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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

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Grabbing a ‘statement win’ against the Lakers, Grizzlies push on

Terry Davis

The Los Angeles Lakers left Memphis with plenty of things to fix after the Grizzlies took it to them in a 108-95 win at FedExForum on Thursday night.

For the Grizzlies (15-11), it was a win – yes, a single win – that showed anew that Memphis can muster the force and play-on mentality to make a star-ladened team such as the Lakers (13-13) wince.

The Grizzlies’ smothering defense causes LeBron James to give the ball up. (Photo: Warren Roseborough)

Getting off to a slow start and trailing at the end of the first quarter by four points (29-25), Memphis outscored LA by 10 in the second and led by six at halftime (59-53). Taking the third quarter by a point (26-25, the Grizzlies won the fourth by six (23-17). That added up to a deeply satisfying 13-point win for the home team.

The largest FedExForum crowd of the season (16,334) included the expected – an abundance of cheering Lakers fans, who saw their celebration plans spoiled by the Grizzlies.

More defense: Memphis’ De’Anthony Melton blocks the shot of LA’s Talen Horton-Tucker. (Photo: Warren Roseborough)

Noting that the Lakers “kind of imposed their will” early and at the beginning of the third quarter, Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins said, “but we just kept making those old winning plays throughout to just stay in the game. And then, I just absolutely loved … (the) playing mentality. We were just getting downhill, driving, kicking out, rhythm threes.

“We just played with great force on both ends and responded to a couple (of) tough punches.…”

Jaren Jackson Jr. slams a nasty dunk against LA. (Photo: Warren Roseborough)

The win – the second game in a back-to-back for Memphis – was the sixth in seven games for the Grizzlies. It came after a disappointing 8-point loss at home to Dallas and on the heels of news that Dillon Brooks was joining his backcourt running mate Ja Morant on the COVID-19 inactive list. Morant already was out indefinitely with a sprained knee.

Memphis forward Jaren Jackson Jr. (25 points, five rebounds), spoke with Morant and Brooks after the game.

“You have to rally for those guys,” said Brooks. “You know what they bring to the table and that they’ll fight every night. The first thing they do after the game is call us. It’s a brotherhood, they watch out for us.…

“We were just geeking. We were just talking and screaming. Ja Morant was super hyped for us. They are happy for us. I bet they were yelling at their TV. We know that they are there with us.”

Anthony Davis led the way for the Lakers, scoring 22 points and grabbing 8 rebounds. Megastar LeBron James had a triple-double: 20 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds. The Lakers also had 22 turnovers and were outrebounded by the Grizzlies (47-45).

“It was a 48-minute game,” said James. “That’s what it boils down to. I had a lot of energy tonight from start to finish and I was trying to translate that to my teammates. But it’s a 48-minute game and they played well and got the win.”

LeBron James eludes Jaren Jackson Jr. for two of his 20 points. (Photo: Warren Roseborough)

Stating what the basketball world knows, James said, “I hate losing,” adding, “I’m frustrated from the loss and how we played at times throughout the game. We had an opportunity to beat a good team that’s been playing well, especially at home, over the last couple of weeks and we didn’t do that.

“We’ve got to do a better job. We play a team (Oklahoma City Thunder) tomorrow that has beat us twice and we’ve got to take that challenge and be ready for that.”

LA head coach Frank Vogel emphasized the Lakers’ 22 turnovers.

“Turnovers are always all shapes and sizes. There is never one thing. I do feel like we failed to make the simple play, especially in that second quarter. We had open guys and we were trying to force the ball into a crowd,” said Vogel.

“Like I said, there’s all shapes and sizes and you just have to play the game with a level of ball security to win a basketball game. If you’re going to turn over 22 times then you’re going to have a great chance of losing that game.”

Desmond Bane of the Grizzlies ties up Talen Horton-Tucker of the LA Lakers, forcing a jump ball. (Photo: Warren Roseborough)

Then there were LA’s matchup problems.

“We’re trying to find our consistent lineup: starting (Davis) at the five and LeBron at the four basically. It works against a lot of teams. This team we knew would be challenging against (Jaren Jackson Jr.) and (Steven Adams),” Vogel said.

“We started the game pretty well, but in the second quarter, we couldn’t get a rebound. In defensive matchups, we thought we could put (Davis) and (Dwight Howard); use (Howard) minutes against (Adams). Knowing that they’re downsizing with their second unit, we would do the same. But, it wasn’t enough.”

Nope, it was not. And those 22 turnovers contributed mightily.

“Tonight, turnovers killed us,” James said. “We were doing a hell of a job over the last seven games, averaging only 12.5 turnovers and tonight we had 22 for 27 points. That’s been like our Achilles heel for the last seven games and tonight it bit us in the butt.”

Even more defense: Kyle Anderson of the Grizzlies forces a jump ball against Anthony Davis of the Lakers. (Photo: Warren Roseborough)

Desmond Bane had 23 points for the Grizzlies. Steven Adams led the team with 13 rebounds, including 8 on the offensive end. The Grizzlies had 18 steals, with the bench accounting for nine of those.

“I just loved the effort (the bench) played with defensively, the activity,” said Jenkins. “Different guys are playing different roles, but those guys, when their number is called, we say it all the time, you’ve just got to be ready to contribute to winning, and they did that tonight.”

Next and notes

  • The Grizzlies host the Houston Rockets on Saturday night. When the two teams first met the Rockets were in the middle of a 15-game, opening-season losing streak. They take a seven-game winning streak into their game with the NBA Champions Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night.
  • FedExForum is expected to be hyped, with the evening to feature the retirement of Zach Randolph’s #50 jersey.
  • An hour before Thursday’s tipoff, it was announced that Brooks was placed into the health and safety protocols. He will be allowed to return to the team after he passes two negative tests.
  • Memphis reserve Jarret Culver had an explosive half, scoring six points in the second quarter.
  • The Grizzlies won for the sixth time in the last seven games when holding an opponent under 100 total points.
  • Parting quote by Jenkins: “This is a kind of standard-type win, something I would, obviously, definitely point back to, but they know me. I’m just going to turn the page to the next one and say, ‘Hey guys. We’ve just got to keep on getting better.’”

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