MEMPHIS, Tenn. — At age 36, Kobe Bryant may not be the dynamo he once was. But some things don’t change. With the game in the balance, he’s still the guy the Los Angeles Lakers want taking the critical shot. Even on a night when Bryant sets the all-time NBA record for missed shots.
Monday night at FedExForum, the Lakers trailed the Memphis Grizzlies by three points when, with 28.9 seconds left in the game and plenty of time left on the shot clock, center Jordan Hill shot a long two-point jumper. He missed, the Grizzlies scored on the other end with five seconds left, and that was the game: Memphis 107, Lakers 102.
It was not the play that Lakers coach Byron Scott had called. Apparently, point guard Jeremy Lin and Hill didn’t get Scott’s message.
“It was just confusion, just a misunderstanding,” said Bryant, who finished with a game-high 28 points. “We’re just kinda getting to know each other. It happens.”
The Grizzlies were happy that it did.
“I’d much rather have (Hill) take it,” said Memphis point guard Mike Conley, who finished with 23 points. “Kobe was upset he didn’t get the ball. Kobe was killing us down the stretch.”
Bryant shot 10-for-26, giving him 16 misses on the night and 13,421 missed field-goal attempts for his career. The Boston Celtics’ John Havlicek previously held the record with 13,417 misses.
“He kind of got it going, but he went for 10-for-26,” said the Grizzlies’ Tony Allen, one of the league’s top defenders, who had the assignment of covering Bryant. “He got the clip out and definitely emptied it. Unfortunately, they got the loss.”
Memphis (7-1) had its largest lead when center Kosta Koufos (14 points) scored on an alley-oop with 6:50 left in the fourth quarter for a 101-84 spread. The Lakers charged back and a Bryant 3-pointer cut the lead to three, at 103-100, with 1:33 left.
The Lakers are just 1-6, but Bryant found positives in the effort — especially rallying from a 17-point deficit.
“Tonight’s a big confidence-booster, to see we can get back in games,” he said.
“That’s not the way we wanted to finish out the game,” Conley said. “But a win’s a win.”
The Lakers got 20 points and eight rebounds from forward Carlos Boozer before he fouled out and 15 points from forward Wesley Johnson. Bryant, in addition to his 28 points, had a team-high six assists and added seven rebounds.
“I’m happy with the progress we’re making,” Scott said. “It’s getting better.”
Grizzlies backup point guard Beno Udrih scored 16 points and guard Courtney Lee had 15 points. Power forward Zach Randolph had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. The Grizzlies’ bench outscored the Lakers’ bench 38-14.
The Grizzlies have now won a franchise-best 17 straight regular-season home games, last losing on Feb. 5, 2014, to the Dallas Mavericks.
Bryant scored 17 of his 28 points in the second half and, of the Lakers’ last nine points, Bryant scored five and had an assist that led to another two points.
“I know he hears all those people say that coming back from the Achilles tendon being torn … he was finished,” Scott said. “I think he’s proven everyone wrong.”
Bryant shrugged off the notion that setting the all-time record for shots missed carried any meaning, saying he didn’t even know he set the record Monday night.
“Oh yeah?” Bryant said as he sat fielding questions in the locker room, his feet in a bucket of ice water. “I don’t follow that stuff.”
Pressed further about all the shots missed, he smiled and said: “Well, I’m a shooting guard and I’ve played 19 years.”
NOTES: Lakers G Wayne Ellington will be away from the team indefinitely after his father was murdered Sunday night in Philadelphia. “When he’s ready to return, we’ll welcome him back with open arms,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said. “All of us have Wayne on our mind.” … Through the Lakers’ first six games (1-5), F Ed Davis was averaging 10.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game off the bench. He averaged 5.7 points and 4.1 rebounds per game last season with Memphis. Scott lauded Davis for “protecting the paint,” adding: “He knows who he is. He’s not trying to shoot 20-foot jump shots.” … Going into Monday night’s game, the Grizzlies had the NBA’s best regular-season record (43-16) in the 2014 calendar year. … G Kobe Bryant entered Monday’s game averaging 26.5 points per game, second in the league to Stephen Curry of Golden State at 27.7.
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