Lakers play it loose, if not particularly fast, but beat Memphis
Almost nothing will come easily to the Lakers this season.
Their games will be grinders, the fourth quarter a make-or-break proposition on so many nights for an older team playing a heavily compressed schedule.
Sunday was no different, the Lakers playing another sub.-500 team without its top player but needing to hang tight in the final minutes to win.
Kobe Bryant had 26 points and nine assists, Matt Barnes provided another shot of adrenaline with his high-intensity play and the Lakers beat the short-handed Memphis Grizzlies, 90-82, at Staples Center.
There was plenty to nitpick, the Lakers committing an egregious 27 turnovers.
And to think Memphis went without All-Star power forward Zach Randolph (torn knee ligament) two nights after the Lakers squeaked past a Golden State team without injured star guard Stephen Curry.
But the Lakers (6-4) will take it, as they will any victory in a hurried season with 66 games in 121 nights.
First, the turnovers. Andrew Bynum, Derek Fisher and Steve Blake each had five. Bryant and Barnes each had four.
“It’s no secret, 27 turnovers is too many,” Lakers Coach Mike Brown said. “To a certain degree, you feel kind of lucky that you won.”
He’s right. The last time the Lakers had this many turnovers and won in regulation was November 1995, a 98-96 victory over Denver.
Bryant kept them close Sunday, making 11 of 22 shots and continuing to play through a torn ligament in his right wrist.
He did a belly flop along the scorer’s table to chase a ball early in the game and crashed through the courtside seats after being fouled on a drive in the fourth quarter. He looked as old as his jersey number on a third-quarter play, blowing past Rudy Gay on the baseline and finishing with a reverse dunk.
Bryant’s wrist issues are apparently here to stay. He will not undergo the same procedure on his wrist that he had on his knee and ankle in Germany last year, for a variety of reasons.
Of greatest importance, the German doctor whom Bryant trusts immensely, Peter Wehling, does not plan on coming to America to do his innovative “regenokine” or “orthokine” procedures that aim to reduce swelling, The Times has learned.
An overseas trip by Bryant looks out of the question because the only ample time for a German getaway is the All-Star break, and it’s a safe bet NBA Commissioner David Stern wants Bryant playing in Orlando that weekend instead of flying to Dusseldorf.
The Lakers do not foresee giving Bryant time off from the regular season to go overseas, especially because of his steady play, said a person familiar with the situation. If Bryant underwent the procedure, he would need about a week to recover.
Meanwhile, Barnes had 15 points and 10 rebounds Sunday, again providing a boost at small forward, a hole the Lakers are desperate to plug.
Pau Gasol outplayed his brother, Memphis center Marc Gasol, and also got in touch with his inner Magic Johnson, flipping a behind-the-back pass on a fastbreak to Bynum for a layup.
Of course, Gasol learned it from smooth-passing Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio, right?
“No, he got his moves from me,” Gasol countered with a smile.
Pau had 13 points and 15 rebounds. Marc missed all nine of his shots and had two points and 11 rebounds.
In the end, the Lakers had to outlast Memphis during a ragged fourth quarter in which they committed 10 turnovers and were outscored, 14-12.
“That’s the downside,” Pau Gasol said. “We kept them in the game by being careless with the ball.”
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