Kobe Bryant plays after being ‘lobbied’ by fans but Lakers lose, 112-96 to Memphis
These are the unusual games in Kobe Bryant’s final season.
The crowd is polite, not roaring. Both teams are underachievers. Bryant will play again in the city before retiring, decreasing the in-game buzz.
There’s always that one familiar part, though. The Lakers lose.
The Memphis Grizzlies got in touch with their long-lost offense and bolted past the Lakers, 112-96, Sunday evening at FedEx Forum.
Bigger than another one-sided box score, Bryant’s sore right knee almost kept him out of the game, he revealed afterward. It had bothered him the previous couple of days.
“Honestly, I wasn’t going to play but I got on the bus and all the fans . . . I felt really, really awful if I couldn’t muster up enough that I could play,” he said.
Bryant had 19 points and three assists. He then said he would play Monday in Charlotte because it’s his last trip there.
The Hornets will happily welcome Bryant and, really, the Lakers, who proved to be yet another feast for an opponent’s weak appetite.
The Grizzlies (17-16) were having major trouble on offense, sitting 29th out of 30 NBA teams before tipoff. They had 32 points in the first quarter, 59 by halftime and easily blew by the 96 they were averaging.
There were more unsurprising stats. Revolting, for Lakers followers, but no longer unexpected.
This was the sixth straight game in which the Lakers (5-26) trailed by at least 20. It was the seventh time this season they never led.
The Grizzlies were shooting 60% halfway through the third quarter, building a large lead with team basketball — 20 assists on their first 31 baskets. (The Lakers, lulled into isolations and poor shot selection, had assists on eight of their first 21 baskets.)
More repetitiveness: Power forward Julius Randle had 13 rebounds but missed more than half his shots for a fifth consecutive game. He had nine points.
The new development on the Lakers’ side was Larry Nance Jr.: 17 points and 11 rebounds in 25 minutes.
“I like the way he’s been developing,” Bryant said. “He’s working on his game and his shot quite a bit. You saw [Sunday], he trusts it.”
There was a lighter moment when Grizzlies swingman Vince Carter checked into the game in the first quarter. Bryant approached him while they jogged downcourt, and they high-fived and started laughing after a brief talk, presumably about their age.
Lakers forward Julius Randle and Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph battle for a rebound during a Dec. 27 game in Memphis.(Karen Pulfer Focht / Associated Press)
Grizzlies guard Russ Smith (2) tries to steal the ball from Lakers guard Marcelo Huertas during the second half.(Karen Pulfer Focht / Associated Press)
Lakers forward Ryan Kelly tries to drive past Grizzlies guard Vince Carter during the second half.(Karen Pulfer Focht / Associated Press)
Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell (1) tries to fight through a screen by Grizzlies forward JaMychal Green while guarding Vince Carter in the first half.(Karen Pulfer Focht / Associated Press)
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant drives against Grizzlies guard Tony Allen in the first half Sunday.(Karen Pulfer Focht / Associated Press)
Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson pushes the ball up court against the Grizzlies in the first half.(Karen Pulfer Focht / Associated Press)
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant looks for some room to operate against Grizzlies guard Tony Allen in the first half Sunday.(Karen Pulfer Focht / Associated Press)
Lakers forward Julius Randle spins away from the double-team defense of Grizzlies forward JaMychal Green, left, and guard Mario Chalmers in the first half.(Karen Pulfer Focht / Associated Press)
Lakers forward Nick Young (0) uses a screen from center Roy Hibbert (17) to drive past Grizzlies forward Matt Barnes in the first half.(Karen Pulfer Focht / Associated Press)
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is greeted by Grizzlies center Marc Gasol before Sunday’s game.(Karen Pulfer Focht / Associated Press)
Bryant later reiterated past comments that Grizzlies forward Tony Allen was the best defender he ever faced.
“No question about it,” Bryant said. “He does his homework. He’s old school. He’ll watch film. He’ll know where you want to go before you go there.”
Mike Conley had 19 points and five assists for Memphis, which had underperformed so far after hitting the 50-victory mark the previous three seasons.
Yet, the Grizzlies beat the Lakers a seventh consecutive time, their longest streak against them since joining the NBA in 1995-96.
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