Kobe Bryant hasn't quite found a rhythm yet since returning, and the Los Angeles Lakers are still struggling as a result. Perhaps facing the also-toiling Memphis Grizzlies - who could be without Mike Conley - can help them find their way.
Los Angeles seeks just its second win in the series' last six meetings when it travels to Memphis on Tuesday night.
Bryant looked as if he might have made major progress in Saturday's win at Charlotte, scoring 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting with eight assists and seven rebounds. But he was just 4 of 14 for eight points in Monday's 114-100 loss at Atlanta, which saw the Lakers squander a seven-point halftime advantage.
DeMarre Carroll was largely responsible for slowing Bryant, often picking him up defensively in the backcourt as Bryant played point guard for Los Angeles for the third straight game.
The Lakers (11-13) are just 1-4 with Bryant, who said his ankle felt stiff at times on Monday, though he wasn't necessarily deterred. His 1.13 assist-to-turnover ratio is his worst since his rookie season.
"The next level of progression is playing these games when you sit back out, get back in, is keeping it loose," said Bryant, who is averaging 12.4 points while shooting a career-low 40.0 percent. "It's just a matter of time. You increase the activity, the ankle gets used to it a little more."
He averaged 27.7 points in three meetings with Memphis last season.
"I've just got to keep my eye on the big picture and focus on getting better," he said.
The Lakers will try to avenge an 89-86 home loss from Nov. 15. Memphis was just 1 of 13 from 3-point range, though it compensated with a 51-40 rebounding advantage. But the Grizzlies were still with the now-injured Marc Gasol, who had 18 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, three steals and three blocks. They are 3-7 since he was sidelined by a sprained MCL.
He also helped limit his brother Pau to 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting. Gasol is shooting just 39.0 percent over his last five games versus Memphis.
However, Zach Randolph hit 11 of 18 shots for a season-high 28 points. Another big performance could be crucial with Mike Conley's status unclear after he left late in Sunday's 101-93 loss to Minnesota with a bruised left thigh.
Conley, who scored 28 points before exiting, is enjoying a career year despite his team's struggles with 18.2 points per game and a 3.3 assist-to-turnover ratio.
The Grizzlies (10-13) have dropped four of five at home and three in a row overall. They haven't lost four straight since Jan. 24-30, 2012.
Sunday's defeat marked already their ninth loss in Memphis, matching the team's total from 2012-13 when it won a franchise-record 32 games at home.
The Grizzlies are allowing opponents to shoot 37.6 percent from 3-point range this season, including 43.7 percent over the last six games after Minnesota was 12 of 26. They limited teams to a 33.8 percentage last season, which was the second-lowest in the league.
Los Angeles has been one of the better 3-point shooting teams, hitting 38.6 percent, but just 28.2 percent over its last four contests.
- Sports & Recreation
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Mike Conley
- Kobe Bryant