Finally A Road Win
Posted by hiphopmama on December 22, 2008
LA Lakers 105, Memphis 96
The Grizzlies home announcers are officially the worst I have heard. I know that’s not the take-home message from this game, but they are just so bad I had to mention it first. I know I’ve been spoiled by the Lakers crew over the years, and I have definitely heard some bad ones since getting the League Pass, but the Memphis duo takes the cake. They were the whiniest, least informative, most partial announcers yet to get airtime on my TV. Thank god I will only have to hear them one more time this season, because I can’t imagine I’ll be tuning into Grizzlies games unless they’re playing the Lakers.
With that out of the way, on to the game. Most of the night it looked like a pick-up game, especially in the first half. There was little to no defense on either end, so even a mediocre Grizzlies team was able to get to the basket at will and bomb threes with deadly accuracy. All of which is pretty easy to do if you’re not being guarded. The Lakers closed out the half dreadfully and found themselves down by eight going into the break.
The second half was a different story. We still let Memphis play with more freedom than we should have, but the extra effort on defense was evident and slowed the Grizzlies’ offensive attack enough to allow our offense to get us back in it. It was a slow, patient push over the second 24 minutes, and we had pulled within three by the end of the third. And then, miraculously, we won the fourth quarter. We finally did what true contenders must, which is to close out a game with composure. Although the final margin was considerable, it was a one-possession game going into the last minute thanks in large part to OJ Mayo drilling a killer three to get the Grizzlies even again after trailing by six. The following possession was shaky and was only rescued by Kobe resuming his Dagger persona and nailing an open three as the shot clock expired. Memphis inexplicably went for a quick three with over 30 seconds remaining, and Rudy Gay missed a contested shot from the corner, fouling Fisher on the rebound. Memphis didn’t score another point after that, and the Lakers converted a couple free throws to ice the game. The only thing left was for Kobe to slam it home off a turnover as the buzzer sounded, adding an unnecessary but emotional punctuation mark to the game.
Two things stood out for me tonight. The first was how much we cleaned up our game in the second half. We turned the ball over with abandon in the first half, but we somehow finished with only 13 TOs on the night, meaning that our offensive game got tighter as the night progressed. This is a good sign, but only if it can be repeated in subsequent outings. As with their supposed renewed defensive effort, I will believe it when I see it.
The second thing that stood out was how difficult it was to beat such a low quality opponent. No offense to the Grizzlies – they are a young team with lots of talent and plenty of upside in the near future, but they should not be pushing us to the brink, even at home. Playing down to the level of our opponent is no surprise, but it really struck me tonight just how difficult we have made it for ourselves by settling for average defensive output. Our offense was once again excellent, shooting 54% on the night, but even with Memphis shooting 45% we couldn’t extend any kind of lead against them. Hell, we spent most of the game just trying to draw even.
One of the big culprits is our inability to defend the three point line. This has been a constant since our loss to Detroit, and I don’t see us making any attempt to fix the problem. I feel like every other night I am writing about how so-and-so burned us from downtown all night and equaled their season-high in points. I’ll admit I’m clueless as to why we have such trouble with this. I understand when Rasheed Wallace punishes us from distance, because I’ve already spoken at length on the difficulty our front court players have venturing out of the paint, but our guards should be able to contain the three point threat with some regularity. Perhaps the culprit is our complete refusal to stop any kind of penetration, which leaves us open for the kick-out three. I still feel like we gamble too much on D looking for deflections and steals, and this undoubtedly contributes as well.
Still, it was a win and in difficult circumstances. It required concentration for the full 48 and the team never got (overly) frustrated and maintained its focus. Kobe saved us with some clutch shooting at the end, which seems only fair since his last two attempts to rescue us missed the mark. One-for-three is not quite up to his usual standard, but I’m not complaining after tonight. Now if we can get a second win in New Orleans we will finish this horrendous road trip at 50%. I hope Chris Paul hasn’t been watching what pissants like Nate Robinson have been doing to us. He will have a field day…
And the last few minutes set to lovely instrumental accompaniment, in case you’re interested:
Right. So Hornets tomorrow, and then a pitiful two days off, travel not included, before the Christmas Day Massacre. Oops, I mean our chance at redemption. Because we still believe we’re in the same league as the Celtics, right? Don’t everyone speak at once…