It was a matter of time, of course, before the Lakers reached the breaking point, the smashing, crashing, pick-up-the-pieces in the morning point.
Yes, it was Grizzly.
Kurt Rambis ranted, and the Lakers occasionally paid attention to the woeful Vancouver Grizzlies, who were furiously trying to knock off the Lakers.
Rambis raged, and his players stirred, briefly.
Finally, Rambis broke.
Actually, he broke something--heaving a clipboard to the hardwood during a timeout, sending pieces of plastic across the floor.
That apparently woke his players from their slumber in time for a 117-102 victory Monday before 17,505 at the Great Western Forum.
"Everybody was like, 'Did he just do what I think he did?' " said forward Robert Horry, who scored 17 points, had 12 rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocked shots.
"Did it have an effect? See, we took over after that."
Said Rambis: "They just don't make clipboards like they used to."
Ruben Patterson said that Rambis was furious that Vancouver was beating the Lakers on the offensive glass when he underlined the point with a bang.
"One piece hit me in the eye," Patterson said. "He was telling us that we have to rebound.
"And I've just decided that when I'm in the game, I've got to rebound. They were killing us on the boards. And we started working on the boards better after that."
The Lakers (26-16) took a good, long, three-quarter look into the abyss, dangling their feet over the ledge and eliciting those cartoon reactions from their coach.
But the Lakers ended a three-game losing streak because Shaquille O'Neal continued his recent run of dominance, scoring 35 points, because Horry played clutch basketball, and because rookies Tyronn Lue and Patterson sprinted their way through Vancouver players for key points and rebounds.
"I think Ruben and I came off the bench as rookies and did pretty good jobs," Lue said. "I think as rookies we can spark the defense--Ruben's a real good defensive player and I can come in and pick up the pressure full court."
They also survived because they decided to play defense in the second half against Vancouver, which had averaged only 81.5 points in its last four games and has only one road victory.
Lue (who had a season-high 15 points and four assists) and Patterson (11 points) were key because they got most of their points in the second half, when the Lakers clawed into shouting distance after the Grizzlies raced to a nine-point lead late in the third quarter.
Horry said the key was to stay calm, despite the Grizzlies' solid play.
"You're always worried when you're down, but we made sure we didn't do what we usually do--get into one-on-one basketball," Horry said. "We stuck together."
It was a Patterson-to-O'Neal alley-oop for a one-handed slam with 9:30 left that gave the Lakers a 90-84 lead, their largest of the game to that point.
A few minutes later, the Lakers were pulling away and had a 12-point lead with 7:05 left.
The Lakers had a 30 assists, including a game-high eight from Kobe Bryant.
The Lakers, who were playing without reserves Rick Fox (sore right knee) and Derek Harper (sore right foot), gritted it out the rest of the way.
But for a huge part of the game, it looked like the worst possible defeat at the hands of a bad team that was without Bryant Reeves and Doug West.
Through the first three quarters, Vancouver center Tony Massenburg kept scoring and scoring and scoring on his way to 28 points (he averages 10.4).
O'Neal picked up his third and fourth fouls minutes into the second half, sending him to the bench and the Lakers into gut-check time.
Things got tense for the Lakers when the Grizzlies opened a 70-61 lead midway through the third quarter after an 8-2 burst.
After calling timeout with 6:31 left in the quarter, Rambis then slammed his clipboard.
"You saw it out there, they were trying to do the right things out there," Rambis said of his team's defense, and pointing out that Vancouver made a lot of tough shots in the first half.
"I was pleased with the way we kept with it."
Then came the comeback.
Glen Rice shot the Lakers back into it with three consecutive long jump shots, closing the gap to 74-70 with four minutes left in the quarter.
The Lakers went ahead, 80-79, for the first time since the end of the first quarter on Patterson's basket and free throw in the final minute of the third.
This was coupled with the first signs of an organized Laker defense, fueled, perhaps, by some lively emotion.
After the Rambis rage, Vancouver only scored 10 more points in the quarter--and scored only 20 overall in the third.
The Laker defense was woeful--giving up 60 first-half points, including 32 points in the second quarter to Massenburg, DeJuan Wheat and Felipe Lopez.
The Kings moved into a tie for the final playoff berth in the Western Conference with a victory at Anaheim. Page 3