Lakers 86 - Grizzlies 84 (final)
The Lakers closed out a tight battle against the Memphis Grizzlies, 86-84, to stay ahead of the Utah Jazz in the standings.
The Grizzlies quickly erased the Lakers' lead in the fourth quarter, taking an 84-83 lead with 2:32 left in the game. Pau Gasol hit a layup a minute later to put the Lakers back on top.
Both teams fought the final minute and a half without making a field goal. The Lakers matched the intensity of one of the NBA's top defensive teams.
After Mike Conley missed a step-back jumper with 4.9 seconds left, Dwight Howard was fouled trying to get the rebound and would shoot two foul shots, arguably, with the Lakers' season on the line. He converted one of two, giving the Lakers a two-point lead.
On the final play, Conley attempted a layup to tie but the Lakers collapsed on him, forcing a miss.
Kobe Bryant led all scorers with 24 points on 10-of23 shooting. Pau Gasol scored 19 with nine rebounds, out-pacing his brother Marc Gasol, who had 11 points and eight rebounds for the Grizzlies.
Bryant led the Lakers with nine assists. Marc Gasol had seven for Memphis.
Conley led the Grizzlies with 21 points. Jerryd Bayless scored 14 off the bench as Memphis shot 44.2% from the field.
Earl Clark and Antawn Jamison each scored 13 off the bench. The Lakers shot 45.9% from the field but had 18 turnovers.
Dwight Howard struggled through foul trouble in the second half but was crucial in the closing seconds defensively for the Lakers.
The Lakers improved to 40-36, a half-game ahead of the Jazz (40-37) who own the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Grizzlies fall to 51-25.
Lakers 68 - Grizzlies 62 (end of third quarter)
The Lakers absorbed a punch in the mouth in the third quarter, giving up their seven-point halftime lead to fall behind by seven to the Grizzlies.
Memphis started the half on a 15-1 run, forcing the Lakers in a stretch of consecutive turnovers and missed shots. The Lakers collected themselves and scored eight straight, eventually finishing the quarter back up by six.
Kobe Bryant led all scorers with 20 points along with eight assists. Pau Gasol chipped in 17 as the Lakers shot 49.1% from the field.
The Grizzlies were led by Mike Conley with 18. Memphis shot 43.1% but had just seven turnovers.
The Lakers turned the ball over 15 times, with Steve Blake responsible for five of them.
Lakers 46 - Grizzlies 39 (halftime)
The Grizzlies pushed back in the second quarter after falling behind by 13 to the Lakers.
Memphis closed to within four points before the Lakers pushed their lead back to seven by halftime. Kobe Bryant led all scorers with 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
Mike Conley and Zach Randolph led the Grizzlies with eight points apiece. Memphis shot 41.5% from the field.
The Lakers shot 51.4% but turned the ball over 10 times (versus six from the Grizzlies).
Pau Gasol contributed 12 points. His brother Marc had five.
Lakers 25 - Grizzlies 18 (end of first quarter)
The Lakers didn't have much trouble scoring in the first quarter against one of the best defensive teams in the league.
Led by Kobe Bryant, the Lakers took a 25-18 lead over the Memphis Grizzlies after a quarter of play Friday night at Staples Center. Bryant scored nine points on 4-of-5 shooting and four assists.
The Grizzlies were led by Zach Randolph's six points. After hitting their first four shots, the Grizzlies converted just four of their next 16 and finished at 40% for the quarter.
The Lakers shot 57.9% with Earl Clark giving a spark off the bench with seven straight points.
The Lakers (39-36) host the Memphis Grizzlies (51-24) on Friday night at Staples Center.
Memphis is one of the top defensive teams in the league.
The Lakers have climbed to eighth place in the Western Conference and can't afford a loss with ninth-place Utah only half a game back.
Steve Blake will start again for Steve Nash, who won't play as he works through a strained hamstring.
For a more in-depth breakdown, check out Preview: Lakers vs. Grizzlies.
Lakers' Steve Nash to sit out tonight's game against Memphis
Pau Gasol is starting to find his way with Howard, D'Antoni
Kobe Bryant's heavy minutes may ease in next two games
Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.