The Lakers gave Memphis almost all they could handle, but ultimately the now 13-2 Grizzlies finished off the now 3-12 Lakers. Here are five takeaways from the 99-93 defeat Wednesday at Staples Center.
1. Kobe Bryant is still looking for balance between taking over a game and dominating the ball or facilitating the team's offense, setting screens and playing defense. Bryant barely looked to score in the first half and the Lakers hummed along successfully on both ends of the floor while building a nine-point lead. Later, Bryant attacked the basket instead of relying entirely on his jump shot, attempting and making 10 free throws. In the final minutes, the ball stopped and Bryant took a few rushed shots as the game slipped away. Non-calls were often followed by Bryant scolding an official (earning a technical foul on one occasion), instead of rushing back on defense. Teammate Jeremy Lin scored 13 points in the first half but only one in the second. Balance was there Wednesday night in stretches but not for the entire game.
2. Nick Young isn't "Swaggy P" just yet. After returning from a thumb injury, Young helped spur the Lakers to two straight wins, but he's struggled a bit over the last three. On Wednesday, Young was hot early but finished with 13 points on four of 14 shooting (28.6%). After the game, Young noted that he still can't quite do everything he'd like to do with his right hand, including dunking. The swingman will continue to wear a soft cast on his right hand for a number of weeks. Until he gets a little more comfortable, Young's production may be spotty.
3. Ed Davis may be the Lakers' most important defender. The 25-year old forward/center wowed the home crowd with three blocked shots in under 23 minutes. Davis scored just two points but had eight rebounds. He was also the only Laker to finish with a positive plus/minus on the night with a +3. More minutes for Davis would be a good thing for the Lakers.
4. The Lakers only had 11 healthy players available against Memphis, but Coach Byron Scott relied on a 10-man rotation. That meant rookie Jordan Clarkson received a "DNP - Coach's decision" in the box score. Clarkson has played in 10 of the team's 15 games, averaging 5.0 points a game on 39.5% shooting from the field. At some point, developing Clarkson may become a greater priority for Scott, but presumably not until the team is further out of the playoff picture.
5. If the Lakers can compete against the rest of the NBA like they do against the Grizzlies, they'll finish with a much better winning percentage than the 20.0% they've managed through 15 games. In 15th place in the Western Conference, the Lakers draw the 14th-place team on Friday -- the 3-10 Minnesota Timberwolves. The Wolves are a young and injury-depleted squad. A loss would be devastating to the Lakers' already shaky morale.