Kobe, Lakers Have Grizzlies' Number - LA Times

BY foxsports • November 7, 2009

By Mike Bresnahan, Los Angeles Times

No Andrew Bynum, no Pau Gasol and, really, no big deal.

There might have been issues had the Lakers played Boston or Orlando, but they caught a break in the schedule after catching none on the injury front, and were able to beat the hapless Memphis Grizzlies, 114-98, Friday at Staples Center.

Kobe Bryant scored 41 points and Ron Artest had 19 as the short-staffed Lakers awoke in the second half to improve to 5-1.

Bynum didn't play because of a strained right elbow and Gasol was sidelined for a sixth consecutive game by a strained right hamstring, though they weren't missed against a Memphis team that fell to 1-5.

The Grizzlies actually led at halftime, 51-49, thanks primarily to the Lakers' shooting 37.7%. Then came the third quarter and the end of the Grizzlies' night.

Bryant had 15 points in the quarter, Artest had 11 and the Lakers outscored the Grizzlies, 38-24, while shooting 66.7%.

By that point, Lakers fans were in a good enough mood to cheer the scoreboard when it showed the final score of the Celtics' 110-103 home loss to Phoenix.

Yep, the rivalry still exists.

For the first time in a while, the Lakers' bench didn't founder, outscoring the Grizzlies' reserves, 35-23. Josh Powell had 13 points.

Bryant, for his part, hit a new level of symmetry, scoring 41 points in a game for the third time this week.

He pounded the Grizzlies in the post with several moves that were direct hits.

"What can I say?" Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "This is a guy that sees a weakness in a team and exploits it, and tonight [the Grizzlies] didn't seem to want to put the finger in the dike. They just let the leak continue. It was a killer instinct out there [by Bryant]."

Friday's game wasn't without two more scoring accomplishments by Bryant, who became the youngest player in NBA history to reach 24,000 points with a shot over O.J. Mayo in the second quarter. Bryant is 31 years 75 days old.

He also moved ahead of Grizzlies guard Allen Iverson for 16th on the NBA career scoring list, finishing the night with 24,027 points. Iverson had eight points for Memphis on Friday.

Bryant made 19 of 30 shots Friday and remained atop the league in scoring. He is averaging 34.5 points a game, almost three per game more than Denver forward Carmelo Anthony.

"It just comes easier to me because I'm well-rested," said Bryant, who had no off-season obligations for the first time after three consecutive summers of Team USA work. "I just have the energy to be able to carry us for long periods of time. I'm just fresher."

These days, the injury reports are almost as important as the games, and Friday was no exception.

Bynum is healing quickly and might be back Sunday against New Orleans. Gasol will practice today with contact for the first time since aggravating his hamstring two weeks ago during a practice with contact. All told, Gasol has been slowed almost four weeks by his hamstring.

Jackson, however, remained optimistic when asked if Gasol would play Sunday.

"I think so," he said.

Before the game, Jackson was in a joking mood despite his ailing frontcourt.

DJ Mbenga started at center, allowing Jackson to share an anecdote from an exhibition game last month that Mbenga also started. "We had a bet that he'd have four fouls on him within the first 10 minutes of the game," Jackson said.

On Friday, Mbenga finished with five points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots. To Jackson's delight, he had only four fouls in almost 30 minutes.

Sunday will bring a slumping New Orleans team and, perhaps, the return of one or two Lakers big men.

It could be the first time all season the Lakers field a healthy roster.