THE FACTS: In a game that meant a lot to both teams, the one that needed the victory just a little bit more pulled it off at the end. Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley missed a runner at the buzzer Friday night and the Lakers held on for an 86-84 victory to remain a half game ahead of the Jazz for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference.
QUOTABLE: "We're not out of the woods at all. ...every game has got to be a win."
-- Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni
THE STAT: The Lakers missed their first eight field goal attempts of the second half, causing their seven-point halftime lead to morph into a seven-point deficit. But as bad as they looked in those opening six minutes, they played some of their best basketball in the next half of the third quarter, shooting 9-for-12 to go back ahead by six points. All in all, there were 12 lead changes in the second half.
TURNING POINT: The final lead change came with 1:36 remaining. Kobe Bryant found Pau Gasol cutting to the basket off a pick-and-roll and hit him in stride for the layup and an 85-84 lead. Jerryd Bayless missed a 3-pointer on the other end, the Lakers couldn't take advantage of two offensive rebounds and Conley missed a pull-up jumper. Dwight Howard grabbed that rebound for the Lakers and was immediately fouled, sending the 49 percent free-throw shooter to the line with 4.1 seconds left. He made one of two to push the lead to two. The Grizzlies called timeout then got the ball into the hands of Conley. He found a seam and drove to the basket, but Howard got in the way and seemed to alter his plans, causing Conley to miss badly.
QUOTABLE II: "[Howard] tried to avoid contact but stayed big enough to bother the shot. I though he defended it perfectly."
-- MIke D'Antoni
HOT: Gasol seems to be fully recuperated from the plantar fasciitis that sidelined him for most of February and March. He scored 19 points, his highest-scoring effort since early February, and pulled down nine rebounds, just missing his third straight double-double. His backup, Earl Clark, has also returned to his winter form, recording 13 points off the bench on 5-for-8 shooting and notching one memorable blocked shot (see below).
QUOTABLE III: "We gave everything we had out there and it was a good, quality win for us."
-- Pau Gasol
NOT: The Grizzlies missed their final four shots, including three by Conley, who was having a good game until the final minute. He finished 9-for-19 with 21 points. With starting point guard Steve Nash sidelined for his second consecutive game with hamstring and hip injuries, the Lakers needed more from their starting backcourt than what Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks provided. They combined for eight points and six turnovers in 65 minutes.
GOOD MOVE: With the Lakers clinging to a four-point lead with nine minutes left, Bryant missed on a drive and the Grizzlies set off on a 3-on-2 break. Quincy Pondexter tried to take the ball straight at the hoop but Clark stepped in and not only blocked Pondexter's shot, but took the ball away from him while still in flight.
BAD MOVE: Howard picked up his fourth foul with 5:26 left in third quarter while wrestling with Grizzlies center Marc Gasol under the L.A. basket. That forced D'Antoni to take his best defender out of the game at a critical juncture. Howard finished with nine points and 10 rebounds, ending his streak of double-doubles at 14.
NOTABLE: After allowing 37 points in the first quarter of Saturday's win in Sacramento, the Lakers have given up an average of 20.5 points in each of the last 11 quarters. ... Pau Gasol was traded to the Lakers five years ago, but still leads the Grizzlies in career points, rebounds and blocks.
UP NEXT: For the Lakers, Sunday @ L.A. Clippers, Tuesday vs. New Orleans, Wednesday @ Portland. For the Grizzlies, Sunday @ Sacramento, Tuesday vs. Charlotte, Friday @ Houston.