A quicker than usual post-game report as I face Tuesday deadlines on non-hoops work:
The Lead: The Lakers used strong defense from their pair of seven-foot post players and deft three-point shooting from secondary scorers (Ron Artest, Derek Fisher, Lamar Odom, Steve Blake, and Shannon Brown combining to go 8-15) to pull away from the Grizzlies in a physical, often intense, but not terribly elegant game.
In the late third quarter, Marc Gasol bloodied Ron Artest's nose fighting for the ball and the game stopped for a couple of minutes as no one — Griz players, referees, coaches, Artest's teammates — seemed quite sure how Artest would react. This was followed by a Rudy Gay technical, a hard foul on Gay by Kobe Bryant, and other bits of potential chaos.
The Grizzlies responded well to all of this, using a series of steals to pull within 78-76 at the midway mark of the fourth quarter. From there, the Grizzlies' offense fell apart as the Lakers went on a 13-2 run before a couple of late Sam Young three-pointers brought the final deficit into single digits.
Man of the Match: No good candidate really. Sam Young — with help from those two late threes — ended up with the highly unlikely game-high 22 points on 9-19 shooting. Young deserves credit for putting up points mostly with the flow, with very little searching for his shot. The Lakers were leaving Young partly open, the team was swinging the ball his way, and he was (mostly) making shots. But letting Young take the most shots — even if that's what the defense is giving you — will not be a good strategy most nights.
Nightly Number: 7-28. That's the combined shooting tonight for Marc Gasol (5-14) and Zach Randolph (a painful 2-14). Laker center Andrew Bynum's box-score line doesn't really look like much — 11 points, 7 boards, 2 blocks. But his combination of length and strength is as impressive as perhaps anyone in the league, and he tormented Randolph, whose offensive struggles also included a sub par 3 offensive boards and 4 turnovers — most of them generated by trying to pass over Bynum and Gasol's long defense.
The Match-Up: If the Griz struggled to match-up with the Lakers two seven-footers, they did pretty well rotating three defenders — Sam Young, Tony Allen, and Rudy Gay — on Kobe Bryant, limiting Bryant to 19 points on 17 field-goal attempts. Allen's ability to hold his own against Bryant is well established, but I was impressed with Gay's defense on him tonight.
Arena Action: Bandwagon Laker fans wearing Kobe jerseys well all over FedExForum, predictably. But one legit Laker fan in the house was Snoop Dogg, in town for a concert at Minglewood Hall. Snoop sat courtside, just a few seats down from the Laker bench. I spotted him leaving the Laker locker room at halftime.
Where They Stand: The loss moves the Grizzlies to 27-26, a game back of the 8th seed Portland Trailblazers pending the Blazers' Monday night game against the Chicago Bulls.
Looking Ahead: The Grizzlies have a tough one in Oklahoma City. Not only is it the second night of a back-to-back, on the road, against a good team, but it's also the fourth game in five nights. The Grizzlies also could be without Rudy Gay, who suffered a back contusion in the fourth quarter tonight and has to be considered questionable for the game.
Announced Attendance: 18,119 — the fourth announced sellout of the season.
The Grizzlies officially signed Jason Williams tonight. He's expected to make his debut Friday night against the Milwaukee Bucks.