Lakers 105, Grizzlies 96

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It wasn’t exactly a pouring rain that greeted the Lakers’ plane as it touched down here in Memphis late Saturday night, merely a bitter cold snap in the Mid-South.

The sunshine of Florida, from whence they came, might have felt good, but it hadn’t translated into any victories. And so they flew north, hoping a game against the young Memphis Grizzlies might send their their fortunes in the same direction.

It didn’t have to be melodic, or methodic, any win would do. Which is exactly what they got in a rather ho-hum 105-96 win over the Grizzlies at the FedEx Forum Monday night.

“Winning games in this league, some nights it’s easier than others and other nights you really have to work hard to do it,” Lakers guard Derek Fisher said. “ So we’re not ashamed of winning this one at all.

“We feel good about it and we’d like to be able to finish this trip off with another one tommorrow night (against New Orleans).”

After losing the first to games of this four-game trip when their shots at the end of games rattled around and rimmed out, the Lakers finally sunk one Monday night as Kobe Bryant’s 3-pointer with 34.8 seconds gave the Lakers a 99-96 lead they would not relinquish.

“It felt good, like a nice put,” said Bryant, who finished with a game-high 36 points on 14-of-23 shooting.

Judging from his reaction, it also felt pretty good when he threw down an emphatic dunk off a fast break as time expired. In terms of the score, it was wholly unnecessary. In terms of his psyche after this rough patch of the season …

“Anytime you have a moment to kind of release yourself, it’s good,” Bryant said with a wink.

A few minutes earlier, Lamar Odom helped himself to the same squeeze ball, slamming home a pass from Trevor Ariza to cut Memphis’ lead down to 93-90.

Before the game, Odom had been the target of another stinging jab from Lakers coach Phil Jackson. With the news coming down a couple hours before tip-off that two doctors have recommended surgery for back-up point guard Jordan Farmar (torn meniscus), Jackson was asked whether Odom could handle some of the point-guard duties.

“Lamar hasn’t been able to do much of anything recently,” Jackson quipped. “He had a good game against New York (last Tuesday), but he’s struggled lately. I hope he gets on track tonight.”
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Doctors recommend surgery for Jordan Farmar

Lakers guard Jordan Farmar, who suffered an injury to his left knee in Friday night’s game at Miami, was examined by Lakers’ team doctor Steve Lombardo today in Los Angeles. In seeking an additional opinion, Farmar also was examined by Dr. Byron Patterson.

Both doctors concurred with the original diagnosis of a torn lateral meniscus, and have recommended surgery.

Farmar is currently weighing his options, and the Lakers will issue an update when he has made a decision.

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The Gasol brothers

I’ve been in Memphis a little less than 24 hours and already about five people have come up to me to ask about the big showdown between the Gasol brothers tonight. Yesterday, as I was leaving the practice court at FedEx Forum, a man yelled out, `You tell that Paul Gasol I said `What’s up.’ ”

Yes, Paul Gasol.

Anyway, I’m not sure exactly the kind of reception Pau is going to get tonight. Since he asked for, and later took back, a trade during his last year here, it might not be kind. But having his younger brother Marc here and playing well might generate a few more kind sentiments.

I had a chance to meet Marc yesterday afternoon and like Pau he’s very polite and personable. I think because he’s four and half years younger than Pau, he’s been a bit immune to the pressure of following his big brother. If they were two or three years apart, it’d be different. But four and half years was just enough to ensure Marc had a chance to become his own person.

“It’s been like that forever so it doesn’t make a difference anymore,” Marc said, when asked about being compared to Pau. “To be compared to one of the best players in Spanish history, even if you come up a little short, it might not be that bad.

“I learned many things from Pau, I’ve seen more of his games than anyone, except my parents maybe.”

That said, they are two pretty different players. Pau is long and lanky, more of a finesse player. Marc is thick and strong. Here in Memphis, they have started calling him “The Tank.”

“We’re both winners, but I think everybody can accomplish it in their own way,” Marc said. “I always needed to play a different way because I had a different body than Pau. He was skinnier and I was thicker so I had to develop different skills.”

As much as Pau was happy to leave Memphis and move on to the Lakers last season, both brothers recognize it’s benefits for Marc. It’s quiet, the expectations are low, and with the Grizzlies young team, Marc will get a lot of minutes and space to develop.

“Memphis is a different city but I think the people here appreciate us a lot,” Marc said. “All they ask for is for us to play hard. They don’t ask for us to win 45 or 50 games every year, they just ask to go every night and compete and that’s what we do.”

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The next Gasol brother?

As if two uber-talented, intelligent, 7-foot-tall NBA athletes weren’t enough for one family, now comes word there is actually a third Gasol brother out there.

Adria Gasol is 15, but he’s already 6-foot-5, and yes, he plays basketball.

Older brother Marc doesn’t want to raise the bar too high just yet.

“ We’ll see how Adria develops,” Marc said. “I just want him to be happy whatever he does. I don’t expect him to play basketball, that would be too much pressure on him. If he studies, if he plays soccer, if he plays tennis, he doesn’t have to do it at the highest level. He just has to have fun

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Change of scenery

The weather here in Memphis, like the shocking turn of events for the Lakers in the previous two games, was bracing and biting.

So instead of a day spent indoors re-hashing how the last two games have gotten away from them, or bundling up in the 28-degree air, walking in and around Memphis, Phil Jackson had his team come down to the FedEx Forum for a quick practice Sunday afternoon.

Normally, on an off-day after a back-to-back, Jackson might’ve given the team a day off. But this was no normal off-day. Not after the Lakers dropped back-to-back games for the first time this season.

“I’ve been talking to the guys about playing with more enthusiasm and more energy,” Jackson said. “I think I’ve been reiterating that for a while. So we’ve been talking about that, trying to get these guys to liven up a little bit.”

In other words, with an offense gone stagnant, and a defense still figuring itself out, doing something was better than standing still.

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Orlando 106, Lakers 103

ORLANDO — For the second straight night, the Lakers found themselves on the losing side of a disputed connection in the state of Florida.

Saturday night, it was Sasha Vujacic’s shot with 3.9 seconds remaining that rattled around the rim and found a way to pop out, crushing the Lakers hopes of salvaging this swing through the Sunshine State and sending them to a 106-103 loss against the Orlando Magic at the Amway Arena.

Friday night, Kobe Bryant’s last-second shot rattled around the rim down in Miami as the Lakers lost to the Heat 89-87.

It marked the first time the Lakers (21-5) have lost back-to-back games this season and the first time they’ve failed to win a game in either Miami or Orlando since the 2004-05 season.

They’ll have a day off today in Memphis to regroup before resuming this four-game road trip Monday night against the Grizzlies.

“I don’t think we are down. We lost on two in-and-outs and that’s pretty painful,” Vujacic said of the Lakers psyche after back-to-back losses.

His own wasn’t as healthy.

“It was one of the worst night’s I’ve probably had,” said Vujacic, who missed all six shots he took Saturday. “Coach showed me confidence. Kobe showed me confidence. He passed me the ball. Those are the shots I live for. When I saw that it came out, I was shocked. It was just painful.”

The loss wasted the best performances of the season from Bryant, who had 41 points, eight rebounds and three assists, and Fisher, who scored 27 points in a season-high 41 minutes.

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Jordan Farmar injures left knee

Lakers point guard Jordan Farmar has a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee and will miss at least the rest of this road trip. Farmar said his knee has been bothering him for a few weeks but was healing and feeling better until he re-aggravated it in Friday’s loss to the Miami Heat.

Farmar had an MRI Saturday in Orlando which revealed the tear. He will fly home to Los Angeles on Sunday, then be seen by several doctors in Los Angeles and determine the best course of action.

“It’s disappointing. You want to play ball. You work so hard to be ready, you want to go out there and help your team,” Farmar said before the Lakers game against Orlando Saturday night. “I felt I played well last night and was getting mentally back on track and ready to roll. It’s part of the game and it’s part of life. Setbacks come an there’s always going to be adversity. It’s how you deal with it. I’ll be fine.”

Farmar is the Lakers primary back-up at point guard. He’s been playing almost 20 minutes a game, averaging 7.9 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson didn’t want to divulge the team’s plans, but it’s likely Lamar Odom and Sasha Vujacic would help fill the hole in the backcourt.

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Quote of the Night

Dwyane Wade turned in his 11th 30-point night of the season in Friday’s win over the Lakers, which caused more than a few people to harken back to the days when Kobe Bryant regularly put up monster numbers like that, because the Lakers were so lacking in the front court.

Afterwards, I asked Kobe if he saw any similarities and he smirked.

`No, because if I was hot like he was (Friday), I would’ve had 50 points because I would’ve shot the ball like 45 times, not 25 times like he did,” Bryant said, laughing. “I would’ve kept going.”

If Bryant hadn’t said that though, this quote from Udonis Haslem would’ve topped the night’s notebook.

Haslem was asked about Bryant’s last shot, which rattled around the rim a few times before finally bouncing out and giving the Heat the victory.

“He puts up a shot with Shawn (Marion) all over him and the shot goes halfway down,” Haslem said. “If you can get half a point for a bucket, he would’ve gotten half a point and we would’ve won by half a point.”

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Heat 89, Lakers 87

MIAMI — Then, in a Flash, all was not well with the Lakers.

After pulling out a few uninspiring victories against some even more uninspiring teams back home in Los Angeles, the Lakers began a second-straight East Coast trip on a low note.

This time it was Dwyane Wade and the previously struggling Miami Heat knocking them off of their stride, beating the Lakers 89-87 Friday night in front of a sellout crowd at American Airlines Arena.

And typically, though predictably, it was Wade doing much of the damage.

The NBA’s scoring leader scored 35 points on 13-of-25 shooting Friday night, his 11th 30-point game of the season.

Wade’s circus-shot, 33-foot, 3-pointer beat the buzzer at the end of the third quarter and gave Miami its largest lead of the game at 75-63.

The Lakers somehow found a way to answer, closing the gap to one point on Pau Gasol’s free throw with eight seconds remaining in the game, and had a chance to tie the game at the end of regulation, but Kobe Bryant’s fall-away jumper rattled around the basket and popped out to end the game.

“I thought it was in,” said Bryant, who had a team high 28 points. “Even when it rattled around, I thought it was going to fall. It just didn’t happen.”

Had it gone in the Lakers would’ve sent the game to overtime and earned a chance to improve their record to 22-3, despite scoring a season-low in points.

Instead the Lakers (21-4) must head to Orlando for a game tonight against a team with a record (20-6) that would immediately make them the second-best team in the Western Conference.

But perhaps more importantly, had Bryant’s shot gone in, and the Lakers continued their fourth-quarter surge into overtime and escaped with a win, they also would’ve probably escaped having to answer questions about their wretched free throw shooting (10 of 19) Friday night, their 21 turnovers, and their inability to get Andrew Bynum involved in a game against a team that starts a 6-foot-8 player (Udonis Haslem) at power forward and an unheralded second-year free agent named Joel Anthony at center.

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