Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 11/24/12
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Memphis Grizzlies always realize when a game against the Los Angeles Lakers is on the line in the final few minutes, the ball belongs to Lakers' guard Kobe Bryant. Stop Bryant and you get the win. After leading by six points with 2:24 left, the Grizzlies held serve. Despite Bryant scoring 30 points, including the Lakers' last 14, Memphis held on for a 106-98 victory Friday before a soldout FedExForum crowd of 18,119. The Grizzlies led 82-70 after three quarters, but things changed when Bryant re-entered the game for the final seven minutes. Despite airballing a couple of shots, he nailed two deep 3s to get the Lakers re-started in the right direction. But with Tony Allen and Quincy Pondexter taking turns tailing Bryant, he missed his last two shots, including clanking a 3-pointer with 19 seconds left to seal the Lakers' fate. "You put your best defender on Kobe and have as much help defense as you can," said Grizzlies' point guard Mike Conley, who had 19 points, 6 assists and 4 steals. Conley nailed back-to-back jumpers with 1:43 left and 39 seconds left that killed a Lakers' comeback. "You make him take tough shots down the stretch and keep him off the foul line. I thought we did a pretty decent job of that. We did enough of it to win." Bryant's fast finish was offset by the fact all five starters scored in double figures for the Grizzlies, who at 9-2 have the best record in the NBA after four weeks. Besides Conley, Rudy Gay had 21 points and 8 rebounds, Zach Randolph 17 points and 12 rebounds, Marc Gasol 14 points and 8 assists and Allen 12 points for Memphis. "This team has a sense of camaraderie and spirit that's much better than our past teams," Grizzlies' coach Lionel Hollins said. "They have an individual maturity and a commitment to each other. There's a lot of talking, a lot of communication." Which is something the Lakers (6-7) certainly do not have yet as they transition under new coach Mike D'Antoni, who coached just his third game with the Lakers on Friday after replacing the fired Mike Brown.D'Antoni, like in his past NBA coaching stops with the Knicks, Suns and Nuggets, wants his team to run. The Lakers, a veteran team with a lot of mileage, is not yet on the same page as D'Antoni. "We're going to start running more, but we've got to get into better shape," D'Antoni said. "Guys have got to get used to this pace. If you can't run up and down and play, then we'll have to find some guys who will." Besides Bryant, Metta World-Peace and Antawn Jamison were the only offensive forces for the Lakers, scoring 16 points each. Two runs by the Grizzlies of 9-0 and 14-2 opened up a 34-18 Memphis advantage to end the first quarter. Memphis thrived on defensive deflections, turning six Lakers' turnovers into eight points. The normally-reliable Memphis bench gave the Griz nothing in the first seven minutes of the second quarter, and the Lakers, with just two starters on the floor, opened the period on a 16-2 run. Memphis pushed the lead back to double-digits before Bryant came alive late to cut the Griz lead to seven points at the break. The Grizzlies used three defenders on Bryant in the first half, all tuned into the team defensive scheme of getting the ball out of Bryant's hands. The fact Lakers' forward Pau Gasol went 1-for-6 from the field in the first quarter was proof the Griz game plan was working. But Bryant got untracked in the second quarter, scoring 10 of the Lakers' 31 points. He punctuated the period by blowing past Gay in the final seconds for a two-handed dunk. Down the stretch, Bryant tried to do it all by himself but couldn't. "It's still a work in progress as far as trying to figure out what we're doing," Bryant said. "We're trying to figure out a balance of when we want to attack." Notes: The Grizzlies are 7-0 this season scoring 100 or more points. ... The Lakers at 6-7 are off to their worst start since 2005 when they began the season 5-8. The Lakers are 0-4 this year on the road. ... Grizzlies' minority owner Justin Timberlake and wife Jessica Biel sat courtside for the first half of Friday's game, disappeared at halftime and never returned. ... All five Grizzlies starters scored in double figures for the second time this season. ... Forward Zach Randolph has had a double-double in every game (11 straight) so far this year. ... Other than more pick and rolls, Hollins wasn't anticipating much different before the game from the Lakers under D'Antoni. "It's going to be Kobe Bryant, Kobe Bryant, Kobe Bryant," Hollins said. "I don't care who they have coaching. Kobe Bryant is going to be the featured player and everybody will play off him. Simple as that. As long as Kobe is there, he's the man. It's the Kobe Bryant Show. We pretty much will have two people on him all night (Tony Allen to start, then Quincy Pondexter). If we have to go a third person, it means we're in trouble."
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