(Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Bryant, Clarkson Power Victory Over Grizzlies
Kobe Bryant hadn’t played in nine days. Jordan Clarkson had shot 15-of-57 in his last four games. Both players were ready to put the past behind them when facing a team that had beaten the Lakers nine times in a row.
Bryant scored 20 points while Clarkson led Los Angeles with 22 of his own, pushing the team past Memphis, 107-100, on Tuesday night.
“I didn’t have any aches and pains tonight,” said Bryant, who hadn’t ran or shot a ball since facing New York on March 13. “I was able to move pretty freely.”
Bryant and Clarkson were two of six Lakers who reached double-figure scoring, which also included Julius Randle. The sophomore tallied 13 points and 14 rebounds for his 30th double-double of the season, while also providing a career-best five assists.
Head coach Byron Scott was especially pleased with the late performances of his team’s 2014 draft class: Clarkson and Randle.
“You want to see those guys in situations like that when a game is on the line,” Scott said. “They both made some big plays and that’s what it’s all about.”
While the Lakers’ win was a collective effort, the Grizzlies (41-31) relied heavily on Tony Allen, who scored 27 points — his most in five years.
Allen — who has been consistently labeled by Bryant as the best defender he’s ever faced — has a significantly lower reputation on offense.
Nonetheless, he shot an astounding 12-of-12 from the field, becoming the first player to score so many points on a perfect clip since Pau Gasol had 28 on 10-of-10 shooting on Nov. 21, 2010.
However, Allen’s offensive explosion did little to comfort Memphis head coach David Joerger.
“(The game) didn’t slip away,” Joerger said. “We came out and didn’t play.”
The Lakers (15-55) did get a jump on their visitors early, scoring the first nine points of the game.
Memphis hung around for most of the contest, even in a third quarter that saw Bryant heat up for a dozen points while Clarkson scored 11.
When Los Angeles rolled off eight unanswered points late in the frame for a game-high 79-69 lead, the Grizzlies responded and made it three-point game heading into the fourth.
With 3:29 left in the final period, Memphis once again trimmed L.A.’s advantage to three points. But this time Brandon Bass was there to provide an answer.
The first-year Laker scored on the next two possessions via an alley-oop dunk and mid-range jumper. Randle sliced through the lane for a tough layup on the next offensive trip, then Bass brought it right back with a steal followed by a reverse slam.
By the time the final buzzer sounded, Bass had scored eight of his season-best 18 points in the game’s final six minutes.
The victory was far from flawless, as Los Angeles tied their season-high of 22 turnovers. However, the purple and gold made amends by taking it right to the teeth of the Grizzlies.
They constantly cashed in on fouls with a 23-of-24 mark on free throws, while scoring 52 points in the paint against a team that only allows a league-low 38.1 per game.
Russell On the Mend
Second-overall draft pick D’Angelo Russell had a short night, leaving the game in the second quarter due to a bruised shin.
The rookie didn’t express much concern about the injury, though he is listed as questionable for the second game of L.A.’s back-to-back, as the team flew to Phoenix immediately after the game.
“When I took him out of the game, the thought process was to bring him back in the fourth quarter,” Scott said. “Then (head athletic trainer) Gary (Vitti) talked to him and a few minutes later he said he couldn’t go back in. Hopefully it doesn’t swell up big time and, like I said, we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”
Before the game, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced at an in-arena press conference that the city of Los Angeles and Staples Center will host the 2018 All-Star Game. … The battered Grizzlies were without five players due to injuries, including Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. ... Metta World Peace was ejected in the fourth quarter for arguing a call. … A crowd of 18,997 sold out Staples Center.