 12 points on 25% shooting. Farmar and Henry both went scoreless tonight (as did starter Johnson).
The most disappointing stat for the Lakers was being outrebounded by the Grizzlies 51-40, especially because the Lakers rank third in the league in rebounds per game, while the Grizzlies rank 25th. Gasol led the Lakers with 13 rebounds (to go along with 10 points), but he recorded just two in the second half. Hill, the Lakers’ best rebounder over the previous two games, managed just five in 30 minutes of floor time.
But there were positives as well. The Lakers recorded a very healthy 25 assists on 35 baskets (71%), and they turned the ball over only 11 times. Their defense was good – especially their perimeter defense, where they held the Grizzlies to just 1-13 shooting (8%) from beyond the arc. They played pretty well.
Despite playing well, though, this was a very tough loss for the Lakers. Had they won, they would have been in the position of playing Detroit at home on Sunday with a chance to enter their four-day break with a 0.500 record – which would have been acceptable given their tough schedule to start the season.
But now, even a win on Sunday won’t change the fact that this team has dug itself a hole.
Lakers’ Player of the Game
Tonight’s player of the game was Jodie Meeks, who scored 25 points (10-16 FG, 5-9 3PT, 0-1 FT) and grabbed three rebounds – and a key steal – in a team-high 38 minutes of floor time. It was nice to see that Meeks’ terrible performance in Denver was just an aberration, as tonight he resumed playing the same high level of basketball that he has been showing Lakers’ fans this season.
Sunday, November 17 at 6:30 p.m. PST vs. the Detroit Pistons
This is an article by Craig Lawson. You can follow him on Twitter: @stevenashchroni