Bryant described his pile of points as “pretty much” of a waste.
“We didn’t do a good job defensively at all,” he said. “Staying in front of the ball has been a big problem for us. If we can’t solve that problem, then we’ll just have to continue to get penetrated on until we get the big guys back and then they can bail us out by blocking shots to the basket.”
The Lakers lost their second in a row to another of the NBA’s lesser teams, having been beaten by Charlotte on Wednesday night. The latest loss kept them from joining New Orleans and San Antonio in a three-way tie for the Western Conference lead. They are a game back in third.
“We lost to two teams that thankfully we won’t be seeing in the playoffs,” Bryant said. “I don’t think it’s dire straits by any stretch of the imagination, but still we got to buck up here.”
Bryant finished with four fouls. If he gets one more technical foul in the Lakers’ final nine games, he will receive an automatic one-game suspension.
“The guy must not watch soccer,” he said, referring to the official who gave him his 15th technical Wednesday. “I just won’t kick the ball somewhere where somebody can catch it.”
Bryant scored 50 or more points for the 23rd time in the regular season and the second this month. He had 52 against Dallas on March 2. The Lakers fell to 16-7 when he goes for that many.
He was limited to six points in the fourth quarter, when the Lakers nearly erased all of a 10-point deficit. He had 10 rebounds and one assist while taking 37 of the Lakers’ 104 shots. They attempted a franchise record 45 3-pointers, making 15.
“I don’t think it was bad shot selection,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “Sasha is a good 3-point shooter, Kobe shot over 50 percent, but it’s just too many opportunities to run. Even if you shoot 40 percent, which is a high percentage for 3-point shots, you end up giving them six out of 10 opportunities to run with long rebounds.”
Darko Milicic had 22 points and 12 rebounds, Hakim Warrick 16 points, Kyle Lowry 11 and Mike Miller 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Grizzlies, who are 6-30 on the road and 2-20 away from home against Western Conference teams.
“Road win, playoff team, Kobe going off,” Gay said, ticking off reasons why it was a big win. “We played so well together. We just don’t want to lose. We’re not trying to give up on anything.”
The Grizzlies led by 10 early in the fourth, their largest lead of the game.
Sasha Vujacic hit a 3-pointer to cut the Lakers’ deficit to 109-106 with 3:03 remaining. Miller missed a 3-pointer, but the Lakers couldn’t convert on their end despite four attempts on the same possession, including one by Bryant.
Lowry scored for Memphis, then Vujacic hit another 3-pointer to draw the Lakers within 111-109 with 50 seconds left.
“I got a pretty good look in that corner. It went in and out,” said Odom, who wasn’t feeling well because of a respiratory infection.
Turiaf scored inside to get the Lakers back within two after Odom and Vujacic missed. Gay got fouled and made the second of two for a 114-111 lead. Luke Walton inbounded the ball on the Lakers’ final play, but he turned it over and Milicic got the steal as time expired.
“Maybe they’re a little tired,” Grizzlies coach Marc Iavaroni said. “They look a little worn down. They’ve had a rough stretch and I think Kobe has been shouldering a lot of that. It’s hard to ask him to do that for both halves. He was incredible for that first half.”
Bryant notched 47 points through the first three quarters. He scored the Lakers’ first seven points, including his seventh and eighth 3-pointers, for a 61-56 lead. The Grizzlies tied it at 63 before a basket by Derek Fisher, a Bryant dunk and his ninth 3-pointer, gave the Lakers their largest lead, 70-63.
Memphis closed the third by outscoring Los Angeles 26-10, including seven by Miller and five each by Gay and Milicic that put the Grizzlies ahead 89-80. Bryant didn’t score any of the Lakers’ points and was on the bench for the final 2:47 of the spurt, watching his teammates miss a series of 3-pointers and D.J. Mbenga foul out.
That brought Chris Mihm into the game, just more than a month since he had right heel surgery. Prior to that, he’d been sidelined with right ankle problems for several weeks.
“I was going to be a cheerleader, but I’ll take it,” Mihm said. “I am confident my foot’s going to hold up. My timing isn’t where it needs to be, but I’ll work on it.”
Bryant was the only Lakers’ scorer in double figures at halftime, notching 34 points while taking 22 of their 52 shots and 7 of their 9 free throw attempts. He had nine points in a 13-2 spurt that gave the Lakers a 51-43 lead, but Memphis closed on a 10-2 run to tie the game at 53 going into the break.
It was the third time Bryant has scored at least 50 against the Grizzlies. He had 60 on March 22, 2007, and 56 on Jan. 14, 2002, both victories. … Pau Gasol missed the first meeting between the teams since he was traded from Memphis on Feb. 1. The Lakers’ center could return Sunday from a sprained left ankle. … Kwame Brown, sent to Memphis as part of the Gasol trade, did not play for the fifth consecutive game.