In the last meeting between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Los Angeles Lakers, the Grizzlies took advantage of a slumping Los Angeles team and earned a close victory, handing the Lakers their third loss in a season-high four-game skid.
A lot has changed since then.
The teams meet for the third time this season Sunday in Los Angeles, with the Lakers appearing back on track and the Grizzlies possibly without their leading scorer.
Los Angeles (23-10) won its second straight Friday, beating Philadelphia 102-98 in a game it never trailed. Kobe Bryant scored 33 points - his first 30-point game since Dec. 15 - and Pau Gasol added 20.
Lamar Odom had his second straight productive night off the bench after starting his first 31 games, scoring 18 points.
Despite a late rally by the 76ers, the Lakers held on to regain some momentum heading into 2011 following a three-game losing streak Dec. 21-28 in which they were held to 82 points or less in each contest.
"Obviously, there's games that we're going to close out better," Gasol said. "But if you finish out the year with a win, you should be satisfied."
The Lakers were anything but satisfied after their 98-96 loss to the Grizzlies on Nov. 30. Rudy Gay blocked Ron Artest's last-second shot to preserve the victory.
Gasol, who spent his first six-plus seasons with Memphis before being traded to Los Angeles midway through the 2007-08 season, was just 5 of 13 from the field in that game. He has averaged 16.5 points against his former team - less than his career average of 18.8.
Gay, however, may miss Sunday's contest depending on his health. Gay leads Memphis (14-19) averaging 20.7 points, but he sat out Saturday's 98-92 loss at Utah with a stomach virus.
Zach Randolph attempted to pick up the lost production and scored 27 points with 16 rebounds to record his 20th double-double of the season.
Memphis' bench, though, was outscored 32-6 as the Grizzlies lost their second straight and fifth in seven games after a season-high four-game winning streak.
"We didn't make enough plays. We were getting stops and then we were turning the ball over," coach Lionel Hollins told the team's official website. "Then when we started scoring, we couldn't get stops. They made some big plays. We just didn't get it done."
O.J. Mayo, making his first start in five games, scored 18 points after averaging 14.0 off the bench in the previous four, but was just 6 of 18 from the field.
Mike Conley scored a season-high 28 points in the last meeting with the Lakers, but he's averaged 12.3 and topped 20 just once since.
Bryant has seemed to enjoy facing the Grizzlies throughout his career. He has scored 40-plus points seven times, scoring more than 50 twice and hitting for 60 on March 22, 2007.
The Lakers have won seven of the last nine meetings, including a 124-105 home victory Nov. 2. They've beaten Memphis in four straight and six of eight at Staples Center.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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