Sports Out West

Lakers fail to execute down the stretch, lose 89-86 to Grizzles

Photo Credit: Lakers.com

LOS ANGELES – It was a game of missed opportunities for the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night as they fell short 89-86 in the final minute of a grind it out type game against the Memphis Grizzles.

The Lakers had their fair share of opportunities in the final minute of the fourth with Steve Blake having two chances to help his team either take the lead or tie the game. His first attempt came on a 20-foot jumper with 40 seconds left that he missed that would have given Los Angeles a one-point lead.

After the miss, the Grizzles were able to score on layup by Zach Randolph that was well-guarded by Jordan Hill that put the visiting team up 87-84.  

Blake’s had a second opportunity to redeem himself on an open look on a game-tying 3-pointer with 12 seconds remaining in the game, but missed it and curtailed any comeback attempt by the Lakers.

“It felt good, I thought it was going in but it came up a little short,” Blake said of his potential game-typing 3-pointer. “Coach (D’Antoni) drew up a good play and we got the shot we wanted.” 

The game was an offensive struggle with each team shooting 44 percent from the field, which resulted in a back and fourth contest as there were 22 lead changes and 14 ties.

Although it was a game of solid defense played by the Lakers, head coach Mike D’Antoni believes it was the mental mistakes that proved to be detrimental down the stretch in the fourth quarter.

“I thought we play as hard as we can. I thought the defense was good and the guys hustled,” D’Antoni said. ” We just didn’t’ make our foul shots and they made all of them. (It was) just (the) little things that separate the two teams and Zach (Randolph) went off and made some difficult shots.” 

Randolph had his best performance of the season on Friday as he scored 14 of his season-high 28 points in the fourth quarter with four points coming in the final decisive minute of the game.

“He’s a good player,” Hill said, who had 12 points, five rebounds and three blocks. “Don’t get my wrong I just thought I (played) a hell of defense (on him). I really feel I did, but he (just) made some tough shots.”

The Lakers coming into Friday’s game had the highest scoring bench in the league and struggled mightily against the Grizzles as they only contributed 30 points in the game with 18 coming from Nick Young. The bench’s offensive struggle was most evident at halftime when they shot 28 percent (5-of-18) from the field with just 12 points that all were scored by Young. 

So with that said, Blake hopes that Friday’s game will be one that the team learns from and are able to execute the next time around when they are faced with a similar situation. 

“Hopefully the experience of being in those situations and failing a couple times, we can grow from that,” Blake said, who had his third straight game with double digit assists (10) to go along with nine points. “(We will) see it on tape, so we can really understand those little mistakes can have a huge impact on the game. We just have to figure it out.”

Los Angeles did have a few bright spots in Friday’s loss, such as Jodie Meeks scoring a season-high 25 points despite a porous team shooting performance.

It was well played game defensively by both teams, and as Pau Gasol pointed out, there was not much else the Lakers could have done to get the win.

“We played a hard-nosed game. We were right there the whole time and in the end they won a close one,” Gasol, who had 10 points with 13 rebounds. “There was not much else different we can do against this team or any other team. We played as hard as we could tonight and hopefully that will be enough to get a win against Detroit on Sunday.”

After the end of the first quarter, Kobe Bryant came out to on the court in pregame Lakers warm-ups to a standing ovation as he presented a $150,000 check on behalf of the organization to members of the Philippine Red Cross following last week’s deadly Typhoon.

Gasol’s Struggles Continue

After struggling to score 25 points on 27 shot attempts in Wednesday’s loss to the Denver Nuggets, Gasol followed that performance up on Friday by scoring just two of 10 points in the game in the second half on 1-of-4 shooting with three rebounds in 16 minutes on the floor.

Memphis was able to contain the Lakers big man by putting last year’s Defensive Player of the Year, Marc Gasol, on him to limit his effectiveness on the court. Gasol has been unable to be an effective player in a larger role on the Lakers with Kobe Bryant still out rehabbing his surgically-repaired left Achilles tendon and Steve Nash now out at least another week and a half with nerve root damage in his back.

Granted he has been dealing with respiratory issues and a strained muscle in his left foot, the fact remains that Gasol has struggled to be the Lakers primary scorer as the focal point of the team’s offense.

As Los Angeles gets ready to play the Detroit Pistons on Sunday, it will be interesting to see if the 33-year-old will finally be able to end his offense struggles.

Photo Credit: Lakers.com

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Bob Garcia IV

Bob Garcia is a sports journalist from Southern California. He was a reporter for the award-winning newspaper, The Daily Sundial, at California State University, Northridge. You can follow him on Twitter, @BGarcia90.