MEMPHIS, Tenn. — What else can go wrong during the Lakers’ ill-fated season?
Yes, Los Angeles lost another Wednesday — falling to the Grizzlies 106-93 for its fourth consecutive loss overall and seventh in a row on the road. But this time the Lakers lost much more than a game.
Dwight Howard aggravated a right shoulder injury that caused him to miss three games earlier this season. Howard left the game with 2:21 left in the first half. He’ll be re-evaluated by a specialist Thursday.
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“Dwight went down. We couldn’t rebound with them. It’s another chapter in a difficult season,” said Steve Nash, who finished with seven points and eight assists.
Before he aggravated the injury, Howard had two points, both from the free throw line. He was 0 for 4 from the field during his 14 minutes.
“Right now he’s out obviously, but I don’t know what that means day to day,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said.
Los Angeles, which is now eight games below .500, began the day searching for answers, calling a team meeting before shootaround.
Reports of the meeting leaked with witnesses saying Kobe Bryant directly asked Howard if he liked playing on the same team.
Bryant was asked about the disappointment of losing after such a meeting.
“It’s just disappointing to lose period,” said Bryant, who scored a game-high 29 points in the loss to the Grizzlies.
The Lakers (17-25) haven’t won on the road since before Christmas, a seven-game stretch.
D’Antoni reportedly told his team during the meeting to stop worrying about offense and who gets the touches and focus on defense.
There wasn’t much of either for the Lakers inside FedExForum. Despite a slow start – Memphis (27-14) had four turnovers before it had any points – the Grizzlies had 59 by the half, 35 points in the second quarter. They led by nine at the break and shot 49 percent for the game. The Lakers shot 43 percent.
Before the Lakers locker room was cleared, Thursday’s practice in Los Angeles was canceled.
Bryant answered “I don’t know” when asked if he thought he got his message across to Howard at the meeting and a sarcastic “No” on a follow-up question asking if he hoped he did.
Howard apologized through reporters following the morning meeting for demanding more touches after Monday’s loss at Chicago. He went as far as saying Wednesday night’s game was a new start to the season, especially for him defensively.
It was a forgettable new start all the way around.
“We just didn’t play well,” D’Antoni said. “It’s disappointing in a lot of areas. I do think they played as hard as they can play. That’s what’s scary. I mean, I don’t know how we can play harder or blame something else. We just didn’t play well.”
Memphis had a season-high 60 points in the paint and held the Lakers to 34. The Grizzlies had 27 of the game’s 30 second-chance points and led by as many as 21 in the fourth quarter.
Memphis entered the game as the league’s third-worst scoring team. Los Angeles came in as the fifth-best at 102.6 points per game.
Memphis averages 92.9 but surpassed that with 7 minutes, 17 seconds left on Darrell Arthur’s lay-in.
“Where we have a majority of our breakdowns are on defense,” said Pau Gasol, who again came off the bench. “We make all these teams look a lot better, offensively, than they really are.”
Gasol had 13 points and eight rebounds. There are plenty of other stats for Los Angeles to dwell on before hosting Utah on Friday.
Arthur came off the Memphis bench to score a season-high 20 points. He also had nine rebounds.
Bryant was 0-for-4 in the fourth quarter and clearly frustrated with a no-call, drew a technical.
Memphis out-rebounded the Lakers 52-34, 16-7 on the offensive end and had more defensive boards than the Lakers had total.
Metta World Peace had 15 points while holding league double-doubles leader Zach Randolph to 12 points, with 10 boards. Earl Clark had 11 for the Lakers.
Memphis got another 19 points from Mike Conley and 12 from Rudy Gay.
Memphis made the first trading deadline move Tuesday, shipping reserves Josh Selby, Wayne Ellington and Marreese Speights to Cleveland for Jon Leuer. It paid off for seldom-used rookie and D-League traveled Tony Wroten, who gave Memphis nine first-half points.
The Grizzlies were effective despite foul trouble. Tony Allen and Marc Gasol had three fouls at the half. When Randolph picked up his third, Memphis was holding on to a 69-63 lead. It was a 13-point lead on Marc Gasol’s putback slam in the final minute of the third. The Lakers’ last lead came with nine minutes left in the first half on a Pau Gasol 15-footer.
“When we are faced with adversity, we show that we can win,” Allen said. “Guys just pull in and pull together.”
Bryant cut the lead to three in the third, but Memphis answered with a 12-2 run. The lead never dipped below double digits in the fourth. With Bryant, Nash and Gasol on the bench to start the fourth, Memphis scored six of the first seven points.
Los Angeles has lost 10 of 12 overall and has lost a season series to Memphis for the first time since 2005-06. There is one more meeting at Staples in April.
Bryant said he believes the season can still be turned around but said he wasn’t sure how. He said this season is quickly becoming his most difficult.
“It’s certainly getting there,” he said. “That Rudy T (Tomjanovic) one was a pretty hard one too.”