Rudy Gay and the Memphis Grizzlies didn’t get overly excited about beating the Los Angeles Lakers so thoroughly that the Staples Center crowd booed its two-time champions off the court.
The Grizzlies were just pleased they had seized their second chance for a fresh start to the new year.
Gay scored 27 points, Zach Randolph added 21 points and eight rebounds and the Grizzlies roared away in the second half for a 104-85 victory over the lifeless Lakers on Sunday night.
One day after a rough loss at Utah, and four days after losing to the NBA-worst Sacramento Kings, the Grizzlies’ blowout had their bench standing in celebration much of the second half.
”Whenever you play good basketball, things like this happen,” said Gay, who spent most of the past three days off in bed with a stomach virus. ”It’s just like any other team. Every other team in this league is looking at them like they’re just another team to beat. With all due respect to them, they’re a great team, but I felt that we came out here and played great basketball.”
O.J. Mayo scored 15 points for the Grizzlies, who made a 19-4 run in the third quarter to take a 17-point lead. Los Angeles never threatened to get back in it despite a 21-point second half by Kobe Bryant, and the Lakers were left wondering how the Grizzlies are just 15-19 after losing to Memphis twice in less than five weeks.
”We feel like we can play with anybody, and we should have a better record than we have,” said point guard Mike Conley, who had 12 points and six assists. ”We’ve laid eggs here and there, but we’re working hard to become a more consistent team.”
Gay hit two three-pointers, repeatedly scored in transition and punctuated his night with a steal and dramatic dunk with 6:40 to play. Randolph went 9 for 17 in the low post to win his matchup with Pau Gasol, who had 10 points and eight rebounds.
”Coming out like this against the world champs should really motivate us to keep playing hard and winning,” Randolph said. ”This is really how we’ve got to play in the new year.”
Bryant scored 28 points for the Lakers, who’ve lost three of their last four home games — all three by at least 16 points, with a narrow New Year’s Eve win over Philadelphia in between — and four of six overall.
Los Angeles still leads the woeful Pacific Division by eight games, but the Lakers have looked decidedly average for most of the past two weeks. The Lakers made 20 turnovers and trailed by 26 points in the fourth quarter, eliciting boos from the fans who didn’t leave early.
Although Bryant earned yet another technical foul for a post-basket outburst, he seemed more clinical than emotional afterward.
”We didn’t execute well, and defensively we were poor,” Bryant said. ”We’ve just got to come out focused and ready to play. It’s tough when you have to try to regenerate that energy every single night. It starts individually. You have to look at yourself and try to find things to get you going. Right now we can’t beat anybody, but we’ll be fine.”
Andrew Bynum had nine points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots for the Lakers, but Memphis scored 28 fast-break points and repeatedly beat Los Angeles down the court.
Los Angeles appeared exhausted at times during its fourth game in six days, and it’s a problem that’s only going to get worse. The Lakers are early in a stretch of 15 games in 25 days, and they won’t get consecutive days off again until Jan. 22-23.
”We’re not really playing together, and as a result, it’s costing us,” Bynum said. ”Right now, we’ve got to be concerned. We have to be. … Good teams are looking at us like we’re soft.”
Memphis took a nine-point lead at halftime, then took control with a 19-4 run late in the third quarter after Bryant shot the Lakers back into it with 17 third-period points. Bryant was visibly frustrated, slapping the back of a seat in anger when he came out of the game in the third. The crowd agreed with its boos.
Gay scored 10 points in the first quarter for the Grizzlies, pushing them to an early lead. Randolph scored 15 first-half points on 7-for-10 shooting, and Memphis closed the second quarter with a 10-2 run to take a 48-39 lead.
NOTES: Joe Smith made his Lakers debut in the final 4:36. The former No. 1 pick had sat out all seven games since the Lakers acquired him from New Jersey in a trade for Sasha Vujacic on Dec. 15. … The teams wrap up their season series Feb. 7 in Memphis. … Fans near courtside included Tom Petty, George Lopez, pro surfer Kelly Slater and producer Joel Silver.