I should have known better not to pick against LeBron James, even if the odds were stacked against him. Days before the Memphis Grizzlies took on the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the NBA playoffs, I stated that the Grizzlies would win the series over the Lakers by six games. So far, that has not been the case. After last night’s outing, the Grizzlies are now on the brink of elimination after falling short in overtime 117-111 to the Lakers. Los Angeles now leads the series 3-1.
What has been interesting about this series is that we have yet to witness a game where LeBron James or Anthony Davis takes over from a scoring aspect. Mostly, the series has been dominated by the Lakers role players, such as Austin Reeves and Rui Hachimura.
Reeves, the former Oklahoma Sooner, had another impressive performance after finishing the night with 23 points, six assists, and four rebounds. However, LeBron James made his presence known to the Grizzlies on Monday night. For the first time in his career, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer recorded 22 points and 20 rebounds in the playoff victory over Memphis.
James also chipped in with seven assists and two block shots. “I just try to be as great as I can be offensively, but more importantly on the defensive end,” James said. “That was the mindset tonight. I was able to make a couple of plays. My teammates told me I had 20 and 20. It’s the first time I’ve done it in my career, so that’s pretty cool, I guess.”
As for the game itself, the Grizzlies had many opportunities to put away the Lakers, especially in the second half. They led for a significant portion of the third and fourth quarters, but as always, the Grizzlies defense seemed to falter during the second half. The issue occurs on many occasions during the games in the regular season; now, it’s showing again in the playoffs.
The Grizzlies second-half meltdown occurred with five minutes left in the fourth quarter. Los Angeles guard D’Angelo Russell hit three consecutive 3-pointers. Down the stretch, Memphis would respond with a scoring contribution from Ja Morant, allowing them to take the lead until James responded with a layup to tie the game 104-104. Los Angeles would take the lead in overtime and never looked back. Memphis shooting guard Desmond Bane led all Grizzlies scorers with 36 points, while his teammates Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. chipped in 19 and 14 points.
While Bane’s performance was exceptional, it was not enough to close out the Lakers and regain control of homecourt advantage for the Grizzlies. They needed another vital contribution from an additional scorer to overcome LA’s second-half surge. Also, perimeter defense and rim protection has been a constant issue for Memphis in the series. From now on, Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins must develop a better game plan to effectively get rebounds and defend the Lakers from beyond the arc.
Even without the presence of big man Steven Adams, I felt like the Grizzlies would be the better team due to having a more experienced head coach and a deeper squad, in my opinion. But with the presence of James on the opposing, you must never forget to temper those expectations just a bit.
The series now heads back to Memphis, where the Grizzlies must defeat the Lakers, or vacation plans will be made for the team.
Show Your Support
Support the great work of the Strike 7 Sports brand by purchasing licensed NBA fan gear. Items ranged from hats, jerseys, t-shirts, socks, and more. We would greatly appreciate it if you would buy these items from the text link below. The revenue generated from today’s offer goes into the funding of the Strike 7 Sports platform. Click on the link below if you are interested.