Memphis defeats Lakers 127-119
After being listed as questionable all day, Grizzlies fans are able to exhale, knowing that Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, and Kyle Anderson played Sunday All three players went through shootaround, and head coach Brad Jones deemed them able to play However, they’ll was without the screen-setting Steven Adams (COVID-19 protocol), and small forward Dillon Brooks, who is out after spraining his left ankle.
With Ja Morant back, the Grizzlies have their leader, and heart and soul of this team. Morant’s averaged over 40.0 ppg over their last two matchups against L.A., creating a serious challenger for LeBron and co. L.A. is going to need to be on point on both ends of the floor in order to keep this matchup close. The Lakers continue to miss their stud Kentucky alumni, Anthony Davis, and the undrafted Kendrick Nunn. Russell Westbrook, Avery Bradley, Malik Monk, Stanley Johnson, and LeBron all got the nod from Frank Vogel. This lineup is 4-0, and Stanley Johnson is fresh off his second ten-day contract. The Grizzlies essentially ran a clinic on Los Angeles all game. L.A. seemed disinterested and exhausted through three whole quarters, showing minimal signs of life from the old roster. Memphis is the second youngest team in the league, with an average age of 24 years. On the other hand, Los Angeles is the oldest team, by an average of nearly seven more years. Memphis was running circles around L.A. dominating them from start to finish, likely showing effects of that age gap. L.A. also shot the ball horribly and couldn’t keep up on defense until a last gasp in the fourth quarter. LeBron was essentially a one man show tonight for Frank Vogel’s squad all night, which is never a winning formula in a team sport. The rest of the Lakers had a forgettable performance, shooting a combined 19-61 (31.1%), heading into the fourth quarter. Ja Morant set the tone early for Memphis, with a few early assists, an offensive board which extended the play, that he hit Jackson for an assist on, and a casual block of the year candidate. With two hands, Ja pinned the ball on the backboard, which was nearly over the white line on it. For a guard to do that, is absolutely ridiculous. Ja’s impact was felt throughout the night, even though he didn’t drop his usual 40 on L.A. Unlike LeBron, Ja also had contributions from the rest of his teammates all game. The Grizzlies had six players in double digit figures, compared to L.A.’s four. When you realize three of those four were bench players (nearly all in the fourth too), it depicts a much more disappointing performance for L.A. Bronny James’s former teammate, Zaire Williams, was the only Grizzlies starter to not score 10, and he was only one point short. Up until the end of the fourth, Memphis completely wiped L.A behind Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson’s combined 44 points. Ja, Brandon Clarke, and John Konchar all did their thing as well tonight. Los Angeles finished the game on a wild 17-0, seemingly coming out of nowhere. While LeBron’s MVP-like performance kept them in the game (along with a couple big shots from Talen Horton-Tucker), it was Wayne Ellington and Austin Reeves, who brought them out of the darkness. Wayne Ellington went berserk, going 6-6 with 16 points (4-4 from three), and Reeves delivered his own 16 points, missing only two shots. While L.A. might’ve been down and out by then, they certainly made a respectable effort to fight back on the latter end of the second half. LeBron unleashed another draw-dropping statline, with 35-7-7. Memphis continues its red-hot streak, winning their ninth straight game. That’s their longest streak in franchise history. Clearly, this young lineup is doing something right and they proved it yet again tonight. L.A. now finds themselves in trouble, with this loss and Minnesota’s win today, while Memphis is in incredible form right now.