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Laker Loss Is a Sore Subject

Times Staff Writer

Back-to-back games, valid tests of NBA strength, are quickly becoming pains in the Lakers’ ... feet.

For the second time in a young season, the Lakers were thoroughly outplayed in the second game of consecutive-night situations, this time losing to the previously winless Memphis Grizzlies, 110-87, in front of 18,119 at FedEx Forum on Wednesday night.

Then, as if adding injury to insult, Kobe Bryant emerged from almost 45 minutes of postgame treatment to reveal he has been struggling with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, a condition in which connective tissue in the arch of the foot becomes inflamed and painful.

The condition can become chronic and has caused NBA players to sit out games, although the Lakers are believed to have caught it in its infancy and Bryant is expected to play Friday against the Orlando Magic.

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“It’s one of those things you have to jump on early so it doesn’t linger,” said Bryant, who made four of 19 shots and had 20 points. “My body heals fast.”

Bryant had his worst shooting game of the season, including an uncharacteristic three airballs in the third quarter as the Lakers tried unsuccessfully to rally from a 63-44 halftime deficit.

Long after the streamers had finished dropping from the ceiling and the theme from “Star Wars” had stopped blaring throughout the arena, Bryant emerged from the training room wearing a black hat and a calm disposition.

He is shooting 37.7%, well below his career average of 45.4% coming into the season, but he said his foot has bothered him for only a few days. He offered up a partly reassuring, “I’ll be fine.”

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Another injury, specifically one to Bryant, is the last reality the Lakers want to face. Already short-handed with four injured frontcourt players, the Lakers suited up only 11 players against the Grizzlies.

Despite Bryant’s shooting woes, he was averaging an NBA-best 29.2 points before Wednesday. The Lakers have another series of back-to-back road games Friday against the Orlando Magic and Saturday against the Houston Rockets.

“Kobe’s a guy who would play even if he had a bone sticking through the skin,” Laker spokesman John Black said.

As for the game, the Lakers slogged through a foul-plagued first half and never seemed to recover. Five Lakers had three fouls by halftime and the Lakers trailed by as many as 23 in the second quarter.

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Hopefully, Memphis fans went home with an appetite: Everyone in attendance won a burger, taco, breakfast burrito and breadsticks at various fast-food joints because of the Grizzlies’ dominance in numerous statistical categories.

The Lakers sent the Grizzlies to the free-throw line 24 times in the first half, short-circuiting the Lakers’ up-tempo vision.

The Lakers had only 12 fast-break points, the Grizzlies 27.

“You can’t run on [opponents’] free throws,” Laker Coach Rudy Tomjanovich said.

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Lamar Odom played only six minutes in the first half because of foul trouble. He finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds in 20 minutes.

“I got two quick fouls and then a third foul and had to watch the rest of it,” said Odom, who smiled wanly. “I played the same defense in the second half as I played in the first half. I just have to stay aggressive. Maybe then I can get some calls.”

An equally cumbersome problem has been the Lakers’ inability to stay competitive in back-to-back finales.

The Lakers were 10-9 last season in the second game of back-to-back situations, but they are now 0-2, losing by an average of 24.5 points. They set three team records for offensive futility in a 104-78 loss to the Utah Jazz on Nov. 3.

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“Back-to-back games are tough to win in this league,” center Chris Mihm said. “We will have to learn to win these. We can’t be satisfied with getting a win one night and not getting one the next.”


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