The Memphis Grizzlies routed their survival quest back to L.A. with a gutsy Game 5 win that kept them alive and dangerous in the Western Conference playoffs.
Written off for “dead” by assorted basketball pundits, the No. 2 seed Grizzlies rode the resolve of backcourt mates Desmond Bane and Ja Morant, the perseverance of Jaren Jackson Jr. and the grit from a cast of others to a 110-96 got-to-have-it win over the Lakers at FedExForum on Wednesday night.
With the No. 7 seed Lakers now up 3-2 in the best-of-seven series, Game 6 is set for Friday evening in Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles.
A trio of double-doubles was turned in by Bane (33 points, 10 rebounds), Morant (31 points, 10 rebounds) and Jackson (18 points, 10 rebounds).
“We need it (the double-doubles), for sure,” said Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins. “I challenged our guys not to be satisfied. I challenged the guys coming into the game that we’ve got to establish our physicality. We’ve got to win the 50-50 ball matchup there.”
Jenkins said he showed clips from action late in regulation and overtime of Game 4 that “cost us the game” and reflected “not battling on the boards.”
“These guys owning that and coming out with double-doubles is really impressive,” he said. “We know how important our guard rebounding is when our bigs are battling down there with (L.A.’s All-Star seven-footer Anthony) Davis and other guys that are crashing. We need more, we need better.”
Bane’s performance followed 36 points and 7 rebounds in the Game 4 loss in Los Angeles.
“Coach was talking a lot about rebounding,” said Bane of the preparation for Game 5. “That was something that we really talked about going into the series that would be important, especially given (Steven Adams) and (Brandon Clarke) being out. So, he challenged us today, and I think we responded.”
Bane was aggressive throughout the game, scoring 14 points in the key first quarter. The team that has won the first quarter has one each game in the series.
Morant said the win was determined by “us planning to lock into the details, rebounding the ball and getting out and running. … That hurt us in previous games. We did a decent job at it tonight.”
As for the force he and Bane played with, Morant said it resulted from “just film study for me and him. Watching it with the team and on our own. Speaking for me, when I get downhill it’s a lot of passes I can make. And when we watch it as a team, coach brings it up too. Me and him were getting downhill; we were able to hit guys. We made shots and it opened a lot for us.
Luke Kennard, the league’s top three-point shooter percentage-wise in the regular season, connected on two of three from deep in the first half. Largely held in check by the L.A. defense in the series, Kennard was held out of the second half after injuring a shoulder.
Jackson, who finished with his second straight double-double, made key baskets in the second half. The first of his two three-pointers came with 2:41 left in the third quarter and pushed the Memphis lead to 82-74 as the Grizzlies withstood L.A.’s third-quarter push to seize control of the game. He was perfect (6-6) from the free throw line.
The Lakers got 31 points and 19 rebounds from Davis but it came as the Grizzlies held L.A. below 100 points for the second time in the series. LeBron James, who delivered dagger-like blows to the Grizzlies at the end of Game 4 and in overtime, was limited to 15 points (10 rebounds) and was not on the floor as Memphis absorbed L.A.’s last run.
Jenkins said the Grizzlies would need another good defensive performance on James in Game 6.
It’s on-ball pressure, it’s crowds, it’s not letting him get going in transition, which I know he did a couple of times,” he said.
“I’ll go back and watch film to see where he was attacking mostly from and then just how our defense stood up. But obviously, we know he’s a huge focal point and when he establishes himself with his physicality and force that he plays with, it can be a long game. I think our guys held up pretty well with executing our pick-and-roll coverages and how we were helping when he had the ball in his hands. I’ll still have to watch the film a little bit more.”
In assessing the Lakers’ loss, head coach Darvin Ham said, “We had some untimely possessions where we didn’t finish with a rebound and they were able to get one, maybe two offensive rebounds in a stretch. And a team like that … (thrives) off those hustle plays, getting those 50-50 balls.
“They’ve got enough scoring output where, if you give them second and third chances at it, they’re going to make you pay. … Overall, our guys came out tonight to compete … we just didn’t make enough shots and some untimely turnovers and some untimely lack of defensive rebounds.”