After ending the 13-game winning streak of the team with the league’s best record, the Los Angeles Lakers try to extend their own run as they face the NBA’s worst club.
Los Angeles looks for its longest winning streak of the season Tuesday when it opens a brief two-game road swing against the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Lakers (23-11) have won four straight, including a 101-98 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday. The Mavericks entered the game with the NBA’s best record and a 13-game winning streak, but they couldn’t quiet Kobe Bryant, who scored 14 of his 26 points in a final quarter where the Lakers outscored Dallas 33-21.
Bryant also added eight rebounds and six assists, while Luke Walton scored 21 points and had six assists. The biggest shot, though, came from reserve guard Sasha Vujacic, whose 3-pointer with 28.5 seconds left proved the game-winner.
Vujacic finished with a career-high 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the floor, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range.
“My teammates found me for open shots. I just wanted to take the responsibility,” said Vujacic, who entered play averaging just 3.4 points per game. “It feels great. The beginning of the season, I didn’t start well. I just want to be more consistent, show the coach he can trust me.”
The Lakers, who also won four games in a row from Nov. 12-21, are seeking their longest winning streak since winning the last five games of 2005-06. The previous four-game run this season started with a 91-81 victory over Memphis at Staples Center. Bryant’s 21 points led the Lakers in that contest, while Lamar Odom chipped in 20 points and a season-high 16 rebounds.
Los Angeles has lost six of its last eight meetings with the Grizzlies (8-27), however, and five of the last six in Memphis. The Lakers are just 7-7 on the road this season.
The Grizzlies, owners of the NBA’s worst record, will try to avoid their fifth losing streak of at least three games this season. Memphis lost its second straight game on Sunday, 110-96 to the San Antonio Spurs, and fell to 2-3 under interim coach Tony Barone.
“We need to improve our ball movement,” said Chucky Atkins, who has been held to a combined 14 points in the team’s last two losses. “I think we had some good shots. We just missed a few, which took us out of our rhythm.”
Pau Gasol led Memphis with 24 points and six rebounds on Sunday. Gasol has scored 24 points in three consecutive games and has scored at least 20 in six straight contests. The Memphis center is averaging 18.7 points in 13 games this season after he missed the first 22 because of a broken foot.
Memphis may need a big offensive night against the Lakers, who are averaged 115 points over their last six games. Atkins, however, seemed concerned that the Grizzlies have yet to adjust to the up-tempo offense Barone has installed.
“I think a lot of times we’re playing at such a high pace that when things aren’t necessarily there, we’re not disciplined enough to stay with it and execute it,” Atkins said. “We’re rushing shots, and we’re not getting the best possible shots.”