Despite two of the Lakers’ top young players firing on multiple levels, the team reaffirmed that it must sharpen its play on the defensive end in order to be competitive.
While Jordan Clarkson went off for 28 points, including a career-best six 3-pointers, D’Angelo Russell collected 22 points and a career-high eight assists. But Memphis scored its highest total of the season in defeating Los Angeles, 128-119.
“We just haven’t been able to guard anybody,” head coach Byron Scott said. “Teams are scoring pretty much at will outside and inside.”
Memphis (33-23) built its lead to as many as 19 points in its wire-to-wire victory, while shooting 56.5 from the field.
Though the Lakers (11-48) cashed in 17 3-pointers —their most in two years — the Grizzlies beat them from inside with 54 points in the paint.
“We just have trouble communicating full-time for a full possession,” Russell said. “We never really had all five guys really locked in on defense. It’s always either one or two guys sleeping.”
The Lakers were outgunned from the beginning, as Memphis rolled off 13 unanswered points for a quick 18-4 lead.
Though Russell heated up for 14 points in the following frame, L.A. nonetheless trailed at halftime, 67-58. Former Laker Matt Barnes poured in 18 of his season-high 25 points across the first two periods.
While the Lakers were able to rack up the points in the second half behind 21 from Clarkson, they were unable to get within range of stopping their losing streak from extending to seven games.
Getting the Point
Russell enjoyed one of his best performances of the season in his third game since returning to the starting lineup.
The then-19-year-old started L.A.’s first 20 games before Scott decided to have him develop from the bench.
“I feel like earlier in the year, I probably was given that starting spot and didn’t have to work for it,” Russell said. “I don’t really know about now, if I worked for it or whatnot, but I’m not going to try to give (Scott) a reason to bench me again.”
A teammate who’s seen a bit of everything in his 20 NBA seasons, Kobe Bryant, claims that being back among the starters will help him in a sense of rhythm and timing.
“It’s very hard coming off the bench (to) really establish the game, especially as a point guard because you’re always chasing the game,” said Bryant, who scored 13 points on a 5-of-14 clip. “The momentum takes place and now you have to come in and adjust to what’s going on.
“It’s much easier for him, when he does start, to be able to control the game and make certain reads and things like that.”
On the Lakers’ first shot of the game, Bryant hit a 3-pointer to pass Rashard Lewis (1,327) for the 11th-most triples in league history. … Mike Conley scored 24 for the Grizzlies, while Lou Williams countered with 22. … The Lakers and Grizzlies get an immediate rematch on Friday in L.A. … A crowd of 18,119 sold out FedExForum for Bryant’s final game in Memphis.