Kobe Bryant passes West as Lakers go south in loss to Grizzlies

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Kobe Bryant walked off the court quickly and quietly, his head tilted down, an emblem as good as any after the Lakers ended their longest trip of the season with a last-second loss.

They faced a variety of conflicts against the Memphis Grizzlies -- Gasol vs. Gasol, Bryant vs. Jerry West, Phil Jackson vs. Pat Riley and themselves vs. the trip that wouldn’t end -- but lost them all except Bryant’s pursuit of West’s franchise scoring record.

That Bryant was in a somber mood after getting 44 points and becoming the Lakers’ all-time leading scorer set the table for what Jackson would confirm after the team’s 95-93 loss to the Grizzles on Monday night at FedExForum: This trip was only “so-so.”

It was definitely different from their 6-0 swing at about this time last season, a journey that ended with victories in Boston and Cleveland and, four months later, was cited as an impetus to the franchise’s 15th NBA championship.

These Lakers fell apart down the stretch against the up-and-coming Grizzlies, Ron Artest’s three-point attempt at the horn bouncing high off the rim and out, as did the Lakers’ chances at a 6-2 trip.

They’ll have to settle for 5-3. There were few smiles in the locker room afterward.

In fact, Jackson wrote the Lakers’ final five games before the All-Star break on the whiteboard -- home against Charlotte and Denver, at Portland, home against San Antonio, at Utah -- before writing simply, “Then we breathe.”

“We can’t be really happy,” Pau Gasol said. “I think we should have had a better record on this road trip.”

There were plenty of faults in this game, the Lakers (37-12) losing a four-point lead down the stretch to the hungry and hustling Grizzlies (26-21).

Down two, the Lakers had a chance to win or tie after Mike Conley missed two free throws with 21.7 seconds left, but Bryant dribbled away most of the time above the arc before finding Artest open on the right side.

“Great look to win the game,” said Artest, who had 18 points. “It was definitely a good pass. It was good to be in a situation like that. Next time I know what to expect. Next time, next one will go in.”

Said Jackson: “I would have liked to have seen a little more activity on that play. We had plenty of time to take the ball at them and Kobe, it looked like he lost the ball a little bit and got lost out there in the 30-foot area and couldn’t get penetration, which is what you’ve got to have.”

There were other unhappy Lakers, notably Gasol, who had 10 points and nine rebounds. He took only seven shots, making four. Andrew Bynum took only three shots and had five points in 26 minutes. Ten shots combined for the Lakers’ big men?

“I don’t know,” Gasol said, shaking his head. “Obviously, we’re not making a conscious effort on pounding the ball inside. So we settled a little bit too much. It’s not like they were double-teaming or anything. It is what it is. It happens often.”

Are the Lakers a better team when they go inside? “One hundred percent,” Gasol said.

Does everybody know that?

“I’m not sure,” he said.

Gasol’s younger brother, Marc, had 11 points and 13 rebounds for the Grizzlies, who started 1-8 but now are half a game out of eighth place in the Western Conference. Rudy Gay had 25 points, Zach Randolph 22, plus 17 rebounds.

Jackson couldn’t pass Riley for the most coaching victories in franchise history -- still tied at 533 -- but Bryant passed West on a fastbreak dunk with 4:14 left in the third quarter. He now has 25,208 points. West had 25,192.

“He taught me so much when I was 17 years old, showed me a lot about the game -- pull-up jump shot and spin moves and on and on,” Bryant said of West, the Lakers’ general manager when they drafted Bryant. “Even though it’s me passing him in the record books, I feel like it’s still us. It’s still Magic [Johnson], it’s still all the other great players that I’ve learned from.”

Can Bryant, 31, break Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time NBA record of 38,387 points?

“If I play that long, probably,” he said. “We’ll see how my body feels. I don’t think about it too much. Too far down the road for me.”

Ah, the road. The Lakers wouldn’t want to look back at what they just experienced.

“It was so-so,” Bryant said, repeating the catchphrase of the night. “We got a couple big wins, we found a lot out about ourselves in Boston [Sunday]. We wished we could have played a lot better in some of those games. The Toronto game we let get away. [Monday] we felt like we had it as well.”