MEMPHIS, Tenn. - In game six of Kobe Bryant's return from Achilles tendon surgery, Bryant matched his season high with 21 points as the Lakers defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 96-92 Tuesday night at the FedExForum.
The Lakers (12-13) split their four-game road trip, and they are 2-4 since Bryant's return. Bryant shot 50 percent from the floor (9-of-18). Center/forward Pau Gasol also scored 21 points with nine rebounds for Los Angeles and guard Nick Young had 18 points off the bench.
The score was tied 67-67 going into the fourth quarter. The Lakers went up by 11, 84-73, with 7:30 to play when Young buried a 3-pointer despite tight defense from Grizzlies guard Tony Allen. Memphis answered with a 10-2 run and trailed by three, at 86-83, with 4:05 to play. The Grizzlies never got closer.
Memphis (10-14) lost its fourth in a row and its home record fell to 5-10. The Grizzlies already have lost more home games than they did all of last season when they finished a franchise-best 32-9.
Memphis power forward Zach Randolph had a double-double with 18 points and 16 rebounds, plus five assists. Allen scored 16 points with seven rebounds and five assists. Guard Jerryd Bayless and forward Jon Leuer each finished with 13 points, and rookie Grizzlies point guard Nick Calathes scored a career-high 10 points.
The Lakers led by as many as 15 points in the first half, going up 34-19 with just under a minute left in the first quarter when Young hit a running bank shot and a free throw for a three-point play. But the Grizzlies went on a 22-9 run to get within two, at 43-41, with 4:28 left in the second quarter.
Los Angeles took a 52-47 lead into the break, and Bryant had 14 points on 6-for-12 shooting from the floor. Young scored 11 for the Lakers and Gasol had 10 in the first half.
The Lakers shot 52.5 percent (21-of-40) over the first two quarters. Memphis shot 42.2 percent (19-of-45).
Ed Davis scored nine first-half points for Memphis and the reserves outscored the Lakers' reserves 30-13 through the first two quarters.
NOTES: Memphis played without PG Mike Conley, who suffered a left thigh bruise late in Sunday's loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Conley is averaging a career-best and team-leading 18.2 points and a team-high 6.3 assists. With C Marc Gasol (left MCL sprain) out indefinitely, the Grizzlies were leaning on Conley. "Mike is co-hardest to replace (with Gasol)," Memphis coach Dave Joerger said. ... Coming into Tuesday's game, the Lakers' Kobe Bryant played a good bit of point guard in his first five games back from Achilles tendon surgery. Bryant was averaging 12.4 points with 6.8 assists and 6.0 turnovers, but coach Mike D'Antoni said he didn't sense any frustration from Bryant. "He's very in tune to where he is and how he's progressing," D'Antoni said. ... Memphis called up F James Johnson from the NBA Development League. In 219 previous NBA games, Johnson averaged 6.3 points and 3.2 rebounds. He was averaging 18.8 points and 9.0 rebounds in 10 D-League games.