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Brandon Clarke returns for Grizzlies (yay) but Lakers win (boooo)

On Wednesday, one of the most popular players in the league, LeBron James, made his first appearance this season in Memphis. But so did one of the most popular players in Memphis.

Brandon Clarke made his first shot attempt in his return to action against the Lakers on March. 27, 2024. (Warren Roseborough/Tri-State Defender)

Brandon Clarke also made his first appearance this season for the Grizzlies. Clarke entered the game with 5:22 left in the first quarter and was received with a warm reception. But it was the Lakers who would defeat the Grizzlies 136-124 to win their fifth consecutive game.

Clarke has been missing from the court since last spring when he suffered a leg injury. But against the Lakers, he was as springy around the basket as ever, snatching boards and scoring on his first shot attempt of the season.

“It feels good,” Clarke said after the game. “I mean, I’m glad to get that first game out of the way. I’ve been thinking about it for a very long time. I wish that we could have won tonight obviously, but it was fun to play again.”

“I loved how [Brandon Clarke] attacked the game, obviously made quick decisions,” said Grizz Coach Taylor Jenkins. “Getting his touch back will take a little bit of time, but I thought he was pretty aggressive out there, running the floor, which was really good to see. Obviously, you’re watching practice, seeing how that’s going to translate to an NBA game, but I thought his wind was pretty good for the stretches that he played.”

Desmond Bane was also happy to get Clarke back.

“Man, we missed him. We missed him bad,” Bane said. “He was talking about how he played, and he wished he could have done this and done that, and I was like, ‘Man, you just got to be thankful you’re on the basketball court after all you’ve been through.’ He’s worked so hard to get back. We’re all happy to have him out there, for sure.”

The Lakers were playing the second game of a back-to-back. They defeated the Milwaukee Bucks in double overtime on Tuesday, Mar. 26. James did not play in the game on Tuesday. Anthony Davis was out for the game against the Grizzlies. James had 6 points and 4 rebounds in the first quarter. Desmond Bane led all scorers with 11 points. The Lakers led after the first quarter (37-36).

Rui Hachimura took over for the Lakers in the second quarter. He led the team with 10 points as the Lakers got a little breathing room from the Grizzlies. They went into halftime with a 69-61 lead.

In the third quarter, the Lakers were cruising and looking to coast to an easy victory. They went up by as many as 27 points on a couple of occasions. The never-say-die Grizzlies went on a 15-0 run to end the third quarter, cutting into that Laker lead and only trailing by 10 to end the quarter (102-92).

The Lakers went on a 13-3 run to start the fourth quarter to open a 115-98 lead with 8:33 left. A Jake LaRavia three-pointer with 6:38 left cut it to 118-108. A 6-0 run by the Lakers pushed it to a 16-point lead a minute later.

The Lakers (41-32), currently sitting in ninth place and trying to move up in the Western Conference standings, were led by James with a triple-double. He had 23 points, 14 rebounds, and 12 assists. Hachimura had 32 points and 10 rebounds. D’Angelo Russell also had 23 points, and Austin Reaves had 13 points and 11 assists. The Lakers shot 54 percent from the field and from three-point range.

Bane led the Grizzlies (24-49) with 26 points and a career-high 16 assists. LaRavia finished with 25 points and connected on 7 of 9 from three-point range. Clarke played 21 minutes and had 6 points. Jaren Jackson Jr. had 17 points and 9 rebounds.

Bane on his performance said, “Oh, you know my teammates obviously played well. I could have played a little bit better, but they’re making shots and finishing plays. All the credit to them.”

Next up for the Grizzlies will be a three-game road trip. Memphis will return to the FedExForum on Friday, April 5 against the Detroit Pistons and the return of former Memphis Tigers players Jalen Duren and James Wiseman. On Saturday, April 6, the Grizzlies will retire Marc Gasol’s jersey following the game against the Philadelphia 76ers.

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