The Pyramid has become a tough place to play for visiting teams. Any arena besides Staples Center has provided problems lately for the Los Angeles Lakers.
The injury-depleted Lakers try to avoid matching the longest road losing streak in team history as they visit the Memphis Grizzlies, looking to tie a franchise record with their sixth straight win.
Los Angeles has lost seven in a row on the road dating to a win at Dallas on Dec. 4. The last three losses away from home—at Sacramento, Denver and Minnesota—have been by an average of 19.3 points.
The team record for consecutive road losses since the Lakers moved to Los Angeles in 1960 is eight straight, set during the 1988-89 season.
The Grizzlies had won just twice in 31 all-time meetings in this series heading into this season, but already beat the Lakers at The Pyramid on Nov. 10. Memphis also has beaten San Antonio, Sacramento, Dallas and New Jersey on its home court this season.
“If you look at the teams that we’ve beaten in Memphis, it’ll pop your eyes,” said Memphis coach Hubie Brown, whose team is 13-5 at The Pyramid this season.
The Grizzlies now can match the longest overall win streak in team history at six games, previously accomplished twice, as they try to take advantage of a Lakers squad missing most of its key players.
“We’ve got to look past all the injuries,” Gary Payton said. “We can get wins. We’ve got to do it in the right way. We’ve got to not make a lot of mistakes.”
The Lakers also have been without Horace Grant, who had been starting at center in place of O’Neal before missing the last three games to attend to his ailing father in Georgia. Lakers coach Phil Jackson said he hadn’t heard from Grant, who left the team on Thursday, but believes there’s a good chance the 38-year-old will rejoin the team in Memphis.
Los Angeles suffered just its third loss in 23 home games and its second in the last six overall with an 88-85 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Monday night.
The Lakers were outrebounded 47-40 and shot just 38.3 percent from the field to record a season low point total.
Memphis rallied from an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Houston Rockets 88-83 on Monday.
Pau Gasol had 24 points and 11 rebounds, and James Posey scored 13 of his 17 points in the final period as the Grizzlies continued the best start in team history. Prior to this season, their high for victories before the All-Star break was 14 in 1999-00.
“We just play with heart now, and we play to win,” said Gasol. “It’s not to see if we can win or try to win some games at home. Now, we expect to win.”
STANDINGS (through Jan. 19): Lakers - 2nd place, 4 GB, Pacific Division. Grizzlies - 6th place, 5 1/2 GB, Midwest Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Lakers - Bryant, 22 ppg; O’Neal, 11.6 rpg; Payton, 6.3 apg. Grizzlies - Gasol, 17.5 ppg and 8.1 rpg; Williams, 6.9 apg.
SEASON SERIES: 1-1.
LAST MEETING: Nov. 23; Lakers, 121-89. At Los Angeles, Bryant scored 28 points and Malone had 20 points and 10 rebounds as the Lakers shot 59.2 percent from the field to overcome the absence of O’Neal, who rested his strained calf.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Lakers - 6-10 on the road; Grizzlies - 13-5 at home.
INJURIES: Lakers - G Bryant (shoulder); F Rick Fox (foot); G Jannero Pargo (knee); C O’Neal (calf); F Malone (knee). Grizzlies - G Troy Bell (knee); F Theron Smith (knee); G Dahntay Jones (achilles’); F Ryan Humphrey (concussion).