MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Memphis Grizzlies had to wait three long days before getting back on the court after a loss snapped their eight-game winning streak.
They made up for the wait by continuing the best start in franchise history.
Rudy Gay scored 21 points, and the Grizzlies beat the Los Angeles Lakers 106-98 on Friday night to improve to 9-2 and take back the NBA’s best record.
“It was good to get the bad taste out of our mouth,” Grizzlies center Marc Gasol said. “Definitely been three days without a game, that whole game kept growing on us, and we really wanted to come out and show our fans we want to play.”
The Grizzlies bounced back after a 97-92 loss to Denver on Monday night. They took the lead over the Lakers in the first quarter and never let go. Zach Randolph had 17 points and 12 rebounds, and Gasol added 14 points and eight assists. Mike Conley scored 19 points, and Tony Allen finished with 12.
Memphis didn’t practice the day before the loss to Denver after back-to-back games. Coach Lionel Hollins put his Grizzlies on the court Thursday morning even with the Thanksgiving holiday.
“This group when they take a day off, it is always pulling hair or pulling teeth,” Hollins said. “We had to come in and practice and get some work in. We didn’t work hard, but we got some work in. I just think that with this group you have to do that.”
The Lakers, playing their third road game in four nights, now have lost all four road games this season and their second straight with new coach Mike D’Antoni on the bench. They still are trying to find their way with the coaching change while waiting for the return first of guard Steve Blake, then Steve Nash from injuries.
D’Antoni said Pau Gasol was off with his shot, which didn’t help with the Grizzlies collapsing on Howard.
“Offense is all about rhythm,” said D’Antoni who used a stool to talk to reporters before and after the game in the only nod to his recovery from knee replacement surgery. “We had some sometimes, but we have got to maintain the rhythm of the game and we are not there yet.”
Kobe Bryant scored the final 14 points of the game for the Lakers and finished with 30. Metta World Peace and Antawn Jamison each had 16.
Randolph and Marc Gasol outscored Howard and Pau Gasol while helping Memphis outrebound the Lakers 39-28, including 13 offensive boards. That led to a 40-24 scoring edge in the paint as well, including a 16-4 margin in the second half.
“We just focused on stopping them in the paint and stopping the lob, and we did a good job,” Randolph said. “Everybody packed the paint in tonight. We got rebounds, we didn’t let them get too many offensive rebounds. It was a good collective team win.”
Pau Gasol, who missed five of his first six shots, did not play in the final period.
“I was thinking, `Well, I’d like to win this game,’ D’Antoni said of keeping Pau on the bench late. “That’s the reason.”
Pau Gasol reached 15,000 career points on Nov. 18 and said he didn’t remember the last time he didn’t play the final quarter in his career. He said he was taking a lot of jump shots and would like some chances closer to the basket near Howard.
“That’s not my decision, my call. I’m a professional. When my number is called, I’m out there,” Pau said. “That is something that I don’t think has happened to me.”
Bryant said Pau Gasol is still a bit of a work in progress trying to figure out how the Lakers want to attack in the system.
“Getting up and down is obviously a big part of it, and we’re trying to work in getting it in the proper form to be able to run like we should,” Bryant said. “It’s a balance, and if he feels like he needs to get more touches down there, then we will get him some more.”
Memphis played the second of a season-long five-game home stand with one of the Grizzlies’ new co-owners sitting at mid-court.
Musician and actor Justin Timberlake joined the Grizzlies at their shootaround, then spent the first half of the game at mid-court with his wife, actress Jessica Biel. Wearing a blue and white Memphis hat, Timberlake stood up after the first quarter and danced along with the Grizzlies’ Grannies and Grandpas, though he stayed at his seat.
The Grizzlies outscored the Lakers 34-18 in the first quarter and 26-21 in the third while leading by as much as 16.
Jamison threw up a shot that beat the buzzer at the end of the third quarter, then hit a 3 to open the fourth. With the Grizzlies doubling down to defend Howard in the paint, that left his teammates open. Jodie Meeks hit back-to-back 3s, then Howard had the assist when he found Chris Duhon for another 3.
Bryant hit a 3 with 5:26 left to get the Lakers within five. Memphis then brought Allen back in to defend Bryant, and Randolph hit a free throw to help Memphis finish off the win.
The Lakers’ reserves helped start the second quarter with a 15-2 run to close to 36-33 on Howard’s dunk with 7:05 left.
NOTES: Memphis improved to 7-0 when scoring at least 100 points this season. … Grizzlies F Darrell Arthur made his debut with 25.6 seconds left in the first half. Arthur missed last season after tearing an Achilles tendon, and he broke a bone in his leg in September. He wound up playing almost eight minutes and hit his only shot. … The Lakers went 20 of 24 at the free throw line, with Bryant hitting 13 of 14 after struggling at the line in a 113-97 loss at Sacramento on Wednesday night. … The Lakers had won seven of their last 10 trips to Memphis.