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Lakers lose to Memphis, and this three-peat isn't what they had in mind

Grizzlies hang on to win, 98-96, handing the two-time defending champions a third straight loss — only their second three-game skid since Pau Gasol joined the team in February 2008. Kobe Bryant shoots nine for 25; Gasol is five for 13.

November 30, 2010|By Mike Bresnahan

The championship confetti has fallen more often than not since the Lakers acquired Pau Gasol, keeping parade planners plenty busy the last two Junes, so it's always a head-turner when they go on a losing streak.

Drop one game, and it's understandable. Lose two in a row, and the hand-wringing begins from Lakers followers. Lose three consecutive games? Inconceivable.

In fact it had happened only once since Gasol joined the Lakers in February 2008.

But then the Lakers lost to the Memphis Grizzles, 98-96, falling for the third time in as many games amid another baffling performance.

Neither Gasol nor Kobe Bryant could find any semblance of accuracy, and no one could stop Memphis point guard Mike Conley, who ripped the Lakers for 28 points Tuesday at FedEx Forum.

It was a night to forget, even though it's always memorable when the Lakers complete a different type of "three-peat."

"You don't want to take credit away from teams that we lose to, but they're losses that shouldn't happen," Gasol said.

Confusion began seeping into the Lakers' season last Friday in Utah after a 19-point second-quarter lead turned into a 102-96 loss. Then came an uninspiring effort at home two days later against Indiana.

The Lakers (13-5) had a chance to steal a victory from the Grizzlies (8-10), but instead fell to fourth in the Western Conference, half a game ahead of New Orleans.

Bryant drove in the final seconds against O.J. Mayo and, as the Grizzlies defense converged on him near the free-throw line, unexpectedly passed the ball to Artest on the left side.

"I had the shot I wanted but I lost the handle on the ball going up so I kicked it to Ron," Bryant said.

Artest, thinking Bryant was going to shoot, was caught off guard, dribbling once and firing an off-balance 24-footer.

"Then this jumping bean, guy by the name of Rudy Gay, comes and blocks the shot," Artest said. "I thought it was going in. I'm like, 'Why is the ball going short?' I knew the wind wasn't blowing. The ball just stopped after he blocked the shot."

The ball had already stopped going into Gasol. The Lakers didn't look for him again after his three-point play brought them to within 85-80 with 5:48 to play.

"That's a problem for us," Coach Phil Jackson said, even though it wasn't one of Gasol's best nights (15 points, five-for-13 shooting).

Said Gasol: "We do have to understand we need to continue to play the system and move the ball well. It didn't quite happen the way it was supposed to tonight."

Jackson was already worried going into the game, saying the Lakers were playing a lot of "individual basketball" and "trying to do it on their own."

Bryant hoisted 33 shots against Indiana and was nine for 25 for 29 points against Memphis.

"I think he felt like he had to carry a little bit of the load," Jackson said. "Kobe's going to come out there and attack if no one else is aggressive enough. I always say if you feed him the ball, then you're responsible for a lot of what's going on.

"You have to go away from him early [in the game] and then come back to him late a lot of times instead of going to him early and expecting it to come out. He's going to take advantage of that if his teammates give him in the ball."

Bryant didn't see anything out of character with his recent play: "I play the same way all the time."

When the Lakers lost three in a row last March in Miami, Charlotte and Orlando, they were moved to have a team meeting. Things worked out pretty well for them the rest of the way.

This time? "We're not going to have a team meeting or anything like that but we need to focus," Bryant said. "It's a nice challenge to have this early in the season."

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan

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