One of the NBA’s most hectic schedules and an injured right wrist haven’t appeared to bother Kobe Bryant. The Los Angeles Lakers star also hasn’t experienced too many problems in recent home games against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Bryant will try to continue his scoring binge and lead Los Angeles to a sixth consecutive win at Staples Center on Sunday night against a Memphis team that’s coming off its first defeat since losing perhaps its most important player.
Lakers coach Mike Brown said recently that Bryant has needed painkilling injections before every game since tearing a ligament in his right wrist during the preseason. That hasn’t seemed to affect the 13-time All-Star in the past three contests as he’s scored 30 or more points in each.
He had a season-high 39 on Friday to lead his fatigued team to a 97-90 win over Golden State. Los Angeles was playing its league-high ninth game in 13 days, and Sunday’s game will tie the Lakers (5-4) with Oklahoma City for the most over the season’s first 15 days.
“We went through stretches where we couldn’t score, and so he carried us,” Brown said. “That’s what great ones do.”
Bryant has a chance to continue his surge Sunday considering he’s averaged 32.7 points over his last seven home matchups with Memphis (3-4). With his help, Los Angeles produced a four-game win streak over the Grizzlies at Staples Center, but that was snapped with a 104-85 defeat last January.
Rudy Gay scored 27 points and Zach Randolph had 21 in that game, but one of those players will be missing from Memphis’ lineup Sunday. Randolph is expected to be out for six to eight weeks after tearing the MCL in his right knee during a 104-64 loss in Chicago last Sunday.
Despite the absence of its third-team All-NBA forward, Memphis produced its first back-to-back wins of the season before losing 94-85 at Utah on Friday.
The Grizzlies gave up a season-high 52 points in the paint during that game and let the Jazz shoot a season-high 50.7 percent, also the best performance by a Memphis opponent.
The Grizzlies led by seven late in the third quarter before stumbling down the stretch.
“We got to be better at the end, especially on the road,” said center Marc Gasol, who had a season-high 21 points and 11 rebounds. “We got to be better executing and knowing our scheme defensively, and trying to take them away from what they are trying to do.”
Gasol and the Grizzlies might have trouble doing that when they visit his older brother Pau’s Lakers team. Los Angeles has prevailed by an average of 12.2 points during its five-game home win streak, while Memphis has been outscored by 14.5 per game while going 1-3 on the road.
Gay will try to help the Grizzlies get their third win in four overall meetings with the Lakers by continuing his recent success against them in Los Angeles.
The Grizzlies forward has averaged 26.3 points on 56.6 percent shooting while making 7 of 9 from 3-point range over his last three road games in the series.