Dillon Brooks, who fouled out with nine points, applies defensive pressure against LeBron James, who scored 23 points in the Lakers' 122-121 win in L.A. (Photo: Terry Davis/The New Tri-State Defender)
Terry Davis

LOS ANGELES – At some point in the sufferable past, a Memphis one-point loss in LA might have been a clear measure of progress. Not so when you ride in with an 11-game winning streak and are favored to win on the road.

Sure, the streak was going to end. But when you lose 122-121 and the head coach says, “They out-competed us for 48 minutes plain and simple,” the unstated is this: It didn’t have to end this way.

“They scored 42 transition points, terrible effort,” said the Grizzlies’ head man, Taylor Jenkins.

LeBron James (23 points) and the Lakers (21-25), were losers in four of their last five games before overcoming a double-digit, fourth-quarter deficit and snatching the win from the Grizzlies (31-14), who fell to second in the Western Conference.

“There were a lot of mishaps,” said Brandon Clarke, who came off the bench for 20 points and 10 rebounds but missed on a late free throw that would have tied the game and most likely set up overtime. “There were a lot of breakdowns. We fouled a lot. They got a lot of free throws. If we just followed our principles, we would have won the game by 15.”

Ja Morant attacks the paint against the Lakers. He had 22 points but took 29 shots points to get them. (Photo:Terry Davis/The New Tri-State Defender)

Down three points (26-23) after the first quarter, the Grizzlies took a four-point (53-49) lead into halftime. They flexed in the third (Ja Morant had 14 points) building an 11-point lead with three minutes left when Tyus Jones (20 points) hit from deep. Memphis led by nine (89-80) heading to the fourth quarter.

James and the Lakers would not go away and had the Grizzlies trying to hold on down the stretch. With 23.7 seconds to go, the Lakers scored on a Russell Westbrook (29 points) layup and pulled within one (118-117). Jones was fouled with 17.8 seconds remaining and he made both free throws (120-117).

Russell Westbrook rises up over Santi Aldama. (Photo: Terry Davis/The New Tri-State Defender)

The Lakers called a time-out and when play resumed Dennis Schröder (19 points) was fouled. He made both free throws and cut the deficit to 120-119. The Grizzlies called a timeout and advanced the ball. With the victory there for the taking, Desmond Bane (16 points) turned the ball over on a steal by Schröder, who raced for a layup and was fouled for the and one. He made the free throw, which put LA in front (122-120) with 7.6 seconds left in the game.

Following a timeout, Clarke was fouled going for a rebound with 1.9 seconds left. He swished the first free throw and clanked the second. Bane lost control of the rebound with 0.4 seconds left and that was it for the Grizzlies.

Desmond Bane scored 16 points. (Photo: Terry Davis/The New Tri-State Defender)

Brooks, who had nine points (4 for 17 shots), said, “We couldn’t get rebounds. Mishaps on transition defense. We missed 14 free throws.”

Morant scored 22 points but took 29 shots to do it. He had eight assists.

“Doing the little things better,” he said, answering what could be taken from the game. “We gave up too many (22) second-chance points. We have to be better in transition.”

Dillon Brooks shot 17 times; he made four of them for 9 points. (Photo: Terry Davis/The New Tri-State Defender)

NOTE:

At the end of the first half, there was an incident involving NFL Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe and Morant. Sharpe was yelling and pointing at Morant. As the Grizzlies walked to their lockers for halftime, they slowly shifted in the direction of Sharpe. Game-day security had to separate all parties. Later in the game, Morant’s father, Tee Morant, and Sharpe hugged it out.

Next:

On Sunday (Jan. 22) in Phoenix, the Grizzlies play the Suns for the last time this season.  Memphis has a 2-1 series lead. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. CT.