Gasolís Finish Lifts Grizzlies Over Lakers
Memphis 100, L.A. Lakers 99
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 11 (Ticker) -- Pau Gasol and the Memphis Grizzlies finally found a way to pull out a victory down the stretch.
Gasol scored eight of his 31 points in the final three-plus minutes and Chucky Atkins split a pair of free throws with three seconds remaining as the Grizzlies snapped a five-game losing streak with a 100-99 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
"We've had so many games like this the last three weeks where we have been around but we haven't finished the games off," Grizzlies coach Mike Fratello said. "Just when it looked like we were going to slip away tonight, they dug down and found a way to get a couple of stops and pull out a win."
"Just winning and losing makes a big difference," added Gasol, who was named to his first All-Star team earlier this week. "It's a whole different world. We needed this like we need air so we can breathe every day. It was a huge win and felt so good. Almost like winning a champioship."
The Lakers, who had won their previous six home games, opened an 88-80 cushion midway through the fourth quarter, only to watch Atkins score six straight points to bring Memphis within two with 5:42 to play.
Gasol sliced the Grizzlies' deficit to 94-93 with a short jumper in the lane with 2:35 to go. But Kwame Brown answered by grabbing an offensive rebound and going up strong for a three-point play, opening a four-point cushion.
"It didn't feel good to lose to a team that has been struggling," admitted Lakers star guard Kobe Bryant, who was held to 26 points. "They executed much better than we did down the stretch. They got big plays when they needed them and we didn't make the stops we needed to make. Our offense was good but our defense wasn't able to keep them in front of us and put them on the free-throw line."
With 52 seconds left, Gasol made a pair of foul shots to bring the Grizzlies within 99-97 and, after blocking Lamar Odom's drive on the other end, the Spanish forward made a tough reverse layup, drawing a foul on the play.
"We had to release all of that frustration," Gasol said. "It was rewarding to see each one of us working so hard to get that reward of a win."
Gasol missed the foul shot, but Lakers forward Brian Cook rushed a jumper that missed badly, giving Memphis a chance to win it. Atkins took advantage, driving to the basket and drawing a foul from Smush Parker before splitting the free throws. On the Lakers' final possession, Bryant launched an off-balance 3-pointer that did not hit rim and likely would not have counted anyway.
"I didn't quite get the look I wanted," Bryant said. "I'm not even sure if I got it off in time."
Bryant did not have one of his better games, shooting just 10-of-28 from the field. He also committed four of the team's seven turnovers.
"At the end, the play that the Lakers drew up and got into Kobe's hands is always dangerous," Fratello said. "You hope that he doesn't get a clear look at the basket. All I know is that I was very happy the ball didn't go in. You do the best you can when the ball gets in Kobe's hands."
In an unusual sequence of events, Bryant was outplayed down the stretch by Gasol, who made 11-of-15 shots and added 12 rebounds, seven assists and a pair of blocks.
"I had to take this game on my shoulders," Gasol said. "The last few games that we were right there, I didn't produce down the last five minutes. I had to be a little more aggressive and luckily thinks worked out well."
Atkins scored 18 points and fellow ex-Laker Eddie Jones added 25 and eight rebounds for Memphis, which shot 48 percent (31-of-64), including 8-of-17 from beyond the arc.
"It's great to come out here and get a win against my old friends," Jones said. "Just to come out with a victory and now I can go out to dinner."
Los Angeles went on a 17-0 run bridging the second and third quarters to turn a 13-point deficit into a 56-52 lead. Parker, who finished with 20 points, ignited the burst with a 3-pointer and capped it with a floater in the lane early in the second half.
The teams jockeyed for position throughout the third quarter, but the Lakers closed the period on a 14-5 surge behind five points apiece from Parker and Brown, who made six-of-six both from the field and from the line en route to a season high-tying 18 points.