Turnovers, shooting woes doom LA.
Your Los Angeles Lakers put up a brave fight, for a while.
At the end of the day, it was probably unrealistic to expect LA to actually hold on long enough to beat the West’ second-seeded Memphis Grizzlies, in Memphis, without All-Star forward LeBron James or starting point guard D’Angelo Russell, the club’s third-leading scorer.
But things stayed close for a while, with Los Angeles actually leading at the halftime break behind some stellar bench scoring and the solid two-way play of Anthony Davis.
The Lakers trotted out a new temporary starting five of Dennis Schröder, Malik Beasley, Troy Brown Jr., Jarred Vanderbilt and Anthony Davis.
As usual, Vanderbilt’s activity proved to be indispensable for LA early on in the opening quarter:
The Grizzlies led, just barely, 26-22, after a quarter. LA shot a meager 35% from the floor in the first quarter, while Davis already seemed well on his way to yet another double-double with five points and seven boards.
In an interesting wrinkle, Wenyen Gabriel supplanted Mo Bamba as Darvin Ham’s reserve center of choice behind AD, with Bamba only getting 1:15 of spot time at the end of the game.
Backup LA shooting guard Lonnie Walker IV, reinvigorated by his return to the team’s rotation, instantly started draining triples in the second frame. Walker also had the highlight of the game with a throwback “Skywalker”-type slam:
Midway through the second period, the Lakers went on an 8-0 run to build up a narrow lead, with Anthony Davis’s tough paint defense leading to some exciting fastbreak LA offense.
The Grizzlies shot 0-for-12 during that LA run. Memphis quickly got right back into it, thanks in part to 15 Lakers turnovers overall in the first half.
A 7-0 Lakers close to the quarter gave LA a 49-46 first half edge heading into the break.
Davis had eight points on 2-of-5 shooting from the field, 10 boards and four blocks (already making this his 15th game with 3+ blocks this year) for Los Angeles. But the big story for LA through two quarters was its bench play. Reaves led all Lakers scorers with 15 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field (all triples) and 3-of-3 shooting from the charity stripe, two assists, two rebounds and a steal.
Through the game’s first two quarters, Walker was the team’s second-leading scorer with 10 points on 3-of-7 shooting from the floor (2-of-4 from deep), two rebounds and a block.
The Lakers went on a 13-3 run between the end of the second quarter and the opening minutes of the third, to build a 55-49 lead.
Morant woke up in the third period, scoring 28 points in that frame alone (!) after have scored just four points in the game’s first half.
Morant landed awkwardly on his right elbow and had to be helped to his feet near the end of the quarter, but ultimately did return to the game in the fourth. Memphis outscored LA 47-33 to end the third quarter up 93-84.
Things remained chippy and somewhat close through about the midway point of the game’s first half. Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. finally got humming at this point, and helped extend the Grizzlies’ lead. It hovered around low double digits the rest of the way, until Darvin Ham finally subbed out his rotation guys at the 1:15 mark.
Morant finished with a 39-point, 10-rebound, 10-assist triple double in just 33:45. Jackson had 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting and grabbed seven boards, and substitute starting center Xavier Tillman notched an 18-point, 11-board double-double.
Davis was the Lakers’ MVP of the night, scoring 28 points on 9-of-19 shooting, pulling down 19 rebounds, and notching five blocks.
The Lakers’ defense on Morant was pretty rough, but perhaps its biggest problem was its sloppy ball protection. LA had a whopping 26 turnovers, nine more than Memphis. The Grizzlies also massively outscored the Lakers 86-48 in the paint.
One positive wrinkle for LA was the superlative performance of Walker, reactivated into LA’s lineup thanks to the injuries to Russell and James. In just 22 minutes, Walker had 21 points on 7-of-15 shooting from the floor (5-of-10 from long range!), four rebounds, an assists and a block.
LA will get another chance to get a win sans LeBron James tomorrow night against the Oklahoma City Thunder.