LOS ANGELES — With the NBA announcing prior to the game that the 2018 All-Star Game would be held in Los Angeles, things quickly shifted focus with the Los Angeles Lakers led by Kobe Bryant and Jordan Clarkson topped the Memphis Grizzlies 107-100.
The Lakers got off to the fast start pulling ahead 12-0, but the Grizzlies responded with a 14-0 run to take the lead. The team’s battled back and forth the remainder of the quarter heading into the second quarter tied at 25.
Los Angeles took as much as a nine-point lead in the second quarter but the Grizzlies remained close cutting the deficit to 48-47 at the half. D’Angelo Russell led the team with 11 points while Tony Allen had a half-time best 14 points on 7-of-7 shooting.
They held control throughout much of the second half leading by as much as 10 points. The Lakers sealed the deal with 22.5 seconds after Clarkson’s steal and knocked down a pair of free throws.
Los Angeles had six players in double-figures scoring led by Clarkson’s 22 points. Julius Randle had his 30th double-double of the season with 13 points and 14 rebounds along with a career-high five assists.
This win effectively ends a nine-game losing streak to the Grizzlies. Here are five things we learned on Tuesday night:
Bryant strong in return
After missing the last two games due to a sore right shoulder, including three out of the five contests, Bryant was up for the challenge scoring 20 points on 7-of-18 shooting, including 2-of-5 shooting from 3-point range.
The 37-year-old got off to a slow start missing all five of his attempts in the first quarter. He had his lone make and points in the first half on a deep 3-pointer from the wing going 1-of-7 from the field. Bryant picked it up in the third quarter scoring 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting. This included knocking a couple vintage fadeaway jumpers in the period.
He scored five points in the fourth quarter but didn’t play the final four minutes of the game due to reaching minute quota that head coach Byron Scott had laid out.
“He played all of the minutes I wanted him to play,” Scott said. “I told him, ‘I want to see what these guys can do that last four or five minutes.
Following the game, Bryant stated that he’s shoulder was good condition after the nine-day break for him.
“My shoulder feels great and fine,” Bryant said. “I didn’t have any aches or pains. I was able to move pretty freely.
He also added that he “absolutely” expects to play Wednesday against the Suns. With 12 left in his career, Bryant will likely be on the floor for almost all the games given that his ailing shoulder allows him to finish the season own his power.
It has been a tough stretch of games for the Lakers’ rookie guard, but it was an injury that end his night prematurely on Tuesday against the Grizzlies finishing with 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting and two rebounds in 22 minutes played.
Russell was quite productive in the first half being the first player for Los Angeles to reach double figures with 11 points. He did his offensive damage from several spots on the floor mainly from the mid-range. However, there was a bit of a brief scare when he bumped knees with JaMychal Green and took a minute on the floor but remained in the game after the timeout.
The 20-year-old attempted to give it a go in the third quarter playing seven minutes in the period, but was finished for the night due to a bruised left shin and is questionable for Wednesday’s game against the Phoenix Suns.
“I asked him if he was okay because I saw him out there kind of limping and grimacing. He said he was fine,” Scott said. “When I took him out of the game, the thought process was to bring him back in the fourth quarter. Gary [Vitti] talked to him and a few minutes later he said he couldn’t go back in.
“Hopefully, it doesn’t swell up big time and like I said, we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”
Russell also added that he hopes to play on Wednesday night against the Suns willing his shin allows him.
In first 12 games prior to facing Memphis, Russell has been a source of consistency since returning to the starting lineup averaging 18.5 points, 4.3 assists, and 3.2 rebounds while shooting 44.4 percent from the field and 41.9 percent from 3-point range.
Allen steps up
With both Marc Gasol and Mike Conley out of the lineup for extended periods of time, the Grizzlies have managed to do more than stay afloat as they were sitting at a 41-30 entering Tuesday’s tilt against the Lakers, which was tied for the eighth-best record in the league.
Although they had only won four out of their last 10 games, Memphis sits comfortably in the fifth spot in the Western Conference standing 5.5 games ahead of the eighth-seeded Dallas Mavericks.
The Grizzlies had a strong performance from Allen, who scored a game-high 27 points on shooting a perfect 12-of-12 shooting with five assists and six rebounds. The veteran guard led all scorers at the half with 14 points on 7-of-7 shooting from the field. He continued his high-efficiency scoring in the second half notching 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting but it wasn’t enough to put him team over the top.
He continued his high-efficiency scoring in the second half notching 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting but it wasn’t enough to put him team over the top. Following the game, Allen had high praise for Bryant, who regards him as the best defenders that guarded him throughout his illustrious career.
“I love everything he brought to this game. I respect him,” Allen said, following his highest scoring performance since 2011. “He is a man of his word. He gave me his shoes. He’s going out in style. I can tell you that. Salute to the Mamba.”
Points in the Paint
Los Angeles has struggled tremendously against defending the paint giving up a league-worst 47.2 points per game, and 47.5 points in home games.
This trend continued on Tuesday against the Grizzlies allowing them to score 58 points. This included Memphis scoring 16 of their 25 points in the paint in the first quarter. Memphis continued to go to work in the key in the second half notching 32 points that helped keep them in the game.
The Lakers’ lack of perimeter defense has been a huge Achilles heel making them vulnerable to easier attempts at the rim. It’s something that they must address this upcoming offseason if they hope to show improvement next season.
Clarkson bounces back
Heading into Tuesday’s tilt, Clarkson had struggled tremendously with his shot over the last three games shooting 29.5 (13-of-44) percent from the field and a far worse 11.7 percent (2-of-17) from beyond the arc over that span.
Clarkson bounced back against the Grizzlies with a strong shooting performance scoring a team-high 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field, including an efficient 2-of-3 shooting from 3-point range. It marked his 16th 20-point outing of the season, He did most of his offensive damage in the third quarter scoring 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting in the period.
“I’m just letting the shots come to me to be honest with you,” Clarkson said. “I feel like I took a couple of bad shots, but not as many as I’ve been taking. I really felt balanced and really concentrated won my footwork.”
Prior to his recent struggles, Clarkson has been arguably the most consistent scoring option for the Lakers scoring in double-figures in all but eight games that he’s played and had a career-best 27 straight games with double-digit points.
Bob Garcia IV
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