LOS ANGELES -- Mike Conley thinks the Memphis Grizzlies are atop the NBA standings because they've been consistent and determined each night, no matter whether they're playing title contenders or the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Grizzlies needed every bit of that focus to hold off those 15th-place Lakers, who fell a few minutes shy of an unlikely win.
Marc Gasol had 19 points and 11 rebounds, Conley added 19 points and the Grizzlies beat Los Angeles 99-93 Wednesday night for their seventh victory in eight games.
Zach Randolph scored 16 for the Grizzlies, who improved to 13-2 and kept pace with Toronto atop the overall standings. But Memphis barely withstood a strong effort from Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, who kept it close throughout a tense fourth quarter.
"It says a lot about our focus early this season," Conley said. "That's all we want to do, is to come out focused for the first couple of months of the season, set a good standard for ourselves, and have to just hold ourselves accountable and try to get better."
Coming off back-to-back 30-point games, Gasol scored 16 points in the second half, including 12 in the third quarter while the Grizzlies moved ahead. Gasol saw a familiar pattern in the final minutes for Memphis.
"We got more stops, got a little more physical with each possession," Gasol said. "Put more pressure on them, everything we should have done all night. It's never perfect, but you aim for perfection."
Bryant scored 22 points for the Lakers, who have lost seven of nine. Los Angeles dropped to 1-7 at Staples Center after missing several chances to seize control down the stretch. The Lakers have lost six games by seven points or fewer.
"It's just as frustrating no matter how many times we lost by seven points or less," Bryant said. "I mean, it's not like we have levels of frustration. It's either all or nothing. We've had some opportunities against some of the top teams in the West to win, and we just let it get away from us."
The NBA's worst defensive team held the Grizzlies to six field goals in the fourth, and the Lakers trailed 97-93 after Jeremy Lin's free throws with 1:41 left. But Los Angeles' offense flopped down the stretch, capped by Bryant's brutal turnover with 16 seconds left.
The Lakers opened with one of their better halves of the season, and they did it without much help from Bryant, who took his first shot and scored his first points about three minutes before halftime.
Grizzlies: Memphis went 5 for 22 on 3-pointers. ... The Grizzlies beat the Lakers in Memphis on Nov. 11. ... Compton native Tayshaun Prince had two points in 9 minutes.
Lakers: They tied their season high with nine blocked shots, including three by Ed Davis -- two on the same Memphis possession early. ... Ronnie Price had 11 points and five assists in a reserve role, providing a notable spark during his 18 minutes. ... Carlos Boozer returned after missing one game with a strained left shoulder.
Lin sees hope in the Lakers' latest failure to execute down the stretch: "If you learn from them, I don't see them as wasted opportunities. ... There are going to be rough times, and as long as we learn, which I think we really are doing, I think we'll be able to use these losses and turn them into something better."
EARL ON THE WAY?
Although the Lakers haven't formally announced they're bringing back Earl Clark, the forward posted a photo of himself in his Lakers jersey on Instagram. With Xavier Henry's torn Achilles tendon on Monday, Los Angeles already has lost three players to season-ending injuries, and Clark had the best season of his five-year NBA career with the Lakers in 2012-13. Clark went to training camp with Memphis, but was waived last month.
Grizzlies: At Portland on Friday.
Lakers: Host Minnesota on Friday.
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press
PHOENIX -- Gerald Green scored 24 points and Eric Bledsoe had 20, leading the Phoenix Suns to a 120-112 win over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night.
Green made 6 of 11 3-pointers, four in the second half when he scored 16 points, and the Suns won for the fifth time in six games. Goran Dragic added 20 points for Phoenix, which ended Denver's five-game winning streak.
Timofey Mozgov led the Nuggets (7-8) with 18 points and 13 rebounds and Ty Lawson added 17 points and 12 assists.
SAN ANTONIO -- Spurs coach Gregg Popovich missed Wednesday night's 106-100 win over the Indiana Pacers after undergoing what the team is calling a minor medical procedure.
Popovich also is expected to miss Friday's home game against Sacramento. Assistant Ettore Messina is running the team in Popovich's absence.
"It's not what you want, but the good thing is that obviously it's nothing big or you would not see me here so relaxed," Messina said before Wednesday's win.
SAN ANTONIO -- Manu Ginobili had 28 points and the San Antonio Spurs won without coach Gregg Popovich, rallying for a 106-100 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night.
Popovich missed the game after undergoing what the team is calling a minor medical procedure. His status for Friday's home game against Sacramento is unknown.
Assistant Ettore Messina took over for Popovich, becoming the first European-born coach to run an NBA team in the regular season.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Finally, good things are happening for the Thunder.
Reggie Jackson scored 22 points, and Oklahoma City snapped a six-game skid with a 97-82 victory over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night.
Jeremy Lamb scored 21 points and Serge Ibaka added 20 for the Thunder, who shot 48 percent. Five of the six losses during the skid were by seven points or fewer, and the Thunder were determined to avoid that result again.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker didn't exactly deliver the instant-classic game that fellow rookie Zach LaVine predicted for the first regular-season matchup between the top two picks from the June draft.
Instead, it was Milwaukee's defense that stood out, grinding down the undermanned Minnesota Timberwolves and putting yet another mark in the win column for the surprising Bucks.
Larry Sanders had 15 points, seven rebounds and five blocks to help the Bucks to a 103-86 victory over the Timberwolves on Wednesday night.
HOUSTON -- James Harden and the Houston Rockets got a lift from two unlikely sources on Wednesday night.
Harden scored 26 points on 10-for-31 shooting in Houston's 102-89 victory over the Sacramento Kings, and Donatas Motiejunas and Isaiah Canaan each stepped up for the Rockets.
"We kept breathing, our defense just kept grinding away and grinded out some stops," Houston coach Kevin McHale said.
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Chris Paul picked up his game in the third quarter, and the rest of the Los Angeles Clippers joined him in the fourth.
Paul scored 14 of his 23 points in the third, and the Clippers beat the slumping Detroit Pistons 104-98 on Wednesday night.
Los Angeles outscored Detroit 32-25 in the final period. The Clippers shot 64.7 percent from the field in the last 12 minutes, including a 5-for-7 finish from 3-point range.
ATLANTA -- DeMar DeRozan loves when the Toronto Raptors have a balanced scoring attack.
"That's what it's going to take to win," he said. "Honestly, that's what it's all about."
DeRozan scored 27 points, Lou Williams added 22 and the Raptors beat the Atlanta Hawks 126-115 on Wednesday night for their sixth consecutive victory.
DALLAS -- Tyson Chandler set season highs with 17 points and 25 rebounds against his former team Wednesday night, helping the Dallas Mavericks to a 109-102 overtime victory against the New York Knicks, who were missing Carmelo Anthony.
J.R. Smith, starting with Anthony sidelined by back spasms, was 1 of 10 from the field entering the fourth quarter. But he made a tying jumper with 0.9 seconds left in regulation.
Dirk Nowitzki had a season-high 30 points for Dallas.