Anthony Davis made all the difference for the Lakers as they defeated a scrappy Memphis Grizzlies team in their first game after the All-Star break.
This potential first-round playoff matchup ended with the Lakers winning 105-117 and the Grizzlies never holding a lead over the four quarters.
“Another defensive player of the year type of night for Anthony and big reason why we got the W.” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said after his team’s win.
Davis missed almost the entire first quarter due to a bruised calve. However, he finished with 28 points, 13 rebounds and 7 blocks in 31 minutes versus the Grizzlies Feb. 21.
“As long as they tell me it is nothing serious,” Davis said about his return to the floor in the second quarter. “I’ll go out there and play.”
Davis’ seven blocks made up half of his team’s 14 blocks. The Grizzlies finished the night with just one block collectively. The head coach went on to say Davis is playing out of his mind dating back to their three-game winning streak before the All-Star break.
LeBron James also started the game aggressively scoring and facilitating as his team led by as much as eight in the first quarter, down Davis. James finished with 32 points and 7 assists.
James credited his teammates for filling in while Davis was out briefly. He called Davis’ impact on both sides of the court ‘wonderful’ after the Lakers win.
“It’s not one thing he doesn’t do well defensively,” James said echoing his head coaches sentiments that Davis is the Defensive Player of the Year.
Avery Bradley and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope rounded out the Lakers players with double-digit scoring efforts. K.C.P added 12 points and 5 rebounds as the leading scorer off the bench while Bradley added 14 points and 5 rebounds in 29 minutes as a starter.
“Credit to the Lakers,” Memphis Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins said after the loss. “They came out and they kind of punked us in the first half.”
Jenkins’ team trailed by as much as 19 in the second quarter and the Lakers were able to put that to 25 points in the third.
Neither team did much from the three-point line. Both teams shot barely over 31 percent from behind the arch. Los Angele did convert 9-of-29 versus the Grizzlies only scored 5-of-16 from distance.
Still, the Grizzlies kept fighting back bringing the game as close as two-possessions within the final four minutes of the third and single-digits in the final minute of the third and early in the fourth quarter. Jenkins said his team wasn’t ready to play in the first half but picked up the activity to fight back in the second.
As a group, Memphis’ bench outscored the Lakers 59 to 38. Memphis forward Josh Jackson led in scoring with 20 points off the bench.
Grizzlies big Brandon Clarke added 14 points and 10 rebounds while Memphis center Gorgui Dieng also added 14 points and 10 rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench.
They were all a reason why the Grizzlies actually out-rebounded the Lakers 50 to 49 over the contest. Memphis also outscored the Lakers by 14 points in the paint over the game too.
However, it wasn’t enough. The Lakers held the 2019 No. 2 pick Ja Morante to only 17 points in 30 minutes. Morante shot 5-of-14 from the field and committed five turnovers.
“it’s what they do, honestly,” Morante said after his team’s loss. “I feel like everyone knows those guys are great defenders.”
Morante said he missed some shots and layups. He added that he gave a solid effort but could’ve been better.
“Since he played last night, he’s probably tired.” Vogel joked about the Lakers efforts containing one of the league’s best rookies.
Vogel said his team did a decent job and the best job they possibly could but Morante still got into the paint more than he liked.
“We just tried to use our size as much as possible to keep big bodies infront of him.” Vogel added about the Lakers efforts versus Morante. .
Memphis took about three minutes to hit their initial shot on the second of a back-to-back after the All-Star Break.
Lakers pushed the lead up to as much as 25 in the third. Unfortunately, the Grizzlies made a 13-point run.
The Grizzlies got the lead back to sing-digits with four minutes left in the third.
L.A. would again get up double-digits. However, Memphis would keep trading blows. They again would bring it within 9 with less than a minute in the third before finishing the quarter 84-77.
A technical foul with 10:40 left helped the Grizzlies cut the Lakers lead to five points.
Another technical foul with 9:15 left on the clock helped make the game 88-84.
The Lakers would eventually hold on to win the game.
Los Angeles continues their three-game home-stand with a game versus the Boston Celtics Sunday.
On the other hand, the Grizzlies continue their road trip with a game versus the Clippers on Monday.
Memphis is still in the 8th seed after the loss since they are one of the hottest team since the New Year. They are 3.5 games over the ninth and 10th seed so they could face the Lakers in the playoffs. These two teams play again in Memphis Feb. 29 which should give another good playoff preview.