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What's left of Lakers outlasts the remains of the Grizzlies, 96-92

Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol lead the way as injury ravaged Lakers get past similarly afflicted Memphis to finish 2-2 on trip.

December 17, 2013|By Mike Bresnahan

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — If this were college football, it would've been the Injury Bowl.

The Memphis Grizzlies played without Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, a big problem it turned out, while the Lakers continued to play NBA games without any healthy point guards.

When it was over, the Lakers would have been the ones joyfully hoisting a brass trophy of a guy on crutches. Or parading around with a priceless crystal sculpture of a swollen ankle.

BOX SCORE: Lakers 96, Memphis 92

They outlasted the Grizzlies, 96-92, Tuesday night, adding just enough feel-good indicators to finish their trip with a 2-2 record.

Tempering potential enthusiasm, the Lakers played against only one of Memphis' three solid players, and Zach Randolph had an awful shooting night (seven for 22) at FedEx Forum.

But Kobe Bryant had his best game since coming back from a torn Achilles' tendon and Pau Gasol stepped into the past with a memorable night in the post.

If you closed your eyes and had the stats read to you, it might have felt a little like 2009.

Bryant had 21 points, five rebounds and four assists, making nine of 18 shots in 33 minutes. Gasol also had 21 points, plus nine rebounds and three blocked shots in 33 minutes. He made nine of 12 attempts and scored seven of the Lakers' last 12 points.

"We've just got to be aggressive and call our numbers quite a bit," Bryant said, once again drawing Gasol close to protect him from anybody critical of the 13-year veteran.

And there have been critics. Gasol was one of them last week, lamenting his lack of aggressiveness and also his diminished role in Coach Mike D'Antoni's high-screen-and-roll offense.

Gasol was satisfied Tuesday, successfully returning to the city where he spent his first 6 1/2 NBA seasons.

"When you get several looks in the post and you have that kind of certainty and confidence, you get in rhythm. You don't have the pressure to have to make every move and score every time," he said. "It's something I'd like to continue to see. We'll see if it happens."

D'Antoni seemed fine with it too.

"He's getting down in there a little bit more, which is good, and we want to go there without a doubt," he said. "I just think people go through periods of slumps and you question things. We were out of whack. Pau's an All-Star, he's one of the best players in the league. He worked through it and he's back to rolling."

The same couldn't quite be said of the Lakers (12-13), who had to fight for almost every point and surely would have lost if Conley (thigh bruise) and Marc Gasol (knee sprain) were healthy.

They'll take wins where they can while awaiting the return of Steve Blake (not close), Steve Nash (not close) and Jordan Farmar (soon).

Randolph had 18 points and 16 rebounds as the Grizzles (10-14) couldn't find enough offense.

Bryant, meanwhile, liked what he did Tuesday against one of the league's top perimeter stoppers.

"I know I'm back when those pull-up jumpers start rolling, especially against a defender like Tony Allen, who's breathing all over you and is very physical," he said. "I felt really comfortable being able to elevate and shoot through the contact."

Not to be forgotten, this was Bryant's fourth game in five nights, all on the road.

"This was a big game in terms of being able to tell what my body can do."

He had a brief scare when he fell in the third quarter with Allen guarding him. He stayed down for a while, rubbing his left knee. Trainer Gary Vitti went out there as Bryant stood in one spot for several minutes. He eventually walked off the court and stayed in the game.

"I tend to hyperextend my knees every now and then. This was one of those situations," he said.

The Lakers couldn't have afforded another injury. To anybody.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan

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