A team meeting didn’t help stop the losing, and this season just keeps spinning away from the Lakers.
Darrell Arthur scored a season-high 20 points and Mike Conley added 19 as the Memphis Grizzlies beat Los Angeles 106-93 Wednesday night, handing the Lakers their fourth straight loss and 10th in 12 games.
”I do think they play as hard as they can play, and that’s what’s scary,” coach Mike D’Antoni said of his Lakers, who are now 2-10 in January. ”I mean I don’t know how we can play harder or blame something else. We just didn’t play well.”
Kobe Bryant said he felt comfortable with what he said in a team meeting before the morning shootaround. He said he doesn’t know if his message to Dwight Howard got across. When asked if he hoped it did, Bryant simply answered with a seemingly sarcastic ”No.” And Bryant said this season certainly is getting up there when asked if it was his toughest in the NBA.
”That Rudy T (Tomjanovich) one was a pretty hard one, too,” Bryant said.
That was 2004-05, when the Lakers last missed the playoffs when Tomjanovich was coach part of a 34-48 season.
These Lakers are 17-25 after losing their seventh consecutive road game. D’Antoni had talked before the game about having an All-Star team with players not having learned their pecking order. Then Howard missed the second half after aggravating his sore shoulder just before halftime. D’Antoni said the center will be re-evaluated in Los Angeles.
Memphis got to celebrate a big win, a day after trading three reserves to Cleveland. That meant, even with the signing of D-League player Chris Johnson, Memphis only dressed 10 players before clinching the season series over the Lakers with one game left in Los Angeles on April 5.
”It was just a great team win,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said.
Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Tony Allen added 12 points apiece as Memphis improved to 12-0 when scoring at least 100 points. Randolph also grabbed 10 rebounds. The Grizzlies scored a season-high 60 points in the paint, compared to 34 for the Lakers with Howard out the second half.
Bryant scored 29 points for the Lakers, Metta World Peace added 15, Pau Gasol 13 and Earl Clark 11.
Los Angeles came in as the NBA’s fifth-best scoring team, averaging 102.6 points. But it was the Grizzlies topping 100 points for the first time since Jan. 11 against the Spurs, and they scored their most points since getting 113 against Sacramento on Jan. 7.
Pau Gasol, coming off the bench again, believes defense remains the Lakers’ biggest problem.
”We make these teams look a lot better offensively than they really are,” the Lakers forward said. ”That’s something that’s pretty negative. Pretty alarming.”
The Grizzlies had a short bench after trading three players to the Cavaliers on Tuesday, only getting Jon Leuer back in a move freeing up Memphis from the luxury tax. But the paperwork hadn’t cleared on the physicals of the trio going to Cleveland in time to have Leuer available against the Lakers.
Then Marc Gasol, Randolph, Hamed Haddadi and Jerryd Bayless all picked up two fouls each in the first quarter. That forced Hollins to rotate his Grizzlies to keep them fresh, and rookie Tony Wroten, who has gotten most of his playing time in the D-League in Reno this season, had a career-best nine points by halftime.
”When we are faced with adversity, we show that we can win,” Allen said. ”When adversity comes, when guys get hurt, we pull together.”
The Lakers started quickly, scoring the first six points of the game and forced four turnovers. They looked like they had listened to D’Antoni’s plea for better defense.
But they last led 30-28 on a 15-footer by Pau Gasol with 9 minutes left in the second quarter. Conley answered with a 9-foot runner to tie it up, and that started a 22-5 run as the Grizzlies took the lead for good. Conley capped the spurt with a fast-break layup with 4:25 left in the first half for a 50-35 lead.
Both teams shot better than 50 percent in the first half, but the Grizzlies led 59-50 at halftime. They led by as much as 21 in the second half and finished with a 27-3 edge on second-chance points. They outrebounded the Lakers 52-34, including 16 offensive rebounds.
”It’s just the same thing over again,” Lakers forward Earl Clark said. ”We broke down defensively. They went on a run, and we continue to just go downhill.”
Meanwhile, Howard was 0 of 4 from the floor and headed to the locker room with 2:21 left in the first half, flexing his right shoulder. He had been probable with a torn labrum and had a very physical first half against Gasol and Haddadi.
The Lakers got within 61-58 on a 14-footer by Bryant with 8:57 left in the third. That was as close as they would get as their woes worsened when Steve Nash, who came in a perfect 26 of 26 at the free throw line this season, missed his second attempt of the night with 3:07 left in the third.
Notes: Gay tied Pau Gasol as the Grizzlies’ franchise leader in games played with 476 … D’Antoni, told at least he didn’t have to worry about coaching the All-Star game this season, joked, ”just barely missed it by 30 games.” … Memphis had gone six straight games since last topping 100 points, and the Grizzlies needed overtime to do that against the Spurs. … Memphis had a 43-29 scoring edge from the bench. … Nash finished with eight assists but six turnovers.