9:30 PM ET, January 8, 2012
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
LOS ANGELES -- Kobe Bryant says the Los Angeles Lakers' early-season schedule has been every bit as brutal as they expected, forcing them to learn coach Mike Brown's system on the job rather than in practice.
Although the Lakers don't have everything down after 10 games in 15 days, they're still winning anyway.
Matt Barnes scored 15 points and Pau Gasol had 13 points and 15 rebounds for the Lakers, who have won six of eight after an 0-2 start while matching Oklahoma City for the NBA's busiest early-season schedule. Although the Lakers acknowledge they still don't always know where to be on the floor, their half-court defense and rebounding were enough to beat the Grizzlies.
"It's tough. We've got to learn it through the games," Bryant said.
Although they haven't lost at Staples Center since their season opener on Christmas, the Lakers had little jump in their steps while committing a season-high 27 turnovers and failing to pull away from the injury-depleted Grizzlies. Los Angeles won't even get consecutive days off for another week, with five games coming in the next eight days.
"This is tough. You'd rather not talk about it," Gasol said. "We're tired, and we're going to stay tired. That's just the way it's going to be. ... We knew it was going to be a challenge. We knew we were going to face adversity at first. We're all making an effort, and we know it's going to pay off at the end. ... Two days off? It'll be a shock to our bodies."
Rudy Gay scored 19 points to lead five players in double figures for Memphis, which wrapped up a three-game road trip with an unimpressive fourth quarter. The Grizzlies have lost two straight after winning their first two games following Zach Randolph's serious knee injury.
Memphis was unable to combat the 7-foot tandem fielded by the Lakers, who outrebounded the Grizzlies 53-34.
"When they have both (Gasol and Bynum) in the game, that's when they control the game," Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. "We don't have one of our best post-up players. Even when we go into the post with Rudy, they've got another extra big (man) that's running at him, so it was difficult."
The Grizzlies were among the few NBA teams who could match the Lakers' talent in the low post, but long-term injuries to Randolph and Darrell Arthur have compromised their depth. Memphis had its usual success against the Lakers in transition, but couldn't score consistently in half-court sets.
"They were poor turnovers that led to a lot of fast-break points," Brown said. "It was a controlled, methodical game -- a game that we should excel at if we can take care of the basketball."
Marreese Speights scored 17 points, O.J. Mayo had 15 and Quincy Pondexter added 14 for the Grizzlies, who had beaten Los Angeles in two of the last three meetings, including a blowout win in the Grizzlies' last trip to Staples. Memphis' schedule hasn't been nearly as taxing as Los Angeles' slate, with just one back-to-back set to date, but the Grizzlies haven't overcome Randolph's absence yet.
"We definitely settled for jump shots a lot more than we usually do," Gay said. "You know it's hard to win like that. Everyone knows they're not only tall, but they're the longest team in the league. It's tough playing against this team. They frustrate a lot of people."
Barnes, who joined the Lakers' starting lineup last week, energized the club for the second straight game with strong defense in the fourth quarter, including a dramatic block of Speights' layup attempt with 3:34 to play.
Bryant had just four points in the fourth quarter, failing to score 30 points for the first time in four games. Los Angeles managed just 12 points on 5-for-18 shooting, but the Grizzlies had only 14 points of their own, never getting closer than four.
At least the Lakers' awful 3-point shooting improved, with Steve Blake hitting three of their six 3s.
Los Angeles led by 14 points in the second quarter, repeatedly scoring inside against the Grizzlies' patchwork frontcourt with playmaking by Bryant and Gasol.
Memphis scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to trim the Lakers' lead to 78-74. Los Angeles missed its first seven shots of the final period, but the Grizzlies never got closer.
Lakers F Josh McRoberts missed his fourth consecutive game with a sprained left big toe. He intends to return within a week. ... Pau Gasol rarely guarded his younger brother, Marc Gasol, who managed just two points on 0-for-9 shooting. The Spanish brothers, traded for each other in early 2008, went to dinner on Saturday night in their usual tradition. ... Fans near courtside included Rihanna, Bradley Cooper, David Arquette, Los Angeles Kings forward Mike Richards and Anthony Kiedis, who had a walking boot on his right foot.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||38-93 (.409)||35-74 (.473)|
|3PM-3PA||1-9 (.111)||6-19 (.316)|
|FTM-FTA||5-10 (.500)||14-21 (.667)|
|Fast Break Points||31||10|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||18 (0/0)||11 (0/0)|